On Oct. 11, Michael & the Rockness Monsters will unleash their latest collection of great music for the entire family. Produced by Grammy Award-winner Dean Jones, Seeing Life in 2020 is a collection of covers that spans 10 decades of music in jazz, folk, country, blues, funk, pop, rock, TV, and film. It’s part of an idea to bridge the gap between “music for kids” and “music for adults” — a mission shared by both the band and its educational sister company, Rockness Music.
“I remember being entranced by new genres,” says frontman Michael Napolitano. “I knew that by using my memories, my experience, and my education, I could offer children a fun, cohesive musical library to draw on themselves … something to spark conversations and make new memories.”
In fact, Michael — who spent a decade as a member of the Blue Man Group’s creative team — calls himself “the first Rockness Monster.” His father was a professional drummer, and growing up, Napolitano found himself spinning vinyl records from his parents’ vast collection of genre-spanning music.
In crafting the new album, the band chose one song from each decade represented. For the 1980s, the song selected was one staight out of Napolitano’s own youth: Van Halen’s “Jump.” Originally released as a single on December 21, 1983, “Jump” became a signature song and video of the MTV era, fueling the success of Van Halen’s sixth studio album, 1984. Today, the Toy Insider is giving you a first listen to Michael & The Rockness Monsters’ mellow, more subdued take on the raucous hit.
The only original song on the album is the title track, “Seeing Life in 2020.” It’s an appropriate way to introduce a time-traveling sonic assortment that Michael says was inspired by his parents’ “impressive knowledge from the ’20s to the ’60s.”
While younger listeners may recognize the Rockness Monsters’ new spin on more recent fare such as Randy Newman’s Toy Story anthem, “You’ve Got A Friend In Me,” Junior Senior’s “Move Your Feet,” or “A Life That’s Good” from the finale of TV’s Nashville, it’s the deeper cuts that provide new windows into a larger world of musical exploration.
From The Beatles’ “All Together Now,” to The Pointer Sisters’ “Yes We Can Can,” classics are reinvigorated alongside novelty hits from the ’40s and ’50s.
“‘Choo’n Gum’ and ‘Mairzy Doats’ are not children’s songs at all,” says Napolitano. “In fact, they were written for adults in the ’40s and ’50s, at a time when the country was touched by war.”
As for the appeal, the band feels the lyrics on both are “catchy, just plain ridiculous, and perfect.”
Learn more at michaelandtherocknessmonsters.com