Radio DJ's Perfect
Set for
a Fickle

Radio DJ's Perfect
Set for
a Fickle

Radio DJ’s Perfect Set for a Fickle Baby

Jacquie Fuller is a professional deejay—she hosts a great weekly retro modern rock show called Teenage Kicks on Minnesota Public Radio’s The Current. We figured, deejay + new mom would mean she’d know *exactly* what to play for a baby. Turns out she’s bumbling along just like the rest of us. Read what Jacquie has to say about curating for her kid below, and follow along by listening to her playlist. —HF

I’ve heard that part of the joy and wonder of being a new parent is watching your child’s personality emerge. My daughter (we’ll call her Little P) just turned 15 months, and I still can’t get a bead on her. At one moment, she’s the chilliest kid one could hope for—happy to play by herself for a solid half-hour. In the next moment, she’s wrestling out of my arms and after some random object (the thermometer cover, the strap on her changing pad, the cat’s butt) with maniacal persistence. Her music taste is similarly befuddling, but it doesn’t stop me from trying to impose my taste on her. The following is sampling of her first year, in music.

1. The Harbinger Julianna Barwick
Little P’s dad favors woo-woo headphones music, and there was so much atmospheric music playing during her first weeks of life, our little Minneapolis apartment felt like a Zendo. In heavy rotation was Julianna Barwick’s most recent album, Nepenthe. Ambient music is excellent in creating a peaceful, womb-like space for your newborn, but it does absolutely nothing to prepare them for the Real World. The first time a toddler at her day care screeched, she reacted as though someone had set off a firecracker in her face.

2. This Charming Man The Smiths
I wanted my daughter to know some of the stuff I grew up on, too. Enter the Rockabye Baby series. On drives to and from daycare (which involved banshee-like screaming in the middle of gridlock traffic), I soothed her with a Spotify playlist featuring lullaby renditions of The Cure, The Smiths, Weezer, The Flaming Lips, and others. The hope: that, as a teen, she’d feel a pleasant bolt of recognition upon hearing the first, lovely chords of The Smiths’ “This Charming Man.” The success of this experiment remains to be determined.

3. Running Up That Hill Chromatics (Kate Bush Cover)
With so much ambient and instrumental stuff filling her early days, I imagined how future, teenaged Little P would rebel: hunched over a Macbook, composing music WITH WORDS, MOM! So it was time to introduce her to lyrics. She immediately took to anything “chillwave.” While Sex Pistols and Ramones made her wail (so much for all the punk rock onesies friends gave us), bands like Chromatics, Real Estate, Washed Out, and Future Islands brought on the coos and giggles. Okay, fine. I wouldn’t have a rocker kid, but I’d at least have a kid who dug good music. I could live with this.

4. Would That Not Be Nice Divine Fits
While her fits are anything but divine, this band was Little P’s final live concert in-utero, only a few weeks before she was born (I was the only one in the entire place sitting down). I swear I saw a glimmer of recognition on my child’s face the first time she heard this song on the radio, which was immensely pleasing to me. Bonus points: this song references Minneapolis, the place where she was born.

5. Man Neko Case
I am amazed that more of a ruckus has not been made over how much this song is misunderstood. Male critics repeatedly used words like “acerbic,” “bitter,” and “angry,” which illustrates just how much they missed the point. My take on it: that one needn’t have a penis to be a Man. To me, it is a celebratory song, and it was in heavy rotation on my station (and in my head) around the time of Little P’s birth. I took it as an omen, and sang it to her during diaper changes. I’m raising her to be—in the words of Sleater-Kinney—a ladyman.

6. My Darling Wilco
There are two songs I’ve been singing to her nightly since she was born: “Duermete Mi Nina,” a traditional Spanish song, and Wilco’s “My Darling.” I like the way this song acknowledges that she was the product of love and that we made her. This will prepare her for many awkward conversations we’ll have when she is a pre-teen. It’s also just one of the sweetest pop songs ever written. After many months of hearing my a capella version, I played her the soaring, Beach Boys-esque Wilco version. The look on her face was priceless.

7. Long Hard Times to Come Gangstagrass
I heard a story on Morning Edition once that asserted that flavors could pass through amniotic fluid. I know this to be true: I ate Indian food almost exclusively when I was pregnant, and Little P will eat anything so long as it’s smothered in ghee and garam masala. I also watched a shit-ton of FX’s Justified during my pregnancy, and fear that repetitious exposure to the show’s theme song has instilled in her a predilection for bluegrass rap, a combination that evokes the same visceral, averse response in me as the words “Minnesotan Tex-Mex.”

8. Brush Yo Teeth Koo Koo Kanga Roo
It is a well-known fact that babies love rap, but what do you do when they begin to understand the lyrics? Nobody wants to field questions from the back of the car like, “Mommy, why do they keep singing about getting kitties?” Enter Minneapolis’s gold-lame-wearing, fanny-pack-sporting hip-hop duo Koo Koo Kanga Roo, with kid-friendly songs about dental hygiene, mini vans, and friendship bracelets. This song, in particular, has been an ally in our attempts to teach Little P to brush the two lonely teeth that currently occupy her mouth. (BTW: You can hear Koo Koo, and other kid-friendly jams for music-loving parents, at The Current’s internet stream, Wonderground Radio.)

9. Bruise Violet Babes in Toyland
Little P has recently taken to dancing. Her style of dancing happens mostly at the waist, old-white-guy-style, with a little Beavis-esque hand-slap for flair. Though we listen to a lot of danceable music, she doesn’t dance to everything. Consequently, I take her dancing to mean she approves of a song. A few weeks ago, Babes in Toyland’s “Bruise Violet” on the radio inspired her to break out some serious moves, and I couldn’t have been prouder—the ladyman emerges!

10. Boys of Summer Don Henley
And then she had to go and undo all of that by busting a move to Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” at IKEA last Saturday. In front of everybody. We have a lot of work ahead of us. —JF

What does YOUR fickle kid like to listen to?
In the comments, pretty please!

Photo: Maggie Fuller

4 thoughts on “Radio DJ’s Perfect Set for a Fickle Baby

  1. This is so perfectly timed as earlier today I was experimenting with music to soothe my usually chill, but occasionally fickle 6 week old. Turns out he’s down with the Unicorns and their later incarnation as the Islands. Jury is still out on Yo La Tengo.

  2. One day, the dude was very sad when mama left. So I played Dan Wilson’s “Free Life,” put the boy on my lap and sang along with the album as it played. He still frequently asks to hear “All Kinds of Beautiful.” Have to memorize more songs so I can hook him on more not-Sesame-Street songs.

  3. Oh, I love the Dan Wilson story! And Unicorns – YES! I forgot all about them – thanks for the reminder. Since the writing of this post, my child’s taste in music has further deteriorated. We heard Deadeye Dick’s 1990s one-hit-wonder “New Age Girl” playing at a gas station one day and I made the mistake afterwards of singing the guitar riff to her. She exploded with laughter. Now, every time I sing that riff or play the song – she cracks up. WHY ME???

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