Rockabye Baby! is a project that takes popular songs and reconstructs them as kid-friendly lullabies. The ironic appeal of it is not lost on co-creator Lisa Roth. Since 2006, she and her team have released over 60 albums, covering artists from The Clash to Nickelback and got a taste for the idea’s ironic appeal after the release of their first series, which included Radiohead, Metallica, and Coldplay. For their latest release, they’ve given an unlikely artist the lullaby treatment: Eminem.
But even though children will only be hearing the soothing melodies of Eminem’s songs, and not the expletive-laden lyrics which have historically been associated with violence and homophobia, how will it affect the young music fan’s feelings towards the shock rapper later in life? Will children grow up finding Eminem childish and infantile? Or are we raising a nation of sociopathic, murderous young hip-hop fans?
We talked to Roth about the larger social implications behind making a child-friendly version of a song about ripping Pamela Anderson’s tits off and impregnating the Spice Girls. Oh, and also Van Halen.
Noisey: How do you decide which artists will get the Rockabye Baby! treatment?
Lisa Roth: It’s a group effort. We have a whole process we go through to choose our artists. We usually chose a year in advance. We usually release six to eight artists a year. We poll our customers, we poll our employees, we look at what works with our brand. We think about how much irony an artist’s name brings to it.
Is that something you want in it, irony?
Oh, that’s the purpose of the whole thing. The irony, I think, is the element that makes it attractive. It’s something that appeals to the adult—the parent. It’s something that they can relate to. It addresses a part of them that existed pre-baby and that they can still indulge in post-baby.
So you’re catering more to parents than kids then?
Yeah, I am—the parent and the adult. The dad, particularly. It happens to be a baby product that men can relate to.
Why do you think that is?
Again, it appeals to something that existed in them pre-baby. We all love music. I’m not a parent but I hear and I assume that you go through a period where you’re like, “Oh crap. I have to give up who I am.” And here’s something saying, actually, you don’t.
Eminem is your most recent artist. Obviously, Eminem is an artist who is associated with violence against women and drug use and other generally “shocking” things. Why was he right for this?
I admit he’s the most extreme artist we’ve done so far. He might be considered aggressive or offensive or even morally bankrupt by many people. But he’s continually embraced by the mainstream—commercials, movies, award shows. He is the personification of irony in a way. I think that makes him perfect for our series. And there are no lyrics, these are all instrumental. So no harm, no foul. It’s at the discretion of the parent too.
Even if children are listening to this and it is lyric-free, what effect do you think hearing the songs will have on a child’s relationship with Eminem or hip-hop later in life?
Well, when you listen to our version, it’s recognizable but there’s nothing aggressive or adversarial about it. I don’t think it’s going to have a negative effect. What I hope is that parents have the opportunity now to share a legacy of their own with their kids starting very early on. And I think that’s a cool bridge to create.
There’s sometimes a tendency to hate the things you grew up with. It seems childish later. Do you think this is going to create a future generation of teenagers who really don’t like Eminem?
Jeez, I would love to have that power. That might happen whether they have these lullabies or not because their parents love him. I just think it’s a natural cycle that’s been happening since the beginning of parenthood—to reject what your parents like. I don’t think a lullaby is going to promote that any faster. I think it’s kind of a rite of passage.
Does Eminem know about it?
We approach the publishers of every song we do to obtain a license. A lot of artists have no idea what their publishers are OKing or not OKing. But I imagine eventually, they would hear about it. There have been no complaints throughout the history of the series. So I don’t know personally if he’s heard about it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s heard.
I understand that you’re David Lee Roth’s sister?
Have you ever taken on any Van Halen songs?
Well, we did a Van Halen CD finally. It took me six years because I think it’s very dangerous to mix family with business. But honestly, not just because it’s his but because of the producer who worked on it, it’s one of my favorites. I feel like it’s really nuanced and maintains the original attitude but is also very cute.
Do you ever think of yourselves as the earliest music tastemakers?
You know, I haven’t. I might start thinking that way now that you put that thought in my obsessive compulsive brain. Honestly, my motivation was always to be entertaining to the adults in this equation.