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A federal agency wants to protect you — through a new album of safety tracks

Joseph Galbo felt excited about his upcoming album when he first listened to its opening track this summer.

The hip-hop song lured listeners in quickly with a catchy beat and chorus, and meaningful lyrics. But the song was different from the music topping Billboard charts.

Galbo isn’t a music producer; he’s a social media specialist for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The album he was creating was filled with safety tips, such as wearing a helmet when biking or skateboarding — the subject of the opening song “Protect Ya Noggin’.”

The seven-track album, which came out last week, also features electronic dance, reggaeton, pop and lo-fi tracks about wearing protective gear, putting your phone away, checking smoke alarms and safely using fireworks.

Galbo told The Washington Post that the album, “We’re Safety Now Haven’t We” is meant to share precautions with teenagers and people in their 20s. He hopes listeners will think it “slaps” — a slang word to describe a good song.

“Whatever your expectations are for this government thing you’re about to see or listen to, our stuff is going to beat it,” said Galbo, 37.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is a small government agency based in Bethesda, Md., that aims to protect citizens from dangerous products. Since Galbo started working there in June 2016, he has attracted thousands of new followers to the agency’s social media accounts by sharing memes featuring animals, presidents, babies, skeletons, rubber ducks, dragons, scarecrows and robots.

“The more obvious a safety tip seems, the more people are going to shake their heads,” Galbo told The Post in 2019. “I want to put something out there that’s going to get through that cynicism … something that shocks you out of your daze.”

In February, Galbo and his colleagues decided that an album would be their next project. It wasn’t the first time the agency advertised through music; it made a song about pool safety in 2015.

The TV show “Schoolhouse Rock!” popularized educational songs about the government between 1973 and 2000, including “I’m Just a Bill” by Jack Sheldon and “The Preamble” by Lynn Ahrens. But the U.S. government rarely releases its own jingles.

Galbo reviewed data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, which logs information on product-related injuries in the United States, to pinpoint issues the songs should cover. He searched the country for singers, producers and other musicians, sent them data on the safety problems teenagers and young adults are facing and asked them to write and sing for a particular genre. Galbo said the entire project cost about $300,000.

While he was uncertain if the album would be effective, he felt optimistic when he heard “Protect Ya Noggin’” in June.

“When you’re in these streets / Take caution / Protect your neck and your noggin,” the chorus says.

The singers are not identifying themselves so the focus remains on the song’s messages, Galbo said. He said a few artists are well-known and others are rising stars.

Galbo’s excitement grew as he heard more songs. “Phone Away,” and “Off Road Adventure” are accompanied by EDM beats.

“Push the limits, feel the thrill / but don’t forget, to keep it real,” the chorus says in “Off Road Adventure,” which advocates wearing protective gear while riding ATVs.

Se Pone Caliente” and “Going Off Like Fireworks” sound like love songs, other than the mentions of safety precautions. The former is about a couple whose “love is a flame” so they have to check their smoke alarms to not “get burned.” The latter is about a duo that is “lightin’ sparks with our energy” so they have to “douse these flames with water.”

The lo-fi track, “Beats To Relax / Be Safe To,” is less preachy and samples dialogue from an early 1970s Consumer Product Safety Commission ad, in which a father suggests giving his son a marshmallow instead of a dangerous toy.

To pull the project together, Galbo said he wanted to design an album cover that made people “stop [scrolling] and look.” He has made dozens of fictional animal characters into memes to promote safety on the Commission’s social media accounts. He included pictures of four of the most popular animals on the album cover.

A robin, which Galbo named Handsome Ron and photoshopped a hat onto, is flying on a smoke alarm in the top-right corner. Opposite him is a cat Galbo named Copernicus Jackson, who’s holding a cellphone displaying fireworks on the cover.

On the bottom, a fox Galbo named Quinn the Safety Fox is wearing a blue helmet. Also, a Shiba Inu named Potato the Dog is riding an ATV with a black helmet covering his tail — a misplacement Galbo said fits the dog’s personality. Bright lasers serve as the backdrop.

There are a few giveaways that the album isn’t traditional. There’s a warning on the bottom right of the cover that the album was made by the government, and every song begins with a narrator saying “thanks to the people at CPSC.”

The album is available on the Commission’s website and on YouTube. Galbo said the album has been listened to about 73,000 times. The songs are in the public domain, he said, and he wants people to remix and repost the tracks.

Aaron Greiner, 27, an urban designer from Boston, said he listened to the album after the Commission posted it on X — formerly known as Twitter — on Sept. 20. He expected cringeworthy songs, he said.

“It kind of generally went from ridiculousness to something that actually was enjoyable to listen to,” Greiner said.

He has listened to the lo-fi track while responding to emails, and he sent the album to his friends for a laugh. Plus, “Se Pone Caliente” reminded him to check the batteries in his smoke alarms.

Those conversation starters and reminders are what Galbo was hoping the album would spark. He’s brainstorming ideas for the second volume, which he hopes will include country and jazz songs.

“I never expected this is what my federal career would look like,” Galbo said.

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