An album of cool songs just for kidz? Groovy!
This is the attitude of the masterpiece collection Radio Disney Kidjams. It brings back memories of the 1990s Disney and Nickelodeon era where we were informed that “kids ruled and adults drooled.” It amazes me that this blatant ageism managed to exist in my childhood, but at least some folks found a way to make prejudice fun. And while I realize their kid-centric message was more or less a marketing scheme, I genuinely believe there was at least one low-level Disney employee who believed in that mantra.
Perhaps he is still around somewhere, hiding under his cubicle desk and whispering, “Yes, we must bring power to the children. Only the blood of the innocent is fit to rule.” Then he shoves an egg salad sandwich down his pants.
Anyway, as far as I can remember, this is the first CD I ever owned, receiving it as a gift when I was about seven. I must have listened to it often, since most of the songs I can still recall pretty well off the top of my head. But has it stood up to the test of time? Let’s dive into this rich collection of pop crap, kiddie tunes, and some real headscratchers, each meticulously graded below:
1. Get Ready for This by 2 Unlimited
Before the actual song starts, we are treated with some brats rapping a Radio Disney jingle, just to remind you that the next hour of your life will be a living hell. Aside from that, it almost sounds like a real radio station! As any elementary schooler would recognize, the intro’ blurring of reality and imagination serves as a dual homage to the title track of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the radio motif of The Who Sell Out, but unfortunately manifests itself in the form of an audial turd.
Then we get to the actual song. Did you pick up on the fact that Disney wants you to get ready for a good time? It’s subtle, but the message is there. The synthesized loops are almost engrossing enough to make you feel like you’re warming up for an NBA game, and not sitting in a sweaty minivan on the way to the beach. C-
2. Quit Playing Games (With My Heart) by The Backstreet Boys
During the boyband wars of the 90s, if you weren’t on Team Backstreet, you weren’t nobody. What’s really touching is how these five guys, rescued from a life of violence and crime on the back streets (how else would they have gotten the name?) are able to show such emotional vulnerability. B
3. Pump Up the Jam by Technotronic
A bit of a throwback from 1989, this track shines with lyrics that are at once both aggressive and unintelligible. At least there’s something there for the kids, since “booty” is always hilarious. D+
4. River by Hanson
While 90s posers only know Hanson through their smash hit MMMBop, the Disney purists did us a solid and picked a deep cut by everyone’s favorite trio of effeminate blond brothers. Still, it’s not completely unenjoyable–imagine a blend of Gospel music and The Monkees, safely pasteurized for family-friendly consumption. C+
5. Whoomp! There It Went by Tag Team
It’s morbidly fascinating to see one-hit-wonder Tag Team try to keep the artificial magic going by inserting the voices of Disney characters into their only song. I don’t know much about the hip-hop scene, but it seems hard to maintain street cred with a song about your “main man Donald.” D-
6. Macarena by Los del Rio
Yes, we all know the Macarena dance–the poor man’s Cha Cha Slide. Unless anyone’s a chaperone at a middle school dance, I think we’ll pass on this one. D
7. Hakuna Matata from The Lion King
If anyone has anything bad to say about Timon, Pumba, or Elton John, I will fight them. A+
8. Yoda by Weird Al Yankovic
In one of the few quality tracks in this collection, Al masterfully reworks this Kinks classic about a transvestite dancer into the ultimate Star Wars parody. I remember being particularly impressed by the lyric, “I know Darth Vader may have got you annoyed/ But remember if you kill him then you’ll be unemployed.” My first real understanding of supply and demand. A
9. U Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer
Apparently grown-ups thought kids would like MC Hammer? This track heavily borrows from “Superfreak,” and while I am never a fan of sampling, I can understand why Disney chose not to expose children to the cocaine-and-sex casserole that is Rick James. At least Hammer’s well-documented bankruptcy struggles should teach the next generation something about financial responsibility. C-
10. I’ll Make a Man Out of You from Mulan
Everyone remembers this one–“Let’s get down to business/ To defeat the Huns!” It’s catchy, original, and one of the most memorable tunes from the Disney renaissance. The only caveat is that the singing voice of fearsome Chinese warrior Shang Li is provided by Mormon dreamboat Donny Osmond. Cultural miscasting aside, Donny does a great job of pumping us all up for some singalongs and ethnic warfare. A-
11. Go, Speed Racer, Go! by Sponge
Oh look, a grunge cover of a theme song for a show that nobody watched! Much like George H.W. Bush, this one is a 90s relic most people won’t want to deal with for a second term. D+
12. Ghostbusters by Ray Parker, Jr.
I’ve always had a soft spot for this one. Aside from creating one of the funkiest riffs in all of popular music, Parker is also a genius for not trying to forcibly rhyme anything with the word “ghostbusters.” Bruno “grenade/throw my hand on a blade” Mars could learn something from that. A-
13. Wipeout by Steve Vai
Guitar virtuoso Steve Vai makes an unexpected appearance covering the surf rock classic. Unfortunately for us, most of Vai’s shredding serves as second banana to some guy’s Chipmunkesque rapping, making this version about as cool as boogie boarding in a speedo. C-
14. I Got You (I Feel Good) by James Brown
Now I feel bad for accusing Technotronic and MC Hammer of being outdated. Sure, James Brown is a timeless talent, but I don’t remember 1960s R&B as something us kids were really into. Then again, Brown does look and sound like a Pokemon, and “I Got You” could very well be the spiritual predecessor to “Gotta Catch Em All.” A
15. Let’s Get Together by MMC
Getting real tired of your shit, Disney. You might be trying to pass MMC off as a real band, but I know it’s really just the Mickey Mouse Club. Judging by their promo pictures, the MMC are a group of racially diverse children who appear to be pushing 30. Just take a look at this bunch and tell me they don’t reek of broken dreams and compromise. F
16. I Am Rubber by I-8 Paste (Just Plain Mark and Zippy)
You know what they say about rubber and glue? If not, this song will remind you–over and over and over again. This torturous kiddie ditty could have only emerged from the cells of Gitmo. It’s like waterboarding for your ears! Unconstitutional
17. I’ll Be There For You by Solid HarmoniE
Things are really going downhill. Reading the tracklist, I expected this to be the Friends theme song (not exactly a gem itself), but what I heard was even worse. Not only is Solid HarmoniE unable to grasp the basic rules of punctuation, but the band is also hopelessly derivative. Besides, what’s the point of being in a British girl group if none of you end up marrying David Beckham?
It’s the kind of kidjam that teaches us that nothing in life ends as well as we want it to. D
Final thoughts: My theory is that the anti-vaccination movement came into existence after someone’s mom listened to this album one too many times. If you love your child and yourself, please stay away. And remember: silence is golden.