There were a few things that I never brought into the house when the kids were small. Mommy and Me matching outfits. Glitter (at least not after that first jar.) And any CDs designed for kids that would, in the process of listening together, make my own ears bleed. So when this Blog Hop challenge came up (“I Did [WHATEVER] So You Don’t Have To,”) the KidzBop CDs -“Today’s Biggest Hits Sung By Kids For Kids!”- seemed like the perfect masochistic choice.
The basic premise behind this musical franchise is that a group of peppy, vocally blessed children sings a selection of big radio hits, taking out any bad words or vulgar references that might put an innocent underage listener on the express train to a life of iniquity.
I struggled with where to even lay my hands on this auditory jewel. I try to buy books and music in actual stores when I can, because I’d like to continue to have access to those establishments (and have their tax dollars benefit the city in which I live.) Besides, what’s worse than buying something like this on Amazon, only to have your “You Might Also Like!” choices rigged forever against you? But then I pictured the moment when I would have to skulk up to the cash register at Amoeba Music in Berkeley and hand over “KidzBop 26!” to the pierced, newsboy-cap wearing gal in the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s t-shirt, Amazon seemed the less awful choice.
Having now listened (almost) all the way through to the twenty-sixth KidzBop album – yup, this moneymaker has been going strong since 2001 – I am left with one question:
This has nothing to do with the child performers, who are terrific and play no part in the critique I’m about to give. May they all go on to happy careers on Season 16 of Glee.
But to consider this question fully, I divided the tracklist into three neat categories: Sugary Sweet, Strange Choices, and Seriously, Artist, Were You So Desperate For Money That This Seemed Like a Good Idea?
The Sugary Sweet category were those songs whose original performances were such perfect pop confections that to add in a children’s version of the song feels like pouring a cup of sugar on top of a mug full of whipped cream. “Happy” by Pharrell, “Story of My Life” by One Direction, and “Let It Go” from Frozen…the kid-friendly version of these songs was so close to the original that I wonder why they even had to be made. A few times, when I was driving with this CD in the car stereo and my mind was elsewhere, I’d be humming along with the Sugary Sweets for miles before I even realized I wasn’t listening to the original song. They’re the acoustic equivalent of carrying coals to Newcastle.
Strange Choices were those songs that, because of subject matter or language choices, made me uncomfortable to hear a child crooning. “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry (Make me your Aphrodite-gross, no,) “All of Me” by John Legend (love your curves and imperfections – you can pretend that’s allegory, but we know Legend really means his lady’s Sports Illustrated-worthy curves), and “Timber” by Ke$ha land in this column. No amount of cleaning up Ke$ha lyrics make us forget that she wakes up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy and brushes her teeth with a bottle of Jack. And in Ed Sheeran’s “Sing,” when the girl in the song offers him a joke and a bottle of water rather than a toke and a bottle of tequila, my reaction was, why not just not sing a different, non-tequila referencing song?
And finally: Seriously, Artist. These were the heartbreakers that made me think I should be listening to Pandora less and buying albums and band t-shirts more, because their inclusion implies a heartbreaking level of pecuniary need. Better that, than to attribute a depressing level of cynical sell out to artists I genuinely like. “Pompeii” by Bastille, “Team” by Lorde, and “Best Day of My Life” by American Authors. Ugh. I can never unhear the cash register chimes on those songs.
If you’re in the market for music the kids will like, allow me to recommend Dan Zanes, former lead singer of the Del Fuegos, or Taj Mahal, or They Might Be Giants, talented musicians who create family friendly music that you are not ashamed to play on the car stereo even after the kids jump out of the car for soccer practice. Better yet, play them real music and consider the occasional cuss word or misogynistic lyric a jumping off point for a heart-to-heart conversation about language and equality and manners and creativity.
If you do that, then when your kids are teens, one may jump into your car after school, listen for three seconds, scream “ARE YOU LISTENING TO KIDZBOP OH MY GOD MOM” and flip quickly to the alternative rock station. When you both hear Sheppard singing “Geronimo,” she may sigh a huge breath of relief and say, “See what you were missing out on?”
You will then both fall silent on the drive home, praying that “Geronimo” is not included on KidzBop 27.
- I Had Food Poisoning While Sitting On A Diaper Genie So You Don’t Have To – Smacksy
- I Spent 3 Solid Days Obsessing Over Grout Color So You Don’t Have To – Elizabeth McGuire
- I Wrote Another Godforsaken Blogiversary Post So You Don’t Have To – Ann Imig
- I Toured Washington DC in a Night Bus So You Don’t Have To – Wendi Aarons
- I’m Surviving October So You Don’t Have To – The Flying Chalupa