Album Review: Mcgruff the Crime Dog – McGruff’s Smart Kids

McGruff's Smart Kids

Not many people know this by Mcgruff the Crime dog also released an album. If you aren’t sure who that is, he’s an important figure in American culture, created by the Ad council to put a face on the fight against crime. He’s a safety mascot in the same vein as Smokey the bear, although he was designed to increase crime awareness and personal safety in the United States rather than prevent forest fire. It seems that as well as wanting to take ‘A bite out of crime’ he also wanted to explore his creative side and so in 1986 he gathered up a group of children and released an album on cassette which allowed him to unite his passions of singing and preventing crime.

Side 1:

‘Winners don’t Use’ opens with an upbeat piano accompaniment that plays alongside Mcgruff and later his ‘Smart kids’ singing about how ‘users are losers and losers are users’ now I won’t lie, i decided to review this album to amuse myself and it’s very campy, very 90’s and kinda condescending but for all that it’s trying to stop kids from doing drugs and other intoxicants and for all its silliness I think it should be applauded for it. Not to mention it’s not terrible a lot better than some of the dross that passes for kids music these days. I should mention he also manages to slip in his popular catchphrase as well, I wonder if that’ll happen in any of these other songs.

‘No. No, No!’ opens with a drums, and Mcgruff’s….gruff? Voice that’s actually quite pleasing once you get past the fact that it’s being sung by a guy in a giant dog costume. I even quite like the sections sung by his smart kids they’re coordinated vocally in a way that’s rare for children. This song is all about the power of saying No! and as I said it quite enjoyable in spite of itself.

‘Marijuana’ is as you guessed about the drug Marijuana, and it’s actually pretty, good, the beat of the music and the tune are funny but also really good, they work well with this type of song, its clear that despite being a bit goofy and certainly preachy that someone worked hard on this, i especially liked the electric guitar section, i guess they wanted to make it relatable to the youth. This song had one of my favourite choruses in the album: “if you gamble with life you can lose it, cause your life is a gift don’t abuse it” my only complain about this song is that it has out of date and inaccurate information about Marijuana usage particularly the fact that it’s a ‘gateway drug’ when in fact studies have shown that a considerable numbers of people who try Marijuana not only don’t move onto harder drugs but don’t even continue to smoke marijuana, but I don’t blame the song or Mcgruff they are from a time when the war on drugs was very much gaining momentum. I should also add I don’t endorse or renounce drug usage, it’s not my place but I think either way a measure of common sense should be applied otherwise i know a big anthropomorphic dog who’ll come bite you.

‘Inhalants’ Since by 2017 the idea of inhalants is kinda old I was very curious about how Mcgruff would handle the subject and he did so with the same level of subtleness and tact as the previous tracks, by which I mean he took a musical sledgehammer to it, that being said this track was really good. I wonder about the people who wrote these songs who had to come up with rhyming and melodic ways to decry drug use. I do wonder what kind of inhalants Mcgruff has seen if he thinks it can ‘break you in two’ but I do agree you should be careful and never use inhalants.

‘Cocaine & Crack’ now this is a very 80’s/90’s track, because the drugs were especially an issue during that time, again I’m surprised during this track to find Mcgruff is a good singer, and despite being funny the songs do serve a purpose, the warn the listener on what I’d say is the right side of scaremongering. I will say 1-800-Cocaine seems more like the number you’d call if you wanted some rather than who’d you’d call to get help to stop.

‘Alcohol this song has the line…’being straight is okay’ now i know it means straight edge, or rather you live clean without intoxicants but that’s still a kinda risky line. Despite that, it’s a decent if brief track on the album.

Side 2:

‘Just Say No’ starts with a lot of electronic instruments, and it’s all about not bowing down to peer pressure, don’t give in…or as the song puts it…’Just Say No’ now it’s a little repetitive after some similar tracks earlier on in the album but it’s still an important message and I liked the track. Mcgruff even delivers the important advice that you don’t have to give a reason you just have to say No.

‘Smart Kids’ opens with a musical score that wouldn’t’ be out of place on a daytime chat show, before Mcgruff and his Smart Kids start to sing. In this track he talks about the merits of being a ‘Smart Kid’ how they know they belong and how they know who they are. He also mentions about them reaching a star, which I’m sure he meant metaphorically in the sense of like gold stars and personal achievement and stuff like that but I immediately thought they were all on a drug that McGruff doesn’t have a problem with and were high as kite trying to ‘reach a star’ but there I go trying to ruin the innocence of a kids song but over analysing it.

‘Make Your Body Last’ has a bizarrely funky opening, and it’s about how you need to look after your body and that you need to ‘Make it Last’ by not putting junk into it. Its an admirable idea, but it’s also super goofy, especially the portion of the song where instead of singing he’s addressing the listener in true PSA (public service announcement) fashion. Did you know for example you should treat your body right because in the whole world there’s only one you? Jeez I’m gonna put down my crack pipe and get to the gym.

‘I’ll Decide on My Own’ I really liked this track, but I do need to mention that as someone who comes from a household that has had drug problems and as someone who’s had friends who’ve used drugs there’s no actual pressure, they might offer it but usually it’s half-hearted because that stuff is expensive and they won’t usually get asked again. But yeah I do agree you should be able to decide on your own, but I did feel the need to say that often it’s out of our control because no one is gonna ask you especially if you are one of the Smart Kids.

‘I’m Glad I’m Me’ Now this track i funny, something about the beat and the seriousness with which the dog man says he’s happy being himself are just funny to me, but I’m not here to rip this album to shreds so despite being goofy it is earnest in its pursuit of educating and inspiring children to pursue a drug free life. However what the hell is up with the robot singing? It wasn’t in any other song and it’s just so out of the blue? Does it matter, I’m gonna say No! (haha get it?, please love me) and just say be yourself and don’t do drugs.

So that’s what I think about Mcgruff the Crime Dog’s album ‘Mcgruff’s Smart kids’ and if you want to have a listen and form your own opinions then check it out here. And if you want to find out more about Mcgruff then you can find out here.


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2 thoughts on “Album Review: Mcgruff the Crime Dog – McGruff’s Smart Kids

    1. Hi, apologies for the delay in replying. The McGruff’s Smart Kids album only appears to have been released on cassette. I also can’t seem to find a way to purchase it online, no doubt due to its age, however you can hear it and download it if you’d like directly for YouTube.


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