Crying Baby Karaoke: A New Lullaby Canon

marleyBeing a new parent draws the cliched questions you would imagine, typically revolving around you and your child’s sleeping habits. Getting much sleep? Sleeping through the night yet? Get used to sleeping now, because you’re going to be missing out!

Four months in our child has learned the concepts of day and night and has mostly grown past the random nightly wake ups. Having passed this point I can affirm most of the warnings and questions as being a fairly true representation of caring for an infant. Our son was mostly calm, but did experience evenings of terror, seemingly due to an inability to flagulate (the struggle is real). We stayed up late nights with him, feeding him, walking around with him, and searching for solutions to extract gas from his system.
But this is supposed to be about pop culture isn’t it? Why are we discussing this?
Let me tell you about what I’m going to call Crying Baby Karaoke.
Many parents use songs to help soothe their children. “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, “Rockabye Baby”, there’s even a whole slew of Swedish kid’s lullabies. But entering into parenting I’ve oft wondered how necessary the lullaby canon is. Do these songs have enough inherent value to continue passing them on from generation to generation?
I’m going to argue no. I mean, does anybody ever say they like lullabies? Do we ever experience nostalgia for them? We are soothed by them, forget about them, and then later use them to soothe our own children. Lullabies are at the bottom of the barrel of culture that is intended for children. We complain about being forced to endure kid’s entertainment, but what if we excised it out of our children’s lives?
 What should we do instead? Our children are still crying through the night, they must be calmed in some way! That’s where Crying Baby Karaoke comes in. This is where you come up with songs, songs that you very much enjoy, to sing to your child, comforting them throughout the night without lulling yourself to sleep.
 Now technically any song that you enjoy could be used, because the child is a baby and literally does not know anything about how the world works and can be convinced that “I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night” is about falling to sleep. But we’re not that cruel here. We’re trying to grow our children into functioning human beings, so we will set some standards.
 1. Songs must have a lulling or calming presence to them, whether that be the melody or the lyrics.
2. It has to be something you know and like. Don’t sing songs you don’t really know–that’s just frustrating. Don’t sing songs you don’t like–that’s even more frustrating.
 These are the songs I spent those evenings singing to my son, as he suffered through gastrointestinal problems–a new kid’s song canon–karaoke sung to the tune of a crying baby.
1. “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World
Jimmy Eat World’s song is a little over sincere in itself, it’s a very straight forward just be yourself anthem (it literally says that at one point). It’s probably cheesy in how positive it comes across, but when you’re up at 3 am and your son refuses to sleep and is pulling at your chest hair in frustration, sappy pop emo can be quite comforting.
Key lyric:
It just takes some time
Little girl, you’re in the middle of the ride
Everything, everything will be just fine
Everything, everything will be all right
2. “O-o-h Child” by The Five Stairsteps
This song re-burst onto the scene when Guardians came out and fits quite well into our baby karaoke by literally addressing a child. I don’t think I had ever sung this song before, but it’s lyrics popped into my head while rocking him late one night.
Key lyric:
Ooh-oo child
Things are gonna be easier
Ooh-oo child
Things’ll get be brighter
Ooh-oo child
3. “The Woodpile” by Frightened Rabbit
Frightened Rabbit’s songs tend to fit into calm or relaxing typically, but usually ring of desperation rather than comfort, with singer Scott Hutchinson often embittered and angry at someone. Here is not really any different, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures and you reach the need for melancholic moods. This song should be sung a little more quietly than its standard version, like this acoustic one they performed.
Key lyrics:
So will you come back to my corner?
Spent too long alone tonight
Would you come brighten my corner?
A lit torch to the woodpile (aye)
4. “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley
A straightforward everything will be okay classic. Bob Marley is of course the king of reggae and reggae is the genre of care free living. It’s an obvious one, one they even made into a kid’s book. 
Key lyrics:
Don’t worry about a thing
‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright
Singing’ don’t worry about a thing
‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright
5. “Not While I’m Around” from Sweeney Todd
Sometimes you have to lift songs out of their context a bit. “Not While I’m Around” paints a heavenly vision of comfort, but in typical Stephen Sondheim fashion, all bits of hope and comfort are surrounded by an underlying (or overlying) sadness. This lovely lullaby in Sweeney Todd is in the midst of pure evil, where Toby’s sweet naivety blinds him to the truth of what’s going on. Ignoring the haunting nature of this, “Not While I’m Around” is actually quite sweet and I used it many times to comfort my son.

Key lyrics:

Nothing’s gonna harm you
Not while I’m around
Nothing’s gonna harm you
No, sir, not while I’m around
What are other unconventional songs that you used to help calm a crying child? What else can we add to create the New Lullaby Canon? Comment below and I’ll add them to a giant playlist (If I approve).

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