When most people think of heavy metal, the major themes that come to mind are death, evil, testosterone, violence, and maybe misogyny. And sure, the vast majority of heavy metal is probably inappropriate for most kids. Especially little kids. But that doesn’t mean all metal is inappropriate. Some songs are downright kid-friendly and they’re a great way to inject some fresh blood into the typical parent’s rather limited musical repertoire.
Before I dive into my list of recommended tracks, you should know that there exists an actual just-for-kids metal band from Finland called Hevisaurus and they are awesome. They dress in dinosaur outfits and the videos are the good kind of crazy. Unfortunately, singing in Finnish is a deal breaker for me–my kids love fun lyrics and this music doesn’t sound all that different from traditional Scandinavian metal. We might as well be listening to early Dimmu Borgir or Opeth.
My list comes in two parts. First are the songs that are actually family-friendly. The music isn’t too scary and the words don’t have any unacceptably rude surprises. And they rock. Songs on the second list also rock and might seem OK for kids at first. It’s just that some of the words might induce an awkward conversation (best case) or nightmares (worst case).
Part 1: The best of the best
1. Crazy Train (Ozzy Osbourne):
This song is almost perfect–Kids love trains and laughing, and so does Ozzy. If you ignore the fake blood and the bat-eating (and maybe the finger tattoos), Ozzy is just a silly old man–he reminds me a lot of Santa Claus without the hat or the beard. This song even has words John Lennon could have written:
Maybe it's not too late To learn how to love And forget how to hate
(Full disclosure: This was my high school yearbook quote.)
2. Rock and Roll All Night (Kiss):
The make-up and the costumes are super-fun and the song’s extremely catchy. Some of the lyrics are a little suggestive, but not enough to make me uncomfortable:
You show us everything you've got Baby, baby that's quite a lot And you drive us wild, we'll drive you crazy
3. Merry Go Round (Mötley Crüe):
This song is another slam dunk–carousels are on my older daughters’ list of the top five things in life along with ponies, princesses, fairies, and minotaurs.
4. Pour Some Sugar on Me (Def Leppard):
Kids love sugar and messes and this song has both. The band name also provides a good teachable moment about spelling–adults make mistakes too!
5. Ice Cream Man (Van Halen):
It’s not the heaviest song in the world, but it does have an Eddie Van Halen guitar solo and who doesn’t like ice cream? The only issue is that this song is (surprise) not about ice cream at all, but the kids don’t have to know David Lee Roth is a drug-addled perv.
6. Kids Will Rock (Rough Cutt):
Not too many folks have heard of Rough Cutt–they were one of the hair metal bands that didn’t quite make it big in the 80’s though I’m not sure why. This song is about kids and even has a chorus of kids join in at the end!
7. Raise Your Hands to Rock (Mötley Crüe):
Songs that demand specific actions are always a big hit and this one couldn’t be catchier.
8. Jump (Van Halen):
Another movement song and this one might be even more fun to act out than the last.
9. Stand up and Shout (Dio):
Standing up and shouting is fun, but this song is borderline too fast and heavy. Ronnie also mentions being “nailed to the wheel” in passing, but even though I’ve listened to this song hundreds of times, I never noticed until reading the lyrics five minutes ago.
10. Rock You Like a Hurricane (The Scorpions):
We’ve been reading a ton of Magic Schoolbus books lately and hurricanes are pretty cool.
Part 2: Don’t quite make the cut
1. Bark at the Moon (Ozzy):
I wanted so much for this song to be okay mostly because I’ve played it for the girls in the past and they like it. Hopefully they haven’t listened too closely to the words which contain gems like:
Years spent in torment Buried in a nameless grave Now he has risen Miracles would have to save Those that the beast is looking for
2. Givin the Dog a Bone (AC DC):
I love dogs and I’m OK with innuendo, but this song crosses the subtlety line right away:
She take you down easy Going down to her knees Going down to the devil Down down at ninety degrees She blowing me crazy 'til my ammunition is dry She's using her head again She's using her head
3. Give It All (Ratt):
I thought I might be able to spin this song as a tune about putting in your best effort. Too bad Stephen Pearcy is actually talking about how much love he is going to give his partner that night.
4. Modern Day Cowboy (Tesla):
This song is about cowboys and it’s a story about the Cold War that even teaches lessons about geography and spelling with lines like “the USA! the USSR!” Unfortunately even cold wars involves guns:
Bang Bang, shoot'em up. Bang Bang, blow you away.
5. Hungry (Winger):
Kids get hungry and Winger is catchy as heck. But this song is not about being hungry for food:
Girl I'm hungry for your love Girl I'm hungry Baby let me in Hungry for your love Hungry I can't get enough
6. Don’t Talk to Strangers (Dio):
This song had such promise as a fun song that teaches a valuable lesson. Too bad Ronnie James Dio comes across as a paranoid psychotic:
Don't talk to strangers Cause they're only there to do you harm Don't write in starlight 'Cause the words may come out real Don't hide in doorways You may find the key that opens up your soul Don't go to Heaven cause it's really only Hell Don't smell the flowers They're an evil drug to make you loose your mind Don't dream of women 'Cause they'll only bring you down
7. Iron Man (Black Sabbath):
The story of Iron Man is in many ways a like that of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. He looks different from everyone else and people mistreat him. And just as Rudolph led the sleigh on that foggy night, Iron Man “travelled time for the future of mankind.” But instead of joining in everyone’s reindeer games, Iron Man “kills the people he once saved.” Oh well.
Part 3: Confession time:
I am a true child of 80’s metal and would very much like to share my passion for heavy music with my children. That’s why I’ve gone to the trouble to curate this list of songs that won’t get me fired as a dad. But a few issues remain:
- The girls don’t actually like these songs very much. I’m hoping they will grow on them, but for now they far prefer kid music, boy bands, girl-pop, and even Latin music and reggae.
- None of my recommended songs are all that heavy. Korn, Metallica, and Slayer are all conspicuously absent. I’m going to be listening to “real” metal on my own time until the girls are quite a bit older.
- I don’t suggest watching any of the video versions of these songs. All the subtlety goes out the window and is usually replaced by pyrotechnics and half-naked women.
- Suppose the your kids love this play list. There isn’t really anywhere else kid-appropriate to go. It was surprisingly hard to come up with even these few songs.
All that said, my girls do put up with it in small doses and I certainly enjoy it!
Update: Maybe some black metal is an option for younger listeners.