My children were recently introduced to KidzBop, and I’m ready to cut someone.
For those fortunate enough not to get the reference, KidzBop is a series of CDs/radio station/musical empire made up of children singing sanitized versions of the latest pop hits. Its popularity is based on the fact that a) apparently children get a kick out of hearing other children sing, and b) parents feel more comfortable letting their children listen to music in which all profanity and references to sex and drugs have been omitted.
I know what you’re thinking: what a g——mn f—king brilliant idea.
And it totally is, the producers deserve a lot of credit for their genius. Part of me will always grateful to them for keeping my kids entertained in the car so I didn’t have to spend every trip to the store playing “I Spy,” especially since my daughter makes up her own rules.
Charlie: “I spy something that starts with ’b’.”
Charlie: (giggling) “No.”
Me: “I give up. What is it?”
Charlie: “A kite!”
Me: “I hate you.”
That said, there is plenty to hate about KidzBop. For example:
They remove the one element that makes pop music tolerable
Many of the children on these albums have beautiful voices. Others are related to the producer. Therefore songs that were mediocre in their original form because of an artist’s ability to turn crap to brass with great vocals become downright unbearable in the KidzBop cover. As a bonus, you can be guaranteed these songs will be your children’s favorites, meaning you’ll have to listen to them over and over.
Their lyrical changes are arbitrary. And suck.
In the song “Summertime Sadness,” they change “I got my red dress on tonight” to “I got my new dress on tonight.” This makes sense if they are concerned with the color’s association with sex and passion, but then in Taylor Swift’s “Style” they change “I got that red lip, classic thing that you like” to “I got that red dress, classic thing that you like.” So which is it, KidzBop? Is a red dress tawdry or not? Or, is it tawdry, but red lips are even worse? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON, KIDZBOP?
In Swift’s hit “Blank Space,” they change “Darling, I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream,” to “Darling, it’s a nightmare dressed like a daydream.” Because presumably that one attribution would alert children to the fact the song is about a bats—t crazy chick who fools men into sexual liaisons only to make their lives hellish because it’s super fun.
I got news for you, KidzBop: although “Blank Space” is a dark, inappropriate song (unless you peel back the layers and see it’s Swift’s way of poking fun at the tabloid version of herself) the lyrics are so opaque that most children have no idea what it’s about. Hell, my kids have seen the video — which, as I’ve mentioned on this site before features a lingerie-clad Swift sticking a knife into a cake filled with blood — and think it’s a lighthearted comedy about a girl who likes ponies and smashing things with golf clubs, both of which seem totally normal hobbies to them because they are 6 and 7.
KidzBop, if my children can see the story play out right in front of their eyes, and not have the slightest idea what’s going on, what makes you think they need you to change the lyrics? You could have recorded a video of the KidzBop kidz singing the original lyrics in clown costumes dripping with blood and my children still wouldn’t pick up on the fact that “Blank Space” is about some seriously dark s—t.
Sometimes their changes make the lyrics even less appropriate.
Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” is an amusing and empowering take on the issue of body image, in which the singer proclaims she’s proud of being a curvy woman. She even gives different body parts code names, meaning kids can actually sing along without figuring out that the whole song is about T and A. (That is, unless THEIR DAD explains it to them.)
However, there are some parts that could be considered racy, and KidzBop went ahead and changed them. Only problem is, they made them worse.
In the original version, Trainor sings:
“My mama done told me
‘Don’t worry about your size.’
She said ‘Boys like a little more booty to hold at night.’”
In the KidzBop cover, an adolescent boy croons:
“My mama done told me
‘Don’t worry about the size.’”
When I first heard this I almost choked on my coffee. Wait, are we still talking about butts here? Because it sounds an awful lot like they just suggested —
“She said ‘Don’t let it keep you at home in your room at night.’”
Well for crying out loud, KidzBop, you just made a crude but fun song downright filthy. Because what other body part would make a boy withdraw to his room at night in shame because it is too small? A PENIS, that’s what, KidzBop.
Even my son realized something was up and asked:
“Worry about the size of what?”
“His face,” I answered.
Yeah, KidzBop, you’re lucky I’m quick on my feet. If he had been even a couple of years older he would have been cracking up because you just threw a d—k reference into a song about T and A.
They bother with songs that, just, no.
Some songs have a few inappropriate references. Others are just a whole boatload of substance abuse and humping. And like a drunken frat boy who who doesn’t know his own limitations, KidzBop continuously goes around punching above its weight.
Let’s take that memorable Pit Bull classic, “Timber,” a tale of two club goers circling each other in hopes of a casual sexual encounter. (Actual lyric, “I’m slicker than an oil spill. She says she won’t, but I bet she will.” RO-MAN-TIC.)
Instead of saying, “Whoa, there’s just nothing kid friendly about this song. I’m going to comb through some of Taylor Swift’s B sides for more material,” KidzBop tells itself, “I can do this,” and records a cover that is basically the second verse and the chorus ad nauseam.
Gone are the lyrics detailing how Mr. Bull prefers his women “Face down, booty up,” and “Twerkin’ in their bras and thongs.” Instead, they skip any context and go right to the bragging verse, in which a bunch of prepubescent kids inform us they’re “Blessed to say, money ain’t a thing.” Oh good. Because I was worried about how Kyle was going to pay his bail when he hits 18, ages out of the KidzBop franchise and knocks over a 7-11 to make his life seem interesting.
Go home, KidzBop. You’re drunk.
KidzBop trains children to sniff out the inappropriate
One day at the grocery store, my son stopped in his tracks.
“Wait a minute,” he said. “That song just got the words wrong.”
One of his favorite tunes was playing over the PA, except it wasn’t the KidzBop version. He stopped and looked up at me, appalled.
“What’s a thong?” he asked, wide eyed.
It became like a game to him, his brow furrowed in concentration as he picked out each reference to sex, drinking, genitalia and violence.
And this is perhaps why I hate KidzBop the most. Before my children discovered KidzBop, they happily listened to pop tunes without paying any attention to the lyrics. Now they are like heat-seeking missiles when it comes to the inappropriate, prone to shouting out questions such as, “Why did she open the front door naked?” and “Why does the woman call the man on his cell phone, late night when she needs his love?”
KidzBop, if you were a person, I’d kick your ass.