“Being able to provide opportunities to young people and letting them shine [has become] a part of my DNA. It’s what I’m all about.” ~ SaulPaul
The game is afoot. Musicians making all ages music are lighting fires under the feet of their young audiences to be bold, be themselves, be positive, and give back to their communities. As a musician with a message, SaulPaul is all about empowering youth. In his latest release, All Star Anthems, SaulPaul highlights the dreams and talents of a few of his kid collaborators, the SaulPaul All Stars and includes them throughout the album, in tracks like Rise and We Dream in 3D, as well as in interview interludes. All Star Anthems is a record that tells you exactly what it’s about. Songs all orbit around the theme of living your best life and celebrating yourself. SaulPaul is encouraging his audience to sincerely put their best foot forward at all times, especially in the face of adversity. The album musically and thematically is a lateral move from his previous album, fans will recognize remixed and re-explored versions of tracks from We Dream in 3D alongside some new songs. These updated tracks are what SaulPaul dubs the “WeMixes”; where SaulPaul scoops up music from his established catalog, the crowd favorites, and recreates them in a live-performance sing-a-long format. Equipped with just his guitar, his audience, a loop pedal, and his own vocal talents (singing and beatboxing), SaulPaul sonically sculpts the inclusive experience of his live shows.
The 8 new tracks on the album build on SaulPaul’s existing lexicon, the hooks are catchy and the verses are snappy, brimming with positive messages. Hands in the Sky sets the tone for the whole album, honing in on the idea of honoring yourself and who you are because it is the only way you can put forward your best efforts and serve your community. Choose continues this message and pushes it one step further by talking about power through choice. Through the choices we make, we get to define who we are and on what we focus. SaulPaul chooses hope, light, and truth. Some of the best tracks on the album are those featuring guest artists such as Riding Out featuring That Girl Dre (which includes a modern twist on One Two Buckle My Shoe) and Home featuring 123 Andres. Other standouts are Me, Gumby and My 6 String, a dance-a-long track and Music, Music, Music where SaulPaul drops in instrumental tracks, tinkers with their sounds and draws parallels to instruments as individual voices, all working together to form a unified sound. All Star Anthems is a timely release, ready to set the world afire with positive light — “See ya later to the haters!”
“We can bring peace to this world…starting with the kids!”~Concetta Kirschner/ M.o.M.
M.o.M. is the latest of many artistic alter egos created by Concetta Kirschner, otherwise known as NYC-based hip hop performer Princess Superstar. As M.o.M. she makes her foray into the world of Kindie and Kid Hop. Her debut Kindie album, These are the Magic Days, is a project dedicated to all the children of the world and, in partnership with the non-profit Fractured Atlas, is being given away for free so that every single parent and child can hear M.o.M.’s message of love and nurturing. And yes, that is the central core of the album, but the record also speaks to how difficult parenting in the modern era can be– a message of solidarity to parents, M.o.M.’s got your back! The overall effect is a Kindie/ Kid Hop record that is empathic and cathartic for parents and children alike.
M.o.M.’s songs have a weird charisma, existing in a fusion space of ’80s New Wave/ Post Punk à la Bow Wow Wow and The Go-Go’s mixed with ’90s Ska beats and ESG’s Dance/ Hip Hop grooves. The eponymous first track on the record, These are the Magic Days, is the stylistic stand out with vocals that are reminiscent of Gwen Stefani; a voice that is empowered and empowering while tinged with self-aware brattiness. This sheer force of personality pervades the album and gives the listener frequent tongue-in-cheek winks with lyrics like, “Wave your hands in air, Wave ’em like you just don’t care, Yeah now you’re hands free, You can thank me, I just saved the whole world from problems with intimacy!” (from the track Put Down Your Ipad I’ll Put Down my Phone). And when the songs aren’t filled with sly humor they are packed full of sincere messages of self-legitimacy such as in Feel Your Feelings and Shout Out Loud. M.o.M.’s message is clear: if you parent with self-awareness, respect, empathy and compassion, your children can only benefit. Even when we are not out best, such as in the song Momster, we show our children we are only human and therefore fallible. As parents we are learning on the job after all! Time for all of us to tap into that deep well of emotional intelligence cuz we’re listen to M.o.M.
Michael & the Rockness Monsters’ newest all-ages party album celebrates the band’s 10 year anniversary and invites everyone to celebrate with them. For a party album, the tone is, initially, rather formal (in a tongue-in-cheek way) as it extends an official invitation to the listener, delivered in a retro 1970s overly happy educational-film-strip style. Quickly though, the ties are loosened and top collars unbuttoned as the album picks up steam.
Stylistically, the ’70s permeates the album, taking cues from influential funk bands like Sly & the Family Stone, Parliament, and Funkadelic. The first track, Smile, dares us to have the audacity to share our happiness by shining our inner light through genuine, heartfelt smiles. Lyrically the band describes sharing joy as a radical act that is contagious. Should we all be so lucky to catch this contagion! This track is followed by Party Train (not to be mistaken with the Misery Bus), where everyone climbs aboard and dusts off their dancing shoes. By the end of the second track, the party train’s left the station and the festivities are in full swing. The listeners experience a feeling of joyous abandon and everyone is included.
By the fifth track, there is a thematic change as the album’s tempo slows slightly. Lyrically the songs seem more crafted for the younger set, they are more story driven and discovery-based. This portion of the album takes advantage of its 10th anniversary song collection, gathering some loose tracks originally written for Rockness Music classes (specifically their early childhood music classes for the Pre-K kiddos) and rerecording them to include on the album. Rockness Music alums will happily recognize songs like Growing Bigger, When I’m Jumpin’ and Robot Song. The inclusion of these tracks really demonstrates the band’s artistic growth and shows their exploration of different musical genres. One beardy-sounding country/ folk song, A Fish Named Dog (a title that riffs off of A Boy Named Sue by Johnny Cash), is a funny semi-autobiographical song based on Michael’s daughter begging for a dog and ultimately compromising for a pet fish which they named Dog.
The album closes on two sweet and positive songs: Beautiful Day and Les Lumières De Paris. The latter track chronicles a family vacation to Paris and has the musical flair and Joie de Vivre of the soundtrack from the movie Amélie. It’s an apt note on which to leave listeners. “Did you share your smile with the world today?”
Check out the video to A Fish Named Dog