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January 24, 2011 6:30 AM   Subscribe

Please help me make a playlist of songs for youth (7 - 18 years old) that they will actually enjoy and not just a playlist of songs I think they should like instead.

The non-profit I work for is holding a "music night" for the children we serve and for the volunteers who work directly with them in one-on-one mentoring relationships. We’d like to play clips of songs for the kids and their mentors to identify, ask music trivia questions, have the kids identify the country of origin for several songs from around the world and play background music while we eat food that’s probably not going to be healthy in any way.

I’ve been having a tough time deciding on songs or artists to play because I keep thinking of music that I think the kids should like and not what the kids will actually like. I’m trying to push out thoughts that the kids would probably love Pavement if only they were exposed to it because I realize that’s just not likely to happen.

What music do kids between 7 and 18 actually like? Google leads me to broad, overwhelming results and, well, I really like you guys and would appreciate your input. Please let me know what you think and also, please, let me know what ages you think would prefer your suggestions. I’m sure that every song will not appeal to every age, so we’re hoping for a good mix. Thank you!
posted by smirkyfodder to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
When all else fails, there's the Billboard charts for the week or month. The top 20 or so should give a good starting point.
posted by jquinby at 6:43 AM on January 24, 2011


Kidz Bop
posted by empath at 7:14 AM on January 24, 2011


7-18 is a problematic spread. That Kidz Bop link is likely perfect for the 7 year olds but good luck with any kid who's made into Middle School, certainly any kid that considers themselves remotely cool. For me, back in the day, the turning point was age 9. Pure Kidz Stuff up until that point -- nothing but proven older kids music past that point (The Beatles, the Stones, the Mamas + the Papas, CCR), and I wasn't even that cool. By the time I was 13, it was Alice Cooper, Led Zep, Deep Purple and so on unto the darker stuff ...

Stuck in your situation, I'd try to find a way to allow the older kids to drive the experience, with guidance of course. That is, find the music that isn't going to alienate them but also isn't miles over the heads of the little ones. Easier said than done, of course.

In terms of actual songs, I wouldn't even worry about current hits, but rather go way back to proven classics that have stood the test. The Beatles, Motown etc. I say this based on the experience of my brother who's an all purpose DJ and has proven successful at doing kids' parties etc. The key, he says, is to keep it upbeat, keep the groove positive, and avoid playing the UNCOOL hits of the now. He's also not afraid to engage kids who aren't loving his choices. In fact, taking the time to talk it out with them tends to earn their respect and, to some degree, gets them onside. In other words, he turns it into part of the conversation. And if they show respect, if they begin to "grok" that it's not just about what makes THEM happy but rather has the potential to appeal to the whole group, he lets them make some song choices.

Good luck.
posted by philip-random at 7:55 AM on January 24, 2011


I think I would check which music videos are most popular in iTunes and on YouTube for help in this. And I also think you are going to need some serious help from the kids in question.

Here's why: although I like philip-random's suggestion of classics, neither one of my teens (15 and 17 year-old boys) can stand the Beatles or indeed any of our classic rock, much to my chagrin.

Just Saturday night we had a sleepover with six teen guys, and before that some of the girls were over as well, and they were talking about Kidz Bop and how they all listened to it when they were in elementary school and what number it must be up to now. Definitely NOT for anyone older than *maybe* nine, though.

Their eclectic tastes right now: my oldest son is into both hard metal and lyrical orchestral music while the youngest enjoys more upbeat pop tunes. Their friends like both hip hop and country, which to me are polar opposites, but there you go.

Both of mine, surprisingly, like Katy Perry. But not Nicki Minaj. Don't even think of Taylor Swift. Eminem is a favorite of all.

So I can definitely see why you are finding this tough!
posted by misha at 8:33 AM on January 24, 2011


I wouldn't worry too much about the seven to nine-year-olds. They'll want to be cool so they'll automatically like whatever they see the older kids liking. I did a quick scan of my preteen and teenaged cousins (and their friends) on Facebook to see which artists are popular. These are white suburban kids, so YMMV.

