This was originally published 11/15/12 on Zug.com, now known as Media Shower. Zug’s whole thing was pranking, either on others or on yourself. I chose to make myself suffer, such as in this piece, where I subjected myself to hours and hours of Kidz Bop music. Contrary to everything you’ve heard from absolutely nobody, these songs suck.
As a parent, one of my primary responsibilities is making sure my son isn’t exposed to excessive violence, sexuality, coarse language and, most importantly of all, horrific music. So in the name of science, I decided to sit down and listen to a six-hour marathon of tracks from the Kidz Bop series of albums, to test what such a thing could do to an unprotected human brain.
I decided to start with the most recent album, Kidz Bop 22. Why yes, there ARE 22 of them, not including the six or seven “special” albums devoted to butchering hair metal ballads, or country songs, or anything by The Beatles. So I press play and, just ten seconds into the opening track, Stronger, I’m already pissed. “You know that life feels better, sitting here alone.” Excuse me? That’s not the line at all!
Much like having a UFC champion knock my teeth out five seconds into Round 1, I had been smacked loopy by Kidz Bop’s favorite activity: changing lyrics. The idea here is that children shouldn’t hear anything that could be considered even slightly maybe-kinda-sorta just a little wee but suggestive. So Kelly Clarkson singing about how “the bed feels warmer sleeping here alone” has to go. Remember kids, Mommy and Daddy sleep in separate beds, just like their Mommy and Daddy did, and just like you will too!
They do this over and over again. Domino changes “take me down like I’m a domino” to “knock me down like I’m a domino.” So, in the Kidz Bop world, underage sex is bad, but underage violence is totally cool; gotcha!
Lady Gaga’s The Edge of Glory has “you and me should be alone tonight” altered to “should DANCE alone tonight.” Just minute little bullshit, designed to avoid the wrath of even one parent. Clearly, they didn’t know I was a parent. Maybe I’ll complain about their content and see what happens.
There are so, so many others, each one making me love just a little bit less. Katy Perry’s The One That Got Away is hacked to bits, removing references to making out, liquor, and tattoos. In their place is hanging out, buying balloons, and having your “heartbreak removed,” whatever that means. They kept the Radiohead and Johnny Cash namedrops in though, amazingly enough. Don’t these parents know Cash did a lot of drugs and went to jail? And Radiohead has some extremely depressing songs in their repertoire. Think of the children dammit!
Moves Like Jagger might be the worst offender of all. Kidz Bop altered so much content here, I really wonder why they even bothered. In the original, the singer gets drunk and naked, brags about controlling his woman, and exclaims that he doesn’t give a shit. This so taxed the lyric-changers, they decided to dump Christina Aguilera’s bridge entirely, and just go take a nap. Seriously, it’s not there — just as well, since every line of that thing is a euphemism for something X-rated.
Not even classic rock is safe: Werewolves of London gets mutilated like the little old lady in the song. Except in the Bop-ified version, she only gets “a big surprise.” And “you better stay away from him/he’ll rip your lungs out, Jim” becomes “he’ll scare you silly, Jim.” I actually swallowed my eyeballs from rolling them so far back in my head. They were delicious, though they could’ve been seasoned a bit more.
So imagine my shock when they keep the line about drinking a Pina Colada, as well as Warren Zevon’s random utterance of “draw blood.” That was positively edgy for the Bop Kidz. Well done, almost.
Also almost well done is I Want To Hold Your Hand, where they actually keep the “I get high” line intact. Probably because it made the lyric changers giggle and think back to their youth, and all the times that they got high. Then they realized keeping that in might make them look hypocritical, so they covered their asses by changing Knocks You Down’s “you see the hate” to “you see that thing.” Phew, crisis averted!
Even stranger is when a song like Lips Of An Angel shows up, and virtually NOTHING is changed. The song is about cheating on your current girl, with your old girl. And nothing is altered, except when “God” becomes “girl.” So there you have it kids. Be unfaithful, burn bridges, and always live in the past. But don’t you DARE take the Lord’s name in vain when doing so.
