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Music As Children’s Lit: Flaming Lips

It’s only natural for us to begin to view the world in association with our environment. I still see the world in ways that relate to my past jobs, especially working on a construction crew in the Arctic. But for the last nineteen months or so I’ve been running a children’s bookstore. I could write longwindedly about how strange a transition that was, but that’s not the point here. I have become accustomed to seeing things in the context of children’s literature. I think about illustrations a lot. I see the plot formulas, much in the way Hollywood formulas become so apparent after a few horror movies or romantic comedies.

As a former musician (I haven’t had the time to pick up a guitar or record in quite a while, let alone finish the album that’s pretty much just waiting to be pressed) and self-professed audiophile, it was only a matter of time before I started hearing songs and relating them to kid’s books.

Enter yesterday, the release of Embryonic, the new Flaming Lips album. (AMEN). After finally getting a chance to see them live recently I think I could probably write epics about them, but I want to talk about the song “I Can Be A Frog” from the album’s second disc. The opening verse goes like this:

“She said I can be a frog
I can be a bat
I can be a bear
Or I can be a cat”

Of course this one’s obvious, I mean who can’t see that on a board book with cute little animal illustrations, maybe some touch and feel elements? But it gets better, because this wouldn’t just be a story book, no, this would be one of those story books with a message. You know the type, the one that teaches a child not to hit, or how to share. This one teaches that ever-important message that, kid, you can be anything you want:

“Well, it seems like she can be anything
Any kind of creature she wants to be
Oh, it seems like she can be anything
Any kind of frog
Any kind of bear
Any kind of monkey
She wants to be”

Yes she can, and so can you. To inspire you here’s the video:

  • Ryan W. Bradley has pumped gas, changed oil, painted houses, swept the floor of a mechanic's shop, worked on a construction crew in the Arctic Circle, fronted a punk band, and managed an independent children's bookstore. He now works in marketing. His latest book is Nothing but the Dead and Dying, a collection of stories set in Alaska. He lives in southern Oregon with his wife and two sons.

2 thoughts on “Music As Children’s Lit: Flaming Lips

  1. I love this band! And in honor of your inaugural Big Other post I’m listening to the three albums that are on my iPod now, namely, At War with the Mystics, The Soft Bulletin, and Yoshi Battles the Pink Robots.

    I’ve seen them twice. The first, way back during that minute when they were a media darling (did they even get their fifteen minutes?). And the second time when they were backing up Beck. Remember that?

    And I’d like to see more of the connections you’re finding with music and Children’s Lit. Animal Collective comes to mind as a fellow traveler. Good stuff!

  2. dude, i would’ve killed to see when they toured with Beck! definitely check out the new album, it’s fantastic. and you can even get in a faux fur-covered edition (which i’ll probably talk about in a different post soon).

    i have a couple other segments in this “series” planned out in my head including Weezer and REM. i haven’t listened to Animal Collective in quite a while, so i will dust them off soon!

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