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Album Review

There are things I'm sure I wouldn't know about if I didn't have three children under the age of five. One of them is The Fresh Beat Band, a popular show on Nick Jr. that features a quartet of fresh-faced young adults using fresh beats to help them resolve fresh predicaments every episode.

The four band members—two guys and two girls named Twist, Shout, Kiki and Marina—enthusiastically pursue their shared love of music. And along the way they invariably focus on how friendship and teamwork help them get over the obstacles they hit.

The Fresh Beat Band aims at an audience slightly older than, say, The Wiggles or Imagination Movers do, but they're still a couple years shy of Disney's Hannah Montana/ Camp Rock/ Lemonade Mouth tween set. Series co-creator Nadine van der Velde recently told USA Today that her own daughter, who's now 10, served as the show's initial target audience. "Years ago, when she started going to birthday parties, we noticed—as we had with our older daughter—that [the parties] were themed after older kids' shows," she said. "Nothing awful, but not entirely appropriate—boyfriend/girlfriend stuff, for these kids who were 2 and 3 and 4. So we thought, why not create real characters these kids could interact with?"

After three seasons, the show and its fictitious band are so popular that a real-world tour this winter had to double its number of national tour dates—up to 95—to satisfy demand. Tickets for many venues sold out in less than a day. Time for an album release!

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Pro-social Content

Quite a few of these songs innocently focus on movin' to the beat and experiencing the joy of music's power to make us tap our toes. The "Fresh Beat Band Theme" is representative: "Get up/Clap Your Hands/When you hear The Fresh Beat Band/Dance a move/To our song/Join the band and play along." Similar stuff turns up on "Music (Keeps Me Movin')," "Stomp the House," "Loco Legs" and "Freeze Dance."

Thankfully, some of the band's offerings go deeper than just movin' and groovin'. On "A Friend Like You," we hear, "You're my friend/And you'll always be/I'll hang with you anywhere/ … When the day is mean/And you're unhappy/All you gotta do is think of me." "Friends Give Friends a Hand" emphasizes exactly that lesson, while "Great Day" (which closes every episode on TV) reminds us, "We had a great day/The very best day/With friends, it's always better." Likewise, "Unstoppable" sings the praises of depending on one another to overcome obstacles we couldn't tackle alone: "When we just can't figure things out/We've got our friends standing by/Right by your side/Working together is so much better/Than struggling all alone."

Other tracks look forward to the possibilities of each new day ("Another Perfect Day"), affirm our unique contributions to the world ("Shine") and remind us that sometimes we don't know what we can accomplish until we give it our best effort ("Surprise, Surprise"). On the latter, we hear, "I did not know my strength inside/'Til I gave it all I had/There's no knowing what's possible/Give your all."

Objectionable Content

About the only tune that might potentially raise some parents' eyebrows a fraction is "Just Like a Rockstar." A sample of the lyrics: "Play it loud/Just like a rock star/Shout it out/Just like a rock star/ … You know the fun never ends/When you and all your friends/Are rockin' out in an awesome band/ … So put your rock star jacket on/ … 'Cause if the music's bumpin'/Then everyone wins."

Summary Advisory

If you have young children too, you've noticed by now that there's no shortage of musical choices out there—many of which are utterly inappropriate—targeting tots today. Just last week, for instance, Kidz Bop 21 landed on store shelves and at No. 2 on Billboard's album chart, pushing kiddie-ized versions of decidedly unkiddy offerings from Lady Gaga, LMFAO, Rihanna , Katy Perry and Maroon 5.

That makes The Fresh Beat Band a big breath of fresh air. Fun, well-crafted pop tunes consistently deliver positive and wholesome messages about friendship, perseverance and self-worth. And even when the spotlight's on a (generic) rock star, the band emphasizes that what makes a real star is helping your friends. This is what we hear: "And now we're having a ball/And the best part of all/Is pitching in and rockin' out/'Cause that's what being friends/Is all about/ … Let's help each other/Let's give it a spin."

Plot Summary

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January 31, 2012

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Adam R. Holz

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