Music Review: Meltdown! by Justin Roberts

Photo of Justin Roberts performing in concert with kids' heads visible in the foreground. Photo from
I’m a late comer to children’s music, which pretty much describes any parent of a single child. So I’ve only just found Chicago-based Justin Roberts whose first children’s CD debuted in 1998.

Roberts’ latest CD is called Meltdown!, a high energy all-ages collection of acoustic guitar pop that has my 3-year-old daughter jumping and me mouthing lyrics during idle moments of the day.

The songs revolve around your typical kid issues — drawing in chalk on the sidewalk (“I Chalk”), good-naturedly blaming a sibling for everything (“My Brother Did It”), talking about an imaginary friend (“Our Imaginary Rhino”) or a sibling launching into a tantrum when borrowing a crayon (“Meltdown”).

Those are my favorite tracks, though this is one of those CDs where we like every song — no need to burn a ‘favorites’ version.

The lyrics and sound have a sophistication to them, which is really the distinction between children’s music (learn you’re A-B-C’s super simple songs) and songs that all ages can enjoy on different levels. The youngest kids like the groove, while older kids learn the lyrics.

The lyrics I appreciate most as a parent are the inventive passages like this one near the end of Our Imaginary Rhino:

But see our rhino’s got this friend
That no one can see
he’s imaginary
So we sing “rhino come on, come on, come on
Stop making things up”
the rhino seems so sure
So politely we defer and set the table for more

Cause it’s more than super fine-o
To be imaginary rhinos
Who take the invisible
And make it all visible, visible, here we go

Visit Justin Robert’s official website and on the music page click the radio icon to listen to music samples. His album detail pages offer links to a variety of websites that sell and sample his music.

Roberts doesn’t have a music video (yet?) for this album, so I’ve compiled nine homebrew fan videos, and three earlier official videos, interspersed by quotes from fan accounts of his concerts.

Taking Off My Training Wheels (home video from Meltdown!)

Justin Roberts is, in our opinion, far and away the best kids act around. No hushed voices and baby sleepytime lyrics. Alisa and I find ourselves listening and singing along to his music when the kids aren’t even around. –from Jeffery Druzba is Dreamy.

More than Just a Minute (home video from Meltdown! )

A hilarious kiddie mosh pit formed instantly in front of the stage, with Justin providing some instructions for dances, motions and sounds before most songs – some of the kids complied but most were just bouncing around to some of the finest children’s music being made today. –from Out With the Kids.

It’s Your Birthday (first half of a home video, from Meltdown!)

On Sunday, our girls woke up from their naps 30 minutes earlier than usual at 2:30. My husband and I looked at each other and said, “I bet we could get down to Printers Row for the Justin Roberts show at 3:00. We ran around, piled in the car, parked illegally and made it to the show only 10 minutes late.”  –from Karen in Chicago.

Willy was a Whale (official video from Yellow Bus)

Otto keeps asking when we’ll see him again. He’s a really wonderful performer, with lots of fun moves for the kids for each song. Watching him jump up and down makes me wonder where all my energy has gone. –from Almost Always Hungry.

Airplane of Food (official video from Way Out)

After seeing Justin Roberts, Maya looked toward the Croc to see what else might be of interest on their marquee. –from And the Family Buick.

If You Got 1 (official video from Great Big Sun)

Within seconds of getting buckled in, if not before she is even in the car, Maria points at the radio and begs, “Yellow Bus . . . Song! Yellow Bus!” That’s her way of asking for her favorite song. It’s an upbeat song about a kid who is waiting and waiting for his school bus, which never comes becomes it’s a Saturday.  –from Daddytude.

One Little Cookie (live in concert, from Yellow Bus)

She fell down the stairs [at home] last weekend and broke her left arm. Her thumb-sucking hand. [...] My kids were a little star struck once they actually had a chance to meet Justin and talk with him. But I coaxed them into asking for an autograph, and Justin even kindly signed Anna’s cast. –from They Hang Like Paper Lanterns.

I Lost the Tooth I Lost (home video from Way Out)

The big day finally arrived. I could tell you stories of how much time I spent getting ready: how many outfits I debated, how I curled and teased my hair until it was perfect, and how I tried to make my eyes smolder with makeup without looking like a hooker. My efforts were immediately noticed by my husband, who felt it necessary to inform me that I never go to that trouble for him. Duh –
he doesn’t pick up a guitar and sing cool songs about sidewalk chalk to our kids, does he?” –from Ruby Red Slipper Guide to the Eastside.

D-O-G (home video from Not Naptime, it starts slow, then accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 1 second.)

Felt a little nervous getting his autograph and totally spaced getting a picture of the kids with him.  He was so welcoming and warm to everyone he met.  And he looked you straight and deeply in the eyes.  –from Five Mamas. (What’s with this guy and mommy crushes?)

D-O-G (another home video from Not Naptime)

The families laughed; the babies clapped; the children danced and screamed and sang. The sun still set and the breeze still slowed and Justin still riled everyone up in the most genuine, and generous, way; I imagine he always does, no matter where he is performing.  –from Mama in Wonderland.

Airplane of Food (home video from Way Out)

I don’t think words can accurately depict the idyllic scene before us for the next hour, but picture something out of Norman Rockwell, only with J. Crew shorts and Baby Bjorn front carriers. Picture the town square packed with families, the preschoolers and coltish older kids jamming in a spontaneous kiddie mosh pit in front of the stage, the chubby-legged droolers hanging out in onesies and sunhats in their parents’ arms, everyone laughing and dancing and singing and jumping up and down. Picture the sun sinking through the trees beyond the river, throwing everyone into golden relief that turned the children’s hair coppery, like caramel. Picture a bubbling fountain at the center of the square, an old-fashioned popcorn cart, a stand selling watermelon ices. Picture the kids sing-shouting, And you say, oh my gosh, it’s a great big sun, it’s a great big sun, all by themselves when Justin told them to carry the chorus, and the peachy-cheeked toddlers stumbling around in a kind of baby interpretive dance contest.  –from Xferen.


One Response to “Music Review: Meltdown! by Justin Roberts”

  1. PJ says:

    You should also check out a band called Trout Fishing In America ( – they’ve got great kid-friendly music. ‘Merry Fishes for All’ and ‘Family Music Party’ are two of my family’s favorites!

    November 9th, 2007 at 5:57 am

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