Hot Dog!

Music review by
Kim Alessi, Common Sense Media
Hot Dog! Music Poster Image
Engaging, eclectic songs will enchant the whole family.

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The parents' guide to what's in this music.

Educational Value

Caspar Babypants songs are witty and loaded with wordplay and invite listeners to explore the creative (and silly) side of language. Some songs ("Stompy the Bear" and "This Old Whale") explore colors and sequencing; others ("Bunny Brown" and "All That I Have Got") model positive character traits and teach important life lessons.

Positive Messages

"Bunny Brown" is an old-time shuffle retelling Aesop's "The Tortoise and The Hare" with a lesson: "Don't judge a turtle's motor by the size of his shell." The reggae-y "All That I Have Got" is about living simply and finding happiness in everything around us. "Scared Scare Crow" is a bluesy tale of an unlikely friendship that leads to creative problem-solving.

Positive Role Models & Representations

"I Don't Mind" is a Motowny riff about dedication: "You could put me up on a mountain where there's nothing to do/and I'd still find an aero-plane and fly right back to you." The boogie-ish "Sweepin' Broom" spins new meaning into the classic childhood poem, "The Spider and The Fly," bringing companionship to the otherwise odd couple: "Now Sam the Spider is not alone in that bristly gloom/He and the Fly are happy now in that sweeping broom." The jazz-inspired "The Animal Lunch" makes for a great front-seat/back-seat hootenanny loaded with call and response: "The lions roar (the lions roar)/The panda bears munch (the panda bear munch)..."

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff

"Dumb" is mentioned in "Boot Got Grounded" -- "Ivy and snakes are no kinds of chums/when you're stuck in the muck feeling poor and dumb."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that HOT DOG! is an album from Caspar Babypants (aka Chris Ballew from the Grammy-nominated, alt-rock band The Presidents of the United States of America). Caspar's songs span the blues, pop, rock, jazz, folk, nursery rhymes, and even a military "sound off" march, with a cast of characters that include sugar ants, stompy bears, elegant elephants, bouncing bunnies, and a scared scarecrow. These songs are whimsical, catchy, and appropriate for all ages.

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What's the story?

Hot Dog! is the fifth album from Caspar Babypants, the stage name for alt-rock musician Chris Ballew. Ballew began writing children's songs in 2008 in the same humorous vein as his Top 40 hits from the '90s ("Kitty," "Lump," and "Peaches"), with witty wordplay and clever chord changes. Caspar Babypants albums are a mix of original songs and remakes of traditional tunes, often with newly-spun, wacky lyrics. Kate Endle, Ballew's wife, adorns this (and all Caspar Babypants albums) with her original and colorful collage cover art. The two also collaborate on children's books and wall calendars.

Is it any good?

Hot Dog! is chock full of witty, foot-stompin' tunes for kids and parents alike. It's a good thing, too, because kids will want to hear these songs again and again. Ballew's attuned to the essence of childhood -- playfulness, wonder, and a free spirit. These ditties are well-crafted, with hooky melodies and whimsical lyrics loaded with imagery that quickly lodge into your ear. And a bonus -- Ballew's songs expose kids to a wider variety of musical genres than your typical children's music artist. Standout tracks include "Crazy Blue Beetle," "Summer Baby (Let It Ride)," "Stompy The Bear," "Eleanor the Elegant Elephant," and "All That I Have Got." These songs, and more, take listeners of all ages through worlds of whimsy and wonder.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why Caspar Babypants songs sound different from one another. (They are written in different musical styles or genres.) Tune into a variety of radio stations -- jazz, classical, rock, gospel, etc. -- and talk about the differences you hear in the music. Do they come from the instruments, the vocals, the beat or groove, or how the music is put together?

  • Many of Caspar's lyrics are built on witty wordplay. Invite kids to be playful with language though rhyme, alliteration, and just down-right silliness.

  • For families with older siblings: There are other artists like Caspar/Chris who make kids’ music after building a successful career recording music for grown-ups. Talk about why an artist might change the audience for his or her music.

Music details

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