Or Dance Again, where I get to hear a bunch of kids warbling about the awesomeness of club life. Yes, club life. Also, I don’t think anything was changed here. Certainly not lines like, “I love to dance next to you baby,” “I’m a big girl/got no secrets this time,” and “only got just one life, this I’ve learned.”
These kids are what, seven? What, pray tell, have they learned? That Spongebob’s cat is really a snail? The only club they’re aware of is the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and they tend to dance as far away from each other as humanly possible.
There’s damn near 30 of these albums out there, which tells me they’re selling. But why? What do they have to offer, aside from hours of audio torture for people like me? Actually, that might be about it. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life; perhaps God has sent this crap to help me atone. If that’s the case, I’m probably in line for Popehood by this point.
So far, I’ve covered Kidz Bop’s obsession with changing lyrics, in case a super-conservative Mom buys it and has a psychotically-aggressive lawyer chomping at the bit for something to do. But it turns out there’s so much more than that. The awful is spread across several different areas. So let’s suffer through them all!
I get that they want their song to sound different from the original but, as you might have guessed, they get it completely wrong. Everything sounds so under-produced and recorded on the cheap. Probably because it was; keep costs down, keep parents stupid, and Kidz Bop makes money.
The instruments, melody, and beat are all exactly the same, only far, far worse. Even simple crap, like the whistling in Moves Like Jagger, sound cheap and empty. And it’s whistling! From what I can tell, they’ve never done Sitting On the Dock Of The Bay. And that’s probably because if they did, Otis Redding would rise from his grave and beat them all senseless for butchering his wonderful outro whistling. Yes, even the kids. What would he care? He’s already dead.
And the fake synth orchestra in Call Me Maybe is about a hundred times worse than the original version. Is it really THAT hard to do a fake synth orchestra? It’s just pressing buttons, and they STILL managed to make it sound empty and blah, like the Casio didn’t wanna be there that day. I know the feeling.
Their weird production techniques are further exposed on an actual rock song with actual instruments. Kings Of Leon’s Use Somebody is supposedly a guitar-driven song, but you can barely hear the guitar at all. Guess it was far more important to feature the kids and their angelic vocals, then to give us actual music.
But while we’re on the subject of vocals:
These kids cannot sing. You probably figured this out already. What you might not have realized is how they’re really not even trying. The way they “sing” threw me for a loop, and my dismay did not lessen as I plunged deeper and deeper into Bop territory, and the same style of singing popped up, over and over again. Now I know why Simon Cowell is so grumpy.
There are two major issues here, aside from these kids being awful at singing. For one, they enunciate EVERYTHING. There is no musical swagger in their tone, the words never roll together like they do in an actual song, and creative liberties with the words (such as slurrin’ ‘n droppin’ th’ las’ letta at th’ enda mos’ words) are almost never taken. You know what songs perfectly pronounce each and every word, with fully-formed and soulless enunciation? Commercial jingles. That’s what Kidz Bop is emulating. They are the guy singing about how awesome his company’s vacuum cleaners are.
Perhaps even worse though, is that they just sound bored. They would rather be at home, watching Wordgirl or Ed, Ed, and Eddy, but their parents are making them hang out in the studio and sing A Thousand Miles with some failed bar singer who already spent her $50 check on booze. God, even the piano and guitar sound bored in that one.
Ever force a kid to apologize? What do they do? They look at the floor, shift their feet, and mumble a quiet, uncommitted apology, praying that this is all they need to do before they’re free to go break something else. That’s how I picture these poor children. They’re reading the lyrics from a sheet, like they have to give a presentation in front of the whole class, and praying that this is the last thing they have to do before they’re released. But it never is the end, is it child? These albums just keep coming and coming, and your mommy signed a 40-album deal that you’re only a fifth of the way through.
THE ENDLESS DUETS:
Oh, and we’re not done yet. Perhaps the silliest aspect of the Kidz Bop experience, even moreso than the dumbass lyric changes, or how the kids are all on horse tranquilizers when they sing, is the duetting. When the first few songs I listened to had a boy and girl trading off lines, even in a song where one gender tells the other to go screw (such as Fuck/Forget You), I chalked it up to a stupid thing they do every now and then.
