Generally, you don’t expect to hear much about police brutality on a children’s album with songs like “Peanut Butter Pickle Sandwiches” and “Everyone Loves Elephants,” but, considering the national headlines over the last two years, it’s probably never too early to learn.
Or at least that’s the message you get from For Kids and By Kids: Songs from Iowa Rock City, Volume One a free album distributed by the [Iowa City Public Library]. In context of an album with many of the tracks performed by elementary kids, a pop-punk song for a post-Ferguson America is a little out of left field.
Here’s a snippet of the lyrics from the track “Hold Your Hands Up,” currently drawing public outrage from Iowa cops who say the song is teaching kids to fear the police:
“Here come the boys in blue
Not really sure what to do
Hold your hands up
Think they’re gonna shoot some more
Why don’t we retaliate
Hold your hands up
The next song after that is a nice polka, so that’s chill.
Kembrew McLeod, the album’s executive producer, says “Hold Your Hands Up” was written by musician Luke Tweedy. Tweedy’s Flat Black Studios has yet to respond to interview requests about the non-traditional children’s song, and we’ll update when we hear back.
“This was a community project, so I approached several local musicians and asked them to contribute songs for a children’s album. Half the songs were written and performed by adults (the “for kids” part) and half were written and performed by children (the “by kids” part, which you can read more about in the liner notes),” McLeod tells Inverse.
“The idea behind the album was to include as many different genres and kinds of songs as possible, and this was one of the album’s irreverent kid songs on an album that ranges from pretty folk to hip-hop to electronic synth pop. As a parent, I’ve heard plenty of irreverent songs about authority figures about teachers and whatnot, so ‘Hold Your Hands Up’ is that kind of song.”
But police aren’t seeing the irreverence they might if the song was about stinky-cheese police feet, instead of the widespread concerns that the police are part of an entrenched power structure of systematic racial oppression. Stinky-cheese feet would be easier to shake off, probably.
“It’s disappointing,” Lonny Pulkrabek, sheriff of Johnson County, Iowa, told local paper The Gazette. “There’s no reason to work on tearing down the relationship between law enforcement and the community. I get freedom of speech and all, but it’s still hurtful.”
Or, in the words of another classic lyric, tomato, to-mah-toe.