Billy Hartong’s imaginative children’s songs are expressed by his group called The Jolly Pops. Bad Bad Dinosaur opens with the album’s title track, which sounds a lot like typical kid’s music, including kid backing vocals. What separates many of the other songs on this 12-song project is the way many of these tunes adhere to contemporary pop sounds.
“Dance Like Everyone Is Watchin’,” for instance, is a stripped-down rap song. It actually sounds like fairly authentic hip hop. This is great because parents can play the song for young children who will think it’s just another pop song on pop radio. The big upside is that it doesn’t include violent imagery, sexual inferences or cursing so often sound on contemporary rap recordings. “Knuckle It Out,” about giving each other fist bumps, also utilizes rap-inspired music.
In contrast, “I Want A Puppy” is a hard rock song, complete with metal-esque guitar riffs. The vocal is slightly gruff. It is message is one parents often hear from their young ones – they want a new little puppy in their house. However, few parents have heard this request couched this way, like a Twisted Sister rock & roll track.
One song that reaches back in time is “Morning Swim.” This one is a finger-snapping jazz tune, mostly featuring drums, bass and jazzy piano. The song’s lyric is simple and light, as it extols the pleasures of taking a swim in the a.m. There’s even a segment where Hartong gives us a few hipster Marco Polo lines.
The Jolly Pops sidestep stylistic coolness for the quiet and sweetly outdoorsy “Nature.” Much like “Morning Swim,” it’s all about the joys of doing things outside. With the popularity of the internet, many young people spend way too much time indoors. Heck, a lot of teenagers don’t even get their driver’s license until they’re nearly out of their teens because their world is mostly self-contained within their room. Therefore, it’s great that The Jolly Pops are instilling the importance of venturing out.
“Not You Cheese” finds Hortung singing some of its words with a silly falsetto. The song is a little hip-hop-y, and mostly sounds like the Beastie Boys. “Rock Song,” although it has the word “rock” in its title, sounds a little more like contemporary country. Contemporary country sounds closer to Southern rock of yesteryear. The song is not about the musical style of rock however, but about actual rocks – you know, the kind you find on the ground.
The act returns to more jazzy elements for “Roller Coaster Ride,” which describes riding a roller coaster. Much of its lyric is more spoken than sung, and it includes plenty of accordion accompaniment. With “Snack Attack,” one can hear a strong influence of classic rock. It kind of sounds like a Steve Miller Band song in places. “Up And Down Like A Yoyo” is a whacky sounding tune. It’s lyric talks about things that go up and down, such as planes, which both take off and land, and elevators that rise and fall. Each of these is like a yoyo in how it goes up and down.
In much the same way Pixar films hold appeal to both younger and older people, the stylistic variety contained on Bad Bad Dinosaur might be the children’s album parents love most.