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Kidz Bop 34: Why Are They Still Making These?

    January 20 was an auspicious day on which the world was graced with many glorious events that will definitely not have awful repercussions on our psyches. Among these was the release of Kidz Bop 34. Advertised as “Today’s biggest hits sung by kids for kids,” the conceit of the franchise is to select some of the most relatively clean hits which are already incessantly played on the radio and have their “Kidz Bop Kids” cover them. At present, the franchise includes the 34 albums of the main series and thirty-nine additional “compilation albums,” including such titles as Kidz Bop Country, Kidz Bop American Starz, and Kidz Bop Hanukkah. The main series is wildly popular, always placing somewhere on the U.S. Billboard 200 and making buckets of money.
    (Disclaimer #1) I love pop music. Regarding music, I am not a highly critical person. I don’t know musical theory, and any fluffy, ethereal-sounding pop music can get me hyped. However, (Disclaimer #2) I have had a passionate hatred for the Kidz Bop franchise since it began in 2001. I vividly remember the commercials interrupting my television programs singing songs at me and acting like they were super cool. I was not convinced.
    After listening to all 45 minutes of Kidz Bop 34, I am still very much not convinced. Obviously, I am not the target audience of this series, but should they really have an audience at all? Despite the troubling notion of shipping children around the country as the “Kidz Bop Kids” singing music with often highly questionable content and enticing other children to aspire to that level, in “cleaning up” the songs, the creators of the franchise often simply fail.
    The producers of Kidz Bop seem to attempt to select songs which they can clean up with ease, switching out swear words with more kid-friendly lyrics. Since much of pop music revolves around sex and parties, this is not always an easy task. While an attempt is made to make the song “clean,” the song can still be interpreted as sexually as the original songs could be. Because children are singing the lyrics, this is rather problematic. Songs like Bruno Mars’s “24K Magic,” the first cover on Kidz Bop 34, which is blatantly about sexual conquest with the help of money, is not actually cleaner without the sexual imagery. It is still a consumerist fantasy, which still isn’t (or shouldn’t be) the sort of value parents want to instill in their children. Other songs just become ludicrous after the lyric changes. Some are mundane, while others are feeble attempts to make the songs less sexualized and more relatable to children.
    With The Chainsmokers’ song, “Closer,” the Kidz Bop censors took some interesting creative license when the lyrics are changed from, “So baby pull me closer in the backseat of your Rover / That I know you can’t afford / Bite that tattoo on your shoulder / Pull the sheets right off the corner / Of the mattress that you stole / From your roommate back in Boulder / We ain’t ever getting older” to “So baby pull me closer as we stand next to the Rover / That I know they can’t afford / Brush that stress right off your shoulder / Pull the sheets right off the corner / Of the notebook that you stole / from your friends way back in Boulder / We ain’t ever getting older.” Attempts such as this which are repeated throughout the album do technically make the songs cleaner, but they also become complete narrative nonsense, and still don’t seem that relevant or interesting.
    Kidz Bop continuously makes an abundance of money, and so will likely continue to make albums of watered-down covers far into the future. It is unfortunate that the studio feels the need to pander to being family-friendly, when kids would be equally (or even more) satisfied with actual creative content. Instead of providing children with the sterilized entertainment which is Kidz Bop, perhaps something new could be created for them, or the means used to manufacture Kidz Bop could be used in allowing them to create for themselves. But there is probably no money in that...wait, remind me, why is there a market for Kidz Bop in the first place?

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