Jack Johnson’s melodic, eclectic Curious George soundtrack is not just for kids

By Emale Gray

If you have ever heard Jack Johnson’s music, it’s obvious he is the perfect musician to produce the soundtrack to an animated film. And what better film than Curious George—a cartoon about an inquisitive little monkey that is adored by children worldwide? Johnson is renowned for his ruminative and engrossing style, and this soundtrack displays his veritable talents.

The Curious George soundtrack is the fourth soundtrack that Johnson has produced since April 2005. Johnson has also created three meaningful solo albums, all of which have left respectable marks on the Billboard charts. And now, after years of acoustic hits for the pleasure of more mature audiences, Johnson can use his talents to put smiles on the faces of children everywhere.

As years of viewing Sesame Street tell us, the formula for children’s songs is very simple. Johnson, however, changes this formula to fit his style, including songs that can lull children to sleep or just provide a more peaceful mood.

The soundtrack starts on a bright note, with “Upside Down,” a track that is as energetic and peppy as Curious George himself, yet still has Johnson’s voice afloat on its lofty backdrop. Though the title “Broken” in another song suggests that Johnson may cast a dreary cloud into children’s lives, he instead endears the young and the old alike with a tale of companionship: “Without you I was broken/ But I’d rather be broke down with you by my side.”

It seems Johnson may have a soft spot in his heart for the Partridge Family (and other annoyingly blissful groups of that era), because when “People Watching” begins, one can’t help but wonder why those groups were ever popular in the first place. Nonetheless, the track still shines. “Wrong Turn” is a heartfelt tune that illustrates lyrically and musically its tale of indecisiveness.

One feels a sense of indifference in “Talk of the Town,” a song about taking opportunities when they become available rather than constantly searching for a way to make life better. “Jungle Gym,” a song dedicated to fostering exploration (and, yes, curiosity), is topped by an expressive harmonica like icing on a cake.

That curiosity continues in “We’re Going to be Friends,” where Johnson uses light piano to describe the glee one felt when one first gain a new friend to experience life with. The funky, soulful “Sharing Room” is the first of many songs to which children will want to sing along.

“The 3 R’s,” another sing-along (in which kids can learn a little bit about reducing, reusing, and recycling) bottoms out on the bass. Johnson had to mellow out eventually, right? Johnson’s bandmate Matt Costa offers his vocals on “Lullaby,” an alleviating berceuse (a lullaby in 6/8 time).

Ben Harper uses lyrics that are too similar to Jewel’s “Hands,” singing about the limitless possibilities of “My Own Two Hands” (like comforting someone and even helping the human race). “Questions” sounds like a B-side from one of Johnson’s previous albums, using guitars to give the song its character and depth.

A battered yet triumphant piano line radiates through the madness of reverberant cymbals, steady tambourine, and calming guitar in the uplifting “Supposed to Be.” Johnson even adds a bonus track for the kiddies, remixing the already energetic “The 3 R’s” and giving it an engrossing electronic tone.

With this new soundtrack album, not only can Johnson now claim a strong adult audience, but after the release of Curious George, even children will adore his trademark style.