A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this music.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that while this album isn't specifically for kids, and some of the songs deal with adult themes, from relationships to world events of the time, there's not much problematic content to worry about. There is no sex, drinking, drugs, or swearing, only one violent image (of a baby-carriage bomb blowing up soldiers), much positive food for thought, and some of the best music the '80s had to offer. Especially if your kids don't know Paul Simon's work, this is a great place to start.
What's the story?
Carrying off the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1986, this album by singer/songwriter Simon was huge when it came out, not just for its lyrics and their capturing of the sweetness, sorrow, irony, and weirdness of the era (\"These are the days of miracle and wonder/ Don't cry baby don't cry ...\"), but for his collaboration with South African, zydeco, and Latin musicians on the tunes. This gave the resulting tracks an infectious accessibility and danceability rarely seen in his previous work, and brought him a whole new audience. The album, and the stellar contributions of South African singers Ladysmith Black Mambazo in particular, helped draw attention to the continuing presence of apartheid in that country.
Is it any good?
There's a pretty good case to be made GRACELAND is Simon's best album ever. It not only won a Grammy for Album of the Year in 1986 and reached No. 3 on the Billboard Top 200 chart, but the song "Graceland" also got a Grammy for Record of the Year in 1987. If Simon elsewhere in his work gets a bit self-absorbed and angsty, here his collaborators keep him out of the pit, so that even a song called "Homeless" somehow comes across as inspired and uplifting. Lyrically and musically, Graceland really hits the sweet spot.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why Graceland, Elvis Presley's home, is such an icon in American culture, and why it serves as a symbol of miracle and redemption.
What do you know about apartheid, which was the system of government in South Africa at the time this record was made, and how Ladysmith Black Mambazo's work in particular helped bring attention to it?
How are the current events in "The Boy in the Bubble" like today's, or different?
For kids who love music for preteens and teens
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.