Nope. To my dismay, I soon realized EVERY SONG DOES THIS. In their attempts to be all-inclusive and ultra-PC, boys and girls are included in every song, even if it makes no sense whatsoever. Songs of loneliness and pain? Guy and girl singing. FU’s to a horrible ex? Guy and girl singing. And there’s no rhyme or reason aside from, “OK, Bobby just sung a line; now it’s Jane’s turn.”
This robotic obsession with equality even seeps into songs where a duet is totally acceptable, such as Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know. The third verse, where the girl shows up and exposes the guy’s lies? It’s now totally meaningless, since both of them had been singing the entire time. But if they had done it like the original, the boy would get a bigger trophy than the girl, and we can’t have that. Equal-sized trophies and ice cream for everyone!
Wow, even temporary exposure to horrible children’s karaoke is proving hazardous to my health; ingesting any more could be downright lethal.
The Kidz have taken over. Every song I hear is re-imagined with soulless children of the corn squawking out the lines. Thriller can now only be heard without wolves howling, without any funky bass, and a seven-year-old girl pretending to be Vincent Price. The foulest stenches in the air? They’re coming from my speakers.
But why, is the question I keep coming back to. Why does such a horrid thing get made even once, never mind close to 30 times over? Do kids really like this stuff? Judging by my own son’s reaction to a string of songs, the answer appears to be “Hell no.” Especially if there are toy airplanes to play with instead.
I can’t honestly believe that kids enjoy this; they’re smart enough to realize that you don’t need a group of toddlers singing Beatles songs to actually enjoy the Beatles. And virtually no kid is going to hear Katy Perry sing about a tattoo and go get one themselves. Not a very big one, anyway.
So is it for the parents? Do they really fall for this crud? Utilizing hard, scientific evidence that I just made up, I can conclude that two types of parents would buy a Kidz Bop album. On the one hand, there are super-conservative, overprotective psychoparents who do toss a shit-fit if their child hears the word “freakin'” in Billionaire. These people would jump at the chance to “let” their children listen to their favorite tunes, only with all the bad stuff removed. Except for everything the censors missed, of course.
However, I think Kidz Bop owes its survival moreso to another group of parents: fucking clueless ones. These are the parents who will attempt to be hip and get their kid something cool for their birthday or Christmas, and then completely botch the delivery. Kid likes Super Mario? Parent buys Mario Is Missing. Kid wants to learn guitar? Parent buys a “How To Play Just Like Limp Bizkit” VHS tape. Kid loves Kelly Clarkson, Maroon 5, and Justin Bieber? Parent buys Kidz Bop 22, featuring ALL those artists. It’s one-stop shopping!
I tell you, there’s nothing like an endless string of pop songs, re-recorded with tone-deaf children, to really get you going in the morning. Now, for the first dozen albums or so, an adult would sing lead, with the kids relegated to the chorus and the occasional one-word utterance. It really wasn’t much of an improvement; the adult was some random failed bar singer, and the kids were still pretty damned obnoxious. And then:
Glee arrived, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. Its monster success made kids performing bad karaoke a hot new trend. Kidz Bop promptly followed suit, promoting the poor children to the forefront, where we quickly learned that they’re not exactly singing prodigies. In fact, listening to them could actually make a prodigy forget what they were supposed to be good at; they’re that bad.
So bottom line: this series is completely useless. The only time it’s any good is when they take a totally inappropriate song, and are forced to get hilariously creative with the censorship. They were on the right path with Moves Like Jagger, Domino, and The One That Got Away, but they can do better.
And I thought they had! As I moved down the lists of albums, I saw a one-shot single called We’re In This Together. My interest was piqued, to say the least. That’s a Nine Inch Nails song! Did they really Bop-ify Trent Reznor?! So I press play and … nope, not NIN at all. Turns out a word was omitted and the song was actually We’re ALL In This Together, from “High School Musical.” And naturally, it was God-awful.
Kidz Bop had promised me cake and delivered dog crap with frosting on top. How apropos, after album upon album of pain and suffering. Honestly, Nine Inch Nails performed by goody-goody suburban children, and rewritten by G-rated hacks, could have been the greatest thing ever. I guess we can only dream.