Written by Caballero Oscuro
One recent sunny afternoon, my wife and I were walking with our three-year-old daughter near the USC campus when we were approached by a drunken fratboy who noticed my daughter’s Yo Gabba Gabba t-shirt and enthusiastically proclaimed “that’s my favorite show ever!” He then proceeded to regale us with his rendition of one of the show’s signature songs before continuing on his extremely merry way. Clearly, Yo Gabba Gabba is a show that reaches well beyond its target preschool audience, and the show’s music is a large part of the reason. Unlike most other preschool programming, YGG has a certain cool factor that gives it broad demographic appeal and also exposes the tots to some pretty great tunes.
For those unfamiliar with the show, it’s something like a Sid and Marty Krofft production as envisioned by a Japanese vinyl toy maker, with five main characters in unique costumes who magically come to life when the sole human host removes them from his boom box toy chest. That human sets the tone of the show immediately with his b-boy style, with his aforementioned boombox, thickframed glasses akin to Run DMC or Spike Lee’s Mars character, and his name, DJ Lance Rock. Yes, this is the kids show for the post-hip hop generation, and as such it borrows heavily from the golden age of hip hop. Frequent guest star and legendary hip hop pioneer Biz Markie appears on the CD and in most episodes in an instructional beatbox segment, while newer acts such as The Roots and Beastie Boys collaborator Money Mark perform in musical segments. Most importantly, the show’s best songs are extremely electro-flavored, with thumping 808 bass and hip hop hooks that travel far closer to “Planet Rock” than Planet Disney. Whether the star characters are rapping about a “Party in my Tummy” or declaring “I Like to Dance”, the energetic electro influence is omnipresent and entirely welcome.
That’s not to say it’s all about the beats, as the show also incorporates some kid-friendly light alt-rock appearances from acts such as MGMT and The Shins, giving the Coachella crowd reason to tune in as well. The Shins appear here on the CD with their contribution to the show, an inspirational track entitled “It’s Okay, Try Again”. Elsewhere, Of Montreal contribute “Brush Brush Brush”, while I’m From Barcelona teaches the kids that “Just Because It’s Different, Doesn’t Mean It’s Scary”. They’re all a bit soft compared to the show’s hip hop offerings, but offer a nice change of pace while likely expanding the show’s audience.
With the tracks removed from the show and isolated on the CD, it’s even more apparent how important the music is to the show’s success. Cranking the tunes on your favorite sound system exposes just how great they are as hip hop/electro and alt-rock confections, guaranteed to put a smile on your face and a groove in your heart. The best artist appearance is probably Money Mark with “Robo Dancing”, but really, none of the guest stars compare to the show’s own signature funky tunes. You won’t mind when junior asks for a rewind, and you’ll probably even be a little proud when he or she shows off their new beatbox skills.
Considering the severe shortage of kids shows with any semblance of decent and cool music, Yo Gabba Gabba is a welcome breath of fresh air. Its continued success as it enters its third season and even stages a live tour is further vindication of the daringly niche but ultimately crowd-pleasing musical choices that contribute to its success. Buy this CD with confidence, and don’t feel guilty if you find yourself giving it a spin even when the kids aren’t around.