This month marks the 15-year anniversary of Kidz Bop. That’s right: The children’s music series you love to hate continues to laugh its way to the bank 15 years after its debut on Oct.9, 2001. The brand is also just dropped its 33rd iteration on Oct. 14.
To celebrate such a momentous occasion, I decided to listen to each and every Kidz Bop album in chronological order (excluding any seasonal or special edition albums) and see what I discovered. For the most part, I found really bad covers of songs, and honestly, I don’t feel like I understand the appeal of Kidz Bop more than I did beforehand. But I will say that it is fascinating in this surreal way—like the way you can watch Teletubbies for no other reason than the simple fact that it’s hard to look away. Yeah, Kidz Bop is the Teletubbies of music.
8:00pm: What better way to start off one’s weekend than by listening to the first four Kidz Bop albums? Turns out that aside from being the only streaming service that offers Prince’s discography, Tidal also has every fucking Kidz Bop album ever released (including special seasonal releases). Kidz Bop 1 kicks off with one of the most important songs to have ever been written, the 2001 hit that should be our country’s national anthem—“All Star.”
I’m already fucking regretting this.
8:15pm: Who is this guy trying to be Tom DeLonge on this cover of “All The Small Things”? He’s not even a kid. The mediocrity of the first Kidz Bop album is so apparent that it slowly becomes a part of its charm. But listening to this made me revisit the actual music video for the song, so something good came of this, right?
8:30pm: Not really comfortable with some dude singing “She’ll make you take your clothes off and go dancing in the rain,” which is immediately followed by a group of kids singing the chorus to “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” How is this supposed to be for children? Also, does anyone remember William Hung? Hope you’re doing well if you ever happen to read this, man.
8:45pm: Music was fucking weird in 2001. I totally forgot that an actual song called “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” exists. I like the vocalist solely because he sounds like the precursor to Auto-Tune.
8:55pm: “Fly” by Sugar Ray is lowkey still great, but for real who is this guy singing Mark McGrath’s part? He legit sounds like he was picked up outside of the recording studio where this was made and offered a tall boy and $200 for his contributions.
9:00pm: The album ends with Sixpence None The Richer’s “Kiss Me,” and it’s actually good. One down, 31 more to go!
9:10pm: Immediate difference between Kidz Bop 1 and 2? Production is much better. Still mediocre, but at least it all doesn’t sound like it was made on an 1980s Casio keyboard bought at Goodwill. Still, there are moments where, if I were a parent, I would just let my kid listen to the actual track and not the cover. “Get This Party Started” omits the cursing, but the subtle sexual themes are still there. The Kidz Bop concept works in theory but not practice. Just because kids are singing doesn’t absolve the music of its suggestive content. But who am I to talk? I’m a grown ass-man spending his Friday night critically listening to Kidz Bop.
9:25pm: This cover of “I’m Real” by Ja Rule and Jennifer Lopez is better than the original because of how bad it is. The dude that did “All The Small Things” and “Fly” is doing Ja Rule’s part, and he sounds like Goofy. Imagine Goofy drunkenly trying to imitate Ja Rule. That’s what this cover is.
9:32pm: I have “I’m Real” on loop, because I actually hate myself, and this is all a cry for help.
10:55pm: Kidz Bop 3 is easily the worst of the first three albums. Never listen to Kidz Bop 3. There is nothing redeemable about Kidz Bop 3.
11:05pm: A friend invites me out, and I text him back, telling him I’ll head his way soon. I walk to the nearest bodega and buy a beer, chugging it while listening to “Sk8er Boi” by Avril Lavigne. If only I were this cool when I was a teenager.
11:40pm: From this moment forward, my go-to song for getting ready to go out will forever be this cover of “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World, on Kidz Bop 4.
1:00pm: I’m dehydrated and I’m starting off my day listening to “Hey Ya!” by Andre 3000. I really hope that they haven’t removed the “I don’t want to meet your mama” line, but they have. However, the whole existential dread of the end of a romantic relationship is still there, making for a very amusing listen.
1:30pm: There’s something super meta about Kidz Bop covering No Doubt’s cover of Talk Talk’s “It’s My Life.” I begin to overthink this, which only makes my hangover worse.
1:55pm: THIS COVER OF “HEADSTRONG” BY TRAPT IS THE BEST. MY HANGOVER IS—wait, no, it’s still here. Ughhhhhh.
2:05pm: Maroon 5’s “This Love” is so sexually explicit that I’m actually surprised it’s on Kidz Bop 6. I honestly can’t tell if they’ve changed the line “keep her coming every night” or not, but for the purposes of this article I’m going to say they kept it. Which is pretty irresponsible of the creators of Kidz Bop when you think about it.
