I was a couple of months away from being a dad when my girlfriend and I received unsolicited lessons on how to be parents. The teachers for the class we didn't sign up for had a cute 6-month-old. My girlfriend got to hear horror stories about delivery and breastfeeding. And when their baby started acting up, I received a different lesson. The dad pulled out his iPhone and told me, "Bro, this is going to be your best friend."
Music started playing. It was a xylophone and gentle rattle that you might hear on any number of Fisher Price toys, but the melody was familiar. "Is that Coldplay?"
"Yeah, bro check it out." He flipped over to reveal Rockabye Baby's lullaby rendition of a Dave Matthews Band song. Then he showed me Nirvana and Guns N' Roses, both adapted for babies. Each album had a teddy bear replacing an iconic cover image. For instance, the GNR one featured the Appetite for Destruction cover, but all the faces on the cross were cuddly teddy bear caricatures of the band members, down to Slash's top hat.
My immediate reaction was one of disgust. It's one thing to neuter music that is already one step away from easy listening like Coldplay, but to do it to Nirvana was putting a final death knell in the spirit of rock 'n' roll.
But time has passed. My daughter is almost 5 months old, and I am willing to trade integrity for some sleep. So I remembered that parenting lesson and found the Rockabye Baby website. The Los Angeles-based company creates lullaby renditions of rock music. As I dug through its catalog of more than 50 albums, I discovered the obvious -- the Beatles, the Beach Boys -- and the awful -- Bon Jovi, Nickelback.
But most terrifying was that they had music straight out of my playlist. I was part of a niche market of new parents. There, to my amazement, were lullaby renditions of the Smiths, Björk, and Radiohead. And scariest of all was the Pixies, the soundtrack to all my adolescent rebellion. I was grateful that lullabying the Pixies was a pointless endeavor; taking out all the fury and energy made the songs unrecognizable. The Ramones also don't survive when being adapted for a jack in the box, but some of the other less obvious candidates translated quite nicely. Rockabye Baby avoids the obnoxious dumbing down of Kidz Bop and delivers something more akin to Muzak, if with a more discerning selection of source material.
I'm not sure if I want my daughter listening to Jay Z's "Big Pimpin'," even if all the lyrics are omitted and the rough edges have been sanded down, but I'm tempted to listen to it during a rough day of diaper changing. Since Johnny Cash already made Nine Inch Nails family-friendly, I wasn't offended to hear Trent Reznor's music slowed down even more. But the best of the lot belonged to Blur. Like all the editions from Rockabye Baby, they are basically best-of collections of an artist, but Blur's seemed to be curated the most intelligently, featuring only songs that can survive being babied. The originals are still miles ahead of these versions, but the Rockabye Baby rendition of "Coffee & TV" will keep the little one from screaming and may start him or her dancing, just the slightest bit.
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