When a classic song gets played often enough, you tend to forget what it's really about. Lines about sex drugs and murder seem no different than lines about surfing, dancing, or lollipops. Until your toddler is grooving to it in the back seat and you realize that the lyrics are ... well ... dangerous to their ears.
Here are 10 songs your toddler really shouldn't be listening to -- and reasons why you (usually) need not worry even if she does.
1. Anarchy in the UK, The Sex Pistols: Early punk sounds so quaint now. The Sex Pistols had bright chords and harmony for God's sake. And who knows more about destruction and smashing authority than a 2-year-old boy? They'll adore this song. And they need not know the name of the band. Trouble is the opening line is, "I am an Anti-Christ!" Again, probably true of some 2-year-olds, but I'm guessing most parents won't want them shouting it.
2. YMCA, The Village People: How sweet is it that all around the nation, stadiums full of macho men, many of them proud homophobes, stand up and unknowingly shout their enthusiasm for the pleasures of a great gay cruising and hookup spot? Your toddler will be equally oblivious. Not that there's anything wrong with a gay anthem for tots, it's just that the public cruising-and-hookup part isn't quite age-appropriate. But given the oblivion of all those football fans, your tot will just think it's about the place you go swimming sometimes.
3. Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds, The Beatles: Whether you believe the nouns in the title are meant to stand for LSD or based on a drawing by little Julian Lennon, if this song is not about being as high as Mr. Kite then I'm a walrus. But the lyrics are harmless as can be (rocking-horse people, marshmallow pies), and when your kid hears this song stoned in college it'll be like a great awakening. Not that your little angel will ever do drugs.
4. Fat-Bottomed Girls, Queen: Just as amazing as the Village People's popularity is the way Freddie Mercury, the most wildly flaming man of the 70s, gets every jock from LA to Boston to stomp their feet and clap their hands on his command with We Will Rock You, and gets them crying with We Are the Champions. Unlike the other songs on the list, your child will know exactly what a fat-bottomed girl is. Though they will have no idea why she makes the rockin' world go round. Here's hoping you don't get that awkward question. You probably won't. They'll be too busy air-drumming, if they've been properly taught.
5. Raspberry Beret, Prince: My musical friends and I once thought about recording a Prince for kids record, but even the songs you don't think are dirty usually are when you listen closely. This is relatively safe, but remember when she wears that beret she doesn't wear much more, and "in through the out door" is clearly a reference to some taboo sex move.
6. Shake Your Rump, The Beastie Boys: It's not the rump-shaking that's the problem. Every toddler should know how to do that, even the adorably butt-less ones. And the lyrics are relatively clean and completely party-down awesome. There just happens to be a break in the middle with the sound of a huge bong rip. But this is easily overcome. Just make a bubble-blowing motion when it comes on.
Just substitute this ...
... for this.
7. Greased Lightning, John Travolta: Much of Grease and its soundtrack are full of sex, but there's nothing like Greased Lightning. They flat out left it out of the made-for-TV version I my sisters and I had on tape as a kid. But every 3-year-old you know, boy or girl, will love it. My unruly nephews are even willing to join me in some in-the-car choreography when this is on. Trouble is the car is called a real "p**sy wagon" where you'll be "gettin' lots of tit." For the first one we just shout "cookie wagon." This has had the unintended consequence of cookies now reminding me of vaginas, but that's is the price we pay for parenting. Still working on a substitute for "tit."
8. Brown Sugar, The Rolling Stones: So your iPod's on the fritz and you have to put on the local oldies station. You and your Toddler have grooved through Twist and Shout and Respect when on comes Brown Sugar. Everybody loves tasty brown sugar!" But when Jagger jumps in the final chorus with "Just like a black girl should!" I'm thinking the classical station will start to sound better. The song also has references to slave rape, and wouldn't be played on the radio in a million years if it were released now. Best to skip this one altogether.
9. Rock and Roll Part 2, Gary Glitter: You know it, even if you think you don't. Think every sporting event ever. Duh duh daaa-uh "Hey!" da duh duh da. That "Hey!" is the only intelligible word in the whole tune, so what could be wrong? Well, the guy who recorded it has been convicted of both possession of kiddie porn and obscene acts with young girls. Dig too deep into any artist's personal life and you won't have a lot of art left to enjoy, but I'm thinking knowing this will make you hear that "hey!" a little differently.
10. Lola, The Kinks: Personally, I think this one's fine. I love dressing up little boys in princes outfits for pictures. But not everybody may wholly approve of a song about falling in love with a hot lady who turns out to be packing a pistol between her legs. If you don't you can just substitute Weird Al's Yoda, which is a killer song on its own terms. But don't let on to the kid that Weird Al has other songs or you could be in for a years-long nightmare of Eat It on repeat.
Now get to work on those playlists!
Is there a song your toddler loves that makes you cringe a little?