First, Michael Jackson seems universally popular across all ages, so load up on his music. Eminem is also huge. Beatles are pretty hit or miss. There is actually little mention of Lady Gaga, I think they might be sick of her. Kidz Bop is actively disliked. They're more familiar with classic rock than you'd think, thanks to games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero, but this doesn't guarantee they actually like it.

For ages 11-13, the sugary poppy Top 40 acts are big. Taylor Swift is HUGE with girls, as is Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Justin Beiber, Miley Cyrus...however, there's a backlash against these acts with the older kids, so use them sparingly. Maybe avoid Beiber entirely. The guys seem to have branched out more...they like Sean Paul and Jay-Z, but also Owl City, Bruce Springsteen, Green Day, etc.

Ages 13-15 apparently just discovered brooding mainstream rock. Korn, Linkin Park, Avenged Sevenfold, the Devil Wears Prada. But also, surprisingly, Bob Marley.

Ages 16 and up can't really be pinned down, they all like dozens of artists. I think this is when kids stop liking music to fit in, and instead pick music that expresses their individuality. But some include: MGMT, deadmau5, My Chemical Romance, Coldplay, Bullet for My Valentine, Glee (cast recordings), Ray Charles, Ratatat, Attack Attack!, U2, Queen, P!nk, Rihanna, Red Hot Chili Peppers....it goes on and on.
posted by castlebravo at 8:59 AM on January 24, 2011


Justin Beiber, Miley Cyrus...however, there's a backlash against these acts with the older kids, so use them sparingly. Maybe avoid Beiber entirely.

I've never met a boy older than ten who doesn't claim to despise young Mr. Beiber. Which, it's worth pointing out, is exactly the same situation as when I was that age, except it was Donny Osmond.

Nothing will expose divisions in your group more acutely than certain Top 40 artists. This has pretty much always been the case. That said, castlebravo's list ...

MGMT, deadmau5, My Chemical Romance, Coldplay, Bullet for My Valentine, Glee (cast recordings), Ray Charles, Ratatat, Attack Attack!, U2, Queen, P!nk, Rihanna, Red Hot Chili Peppers....

... sounds pretty strong. These are all fairly accessible acts that the older teens (of either sex) will not despise at the instant of contact. Four more comparatively recent hitmakers I think you could add to it:

Muse - Arcade Fire - Killers - anything with Kid Cudi involved
posted by philip-random at 9:15 AM on January 24, 2011


The song on Kidz Bop are going to be popular songs with teens, though. Just get the tracklistings and play the originals.
posted by empath at 9:20 AM on January 24, 2011




You can't go wrong with the Beatles. There are always two or three obnoxious teenage guys who claim to hate them, but whatever. Those guys tend to hate everything except the one particular band that is THE BEST BAND EVER AND I WILL STAB YOU IF YOU DISAGREE. Unless you intend to cater your entire playlist to them, they will never be placated.

Granted I am in my late 20's and this was very much not an evening for children, but I was reminded this weekend how much fun it still is to dance to basically anything from the 80's.
posted by Sara C. at 11:58 AM on January 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


When my son turned 10 six years ago he turned in his Disney CDs (not a figure of speech, he literally handed them back to us) and requested Bon Jovi and The Beatles. Since that time he has become an 80s metal fan. Any resemblance to his father in that regard is purely coincidental.

My 14 year old daughter is into all the mainstream country stuff - Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, etc.
posted by COD at 12:23 PM on January 24, 2011


They Might Be Giants

A lot of the songs are recognizable to kids, but even the ones that aren't are poppy and catchy.
posted by tacodave at 4:12 PM on January 24, 2011


There are always two or three obnoxious teenage guys who claim to hate them, but whatever. Those guys tend to hate everything except the one particular band that is THE BEST BAND EVER AND I WILL STAB YOU IF YOU DISAGREE. Unless you intend to cater your entire playlist to them, they will never be placated.

This is true. I was one of them, briefly.
posted by philip-random at 6:19 PM on January 24, 2011


These are good suggestions! Thank you! I think any of the kids who choose to dislike the music will be easily swayed with pizza but this is certainly a very helpful start.
posted by smirkyfodder at 6:44 PM on January 24, 2011


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