“Wheels On The Bus” On YouTube: A Distressed Father’s Guide

So my firstborn son is obsessed with "Wheels on the Bus," and will sing it at the slightest provocation, or with no provocation at all, really. He's three ("a young three," as noted by now multiple polite but clearly frazzled instructors at toddler-activity sessions he's disrupted by, for example, failing to appreciate the nuances of Duck Duck Goose, i.e. running in circles the whole time, whether he's a goose or not), and during moments of parental exhaustion, he likes nothing more than to eat popcorn (pronounced "tacho," reasoning unknown) and listen to a YouTube playlist of the song. One night in his sleep he blurted out, "WHEELS DE BUS," and then rolled over and resumed snoring. This is a thing.

I'm not complaining; he's great, it's fine. Like "November Rain," "Smooth," "Black Hole Sun," "Hey Ya!," "Rolling in the Deep," "Get Lucky," and "Timber," "Wheels on the Bus" easily withstands and is in fact arguably improved by numbing repetition. But you quickly realize that people have strange notions about a) the musical/lyrical content, and b) what constitutes acceptable animated visual accompaniment.

Let me give you some examples.

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Artist: The Gigglebellies (yeah).

Bus Phenomena: Wheels, doors, money, driver, seat belts, motor, horn, wipers, antennas, signals, animals (a frog is driving; passengers are primarily monkeys).

Musical Inspiration: The spinning-bow-tie whimsical folk of peak-popularity Barenaked Ladies.

Visual Inspiration: Ken Kesey, and/or the Rob Zombie-driven desert-freakout scene from Beavis & Butthead Do America. (My wife just walked in here and said, "Ha, Gigglebellies. That's the LSD one.")

Is This Tolerable? Mostly. The kids chanting "All through the town!" gets a little grating, but this is OK, if obviously a portal into a nightmarish franchise I otherwise want no part of.

Artist: Little Baby Bum (yeesh).

Bus Phenomena: Wheels, wipers, people, doors, money, driver, horn.

Musical Stylings: Quasi-ethereal lady with poor enunciation and terrible demo tape legally barred from getting within 500 yards of a Lilith Fair.

Visual Stylings: Half-assed hack of The Sims. The opening doors that inadvertently bisect the drawing of the little girl are ill-advised; the driver's semi-formal dress is suspicious, as though he is headed to a court date.

Is This Tolerable? For how gentle and innocuous this is, no, it's weirdly very cloying and unpleasant. Same goes for the "All Day Long" version (don't worry, it's the same length), which features a different singer with more enthusiasm but a more combative relationship with pitch.

Artist: Abirami/Magic Box

Bus Phenomena: Wheels, wipers, door, horn, gas, money, fucking terrifying baby, people, Mommy/Daddy.

Musical Stylings: Prog-salsa. This thing is nearly four minutes long thanks to the unwise inclusion of two (!) guitar solos. (Horn charts are badass, tho.) Lyrically, we also get the hardcore-leftist inclusion of a "The gas on the bus goes glug-glug-glug" verse, paired with a shot of belching exhaust; this does not seem like the best possible song in which to take an environmentalist stance against public transportation.

Visual Stylings: Nondescript until we get to the baby, which is, as previously mentioned, fucking terrifying and enormous, which explains why it's forced to sit unsecured on the floor in the middle of the aisle. Mommy and Daddy profess their love as a pure survival instinct.

Is This Tolerable? The only truly intolerable aspect of the "Wheels on the Bus" playlist experience is that you realize the nefariousness of YouTube's "click here to skip, otherwise it'll play for the next 90 seconds" pre-roll ad setup before every single video, the finer points of which my young-three-three-year-old has yet to grasp, and thus I've heard that Oreo jingle like 50,000 times; if I ever meet the Owl City guy in real life, I do declare I'll redirect him to Fist City instead.

Artist: eDewcate (Christ).

Bus Phenomena: Wheels, wipers, money, driver, baby, windows, Mommy.

Musical Stylings: Nico joins a catastrophically hung-over Beat Happening.

Visual Stylings: Well, the bus looks like it's about to vomit, and the driver at one point appears to be exchanging gunfire with a station wagon in the next lane (an extremely strange interpretation of "move on back"), but otherwise everything here is pretty normal.

Why Are You Bothering to Embed These Videos? Good question; habit, I suppose. There is no way you are actually watching these unless you are a) a sociopath, or b) a three-year-old (and, consequently, a sociopath).

No.

Do not board a bus with "I love kids" written on the side.

Artist: Teddy & Timmy

Bus Phenomena: Wheels, horn, baby, Mommy/Daddy (nice suspenders), animals (the horse and penguin are clearly on a first date; the cow farted, or something).

Musical Stylings: Worse drum programming than an Animal Collective record, though bonus points for the accordion solo.

Visual Stylings: No issues here, save for the elephant's mouth.

Why Are You Doing This at All? The bloggers on the bus, they blog blog blog.


Image by Pete Ryan.

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