Recess Recall: What Sounds Resonate With Kids?

I have never seen the movie Frozen, nor actually heard the recorded song, and yet I can’t stop singing “Let It Go.” This is simply because I live in a neighborhood with lots of children and they won’t let it go. Just go already.

Every few months a movie score, kids show theme, brand jingle or song (no matter how inappropriate the subject matter) grabs hold of the collective kiddie consciousness and holds us all hostage for a few weeks. This kind of “recess recall” or “playground playback” is priceless. Between the spontaneous street karaoke and resulting slew of adorable viral videos, you could pay millions and not get the same level of exposure.

So what makes a track, whether it be in entertainment or general market, get this kind of kid love? Some musical indicators can be hysterically explored through YouTube’s collection of children singing popular (and age inappropriate) songs…

Simple Vocals: A sticky chorus melody that stands on its own, even without the track. It inspires kids to sing along, in a group or solo, even by themselves.

Repetition: Requires low cognitive resource and suggests a cognitive echo. Simple repetitive lyrics, rhythms, instrumental riffs apply.

Musical Incongruity: A missing or added beat. A melodic contour or harmony that violates pattern expectancies

Lyrical Incongruity: An odd word, a slightly mispronounced word or a violation of expected syllable accentuation. Taylor Swift is the princess of this one.

Wordplay: The witty exploitation of the meanings and ambiguities of words. Use of onomatopoeia is popular here.

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