This is a genuine question. Is there something about the way kids hear music that makes it so that they will only listen to “kid” versions of things and not the adult version? Or is this just an affectation of the adult world?

Someone recommended the Baby Einstein Baby Mozart CD to us. I played it for the kid yesterday. It was basically a bunch of Mozart piano concertos played on a cheesy synth. It wasn’t terrible, and the kid seemed to like it insofar as he realized it existed (which is to say, not that much). But wouldn’t he have liked a version with piano and traditional instrumentation just as much? Was this just to keep from paying royalties or hiring real musicians? Or was there some developmental psychological research that showed that xylophone and bonky drum sounds stimulate babies brains more than pianos and violins?

Later yesterday we took a walk and ended up at Stellabella Toys in Cambridge. They were playing some kind of kid’s CD that featured “What Goes On” by the Velvet Underground as performed by a woman with a sunny voice and an acoustic guitar. Now, I don’t personally see why you’d need to re-record this song to make it palatable to kids, it’s pretty basic, catchy, stripped-down. But maybe some parents with more delicate sensibilities would flip if the same band that recorded “Sister Ray” or “Heroin” was on their kids CD. I don’t know. What makes me think that something else is going on is the version of the Beatles’ “Blackbird” we heard there– it sounded exactly like the original, just a different singer.

A kid doesn’t have the cultural context to know the difference between John Lennon and a random studio signer, why even bother? It’s obviously for the parents’ sake. Why would parents choose the studio singer over John Lennon? Maybe hearing his voice conjures up his assasination, his embarassing and ultimately-not-world-changing protests involving hair and bed and Yoko, and “Double Fantasy”.

So, my hypothesis is that kid covers are a slightly self-delusional way to make parents feel like they’re protecting their kids. I will revise this opinion when, if I play both versions side by side, my kid prefers the dumbed-down kid version of a song. Until then, he gets the real deal.