3:15pm: As I listen to this cover of Sean Paul’s “I’m Still In Love With You,” I can’t help but wonder if any artist has listened to the Kidz Bop version of their music? Like, this is bad. Sean Paul didn’t give the world dancehall hits just so his patois could be appropriated by some dude who probably likes the band MAGIC! At least my hangover is almost gone, though.
3:45pm: Kidz Bop 7 is surprisingly good, because the song selection is appropriate for kids (for the most part). However, the album also sucks because of this, considering the real reason I’m doing this is to find the ways in which Kidz Bop contradicts its motto of “sung by kids, for kids.” But this one checks out.
5:05pm: A fourth of the discography completed. I’ve finished Kidz Bop 8, and at this point I’m wondering: How does Kidz Bop still exist? Eight albums deep and no signs of stopping, Kidz Bop is killing the children’s music game. Did you know Kidz Bop 8 peaked on the Billboard 200 at No. 6? Of course you didn’t, because the world doesn’t want you to know how great Kidz Bop is. I think I’m beginning to get Kidz Bop, guys.
11:00am: Kidz Bop 9 ends with Crazy Frog’s cover of “Axel F.” Honestly, I can’t hate on Kidz Bop too much, because the song selection is a reflection of mainstream music. So really we only have ourselves to blame when a bunch of kids in 2005 found themselves becoming fans of an animated frog trying to sell them fucking ringtones.
12:15pm: “Dance, Dance” by Fall Out Boy was supposed to be on Kidz Bop 10, but was removed after Pete Wentz voiced concerns about the song’s sexual content. Apparently, Kidz Bop can simply cover an artist or band’s music without approval, unless they change their lyrics. If we believe what Wentz says about no one from Kidz Bop contacting him, that means that the label was cool with retaining lyrics like “I only want sympathy in the form of you crawling into bed with me”? How is Wentz better at your job than you are, Kidz Bop? Also, “Dance, Dance” is still incredible.
1:00pm: It only took six years, but Kidz Bop finally released an album where kids are singing each and every song. Kidz Bop 11 is important because it introduced the Kidz Bop Kids, who essentially serve as the face of the franchise. I’m torn by this, though, because I appreciated the anonymity of Kidz Bop—the notion that all children could be a Kidz Bop kid. However, I really do appreciate that none of these songs feature any adults, and that these kids can actually sing. Oh well.
2:20pm: As I finish Kidz Bop 12 I have an epiphany: I’m getting older. Listening to Kidz Bop as a twentysomething can be both entertaining and the absolute worst thing ever, because you remember growing up with these songs. The nostalgia is nice, but at some point you’re left confronting the inevitability that is growing up, these songs long gone, just like our adolescence. I play “The Sweet Escape” by Gwen Stefani again, and I find comfort in its chorus.
7:30pm: “HEY THERE DELILAH / WHAT’S IT LIKE IN NEW YORK CITY / I’M A THOUSAND MILES AWAY / BUT GIRL TONIGHT YOU LOOK SO PRETTY / YES YOU DO / TIMES SQUARE CAN’T SHINE AS BRIGHT AS YOU / I SWEAR IT’S TRUE.”
7:35pm: I’m listening to this cover of Plain White T’s “Hey There Delilah” again, while lying in bed. This feels like my freshman year of high school all over again.
8:40pm: Wow, Sean Kingston actually makes an appearance on Kidz Bop 14, singing his song “Take You There.” He was 17 when this song was released, so he’s still technically a kid, which is why Kidz Bop was probably cool with him being on the album. But wow, I never knew “Take You There” was pretty explicit. Although it’s not present in the cover, Kingston actually sings “Or we can go to the slums / Where killers get hung” in the original. This song is so poppy, and yet there’s a line about dudes getting hung. I’m too lazy to offer an insightful commentary about how problematic this track is, so I’ll just say this: Kidz Bop is the soundtrack to gentrification.
11:30pm: Kidz Bop 16 sucks, so instead I just listen to “Take you There” a few times before going to bed.
9:45pm: Remember Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me,” the song that essentially catapulted her career into the stratosphere? As I listen to a cover of the track on Kidz Bop 17, I start thinking about an alternate reality in which the Kanye and Swift VMA fiasco of 2009 never happened. What would be different? Sure, “Famous” wouldn’t exist. But how much of that incident helped to craft the mythos of Swift’s innocent pop princess narrative? I start writing a text to a friend asking them if they’ve ever wondered about this too, then realize that this all derives from listening to Kidz Bop, and that nothing really matters.
2:00am: I’m on Kidz Bop 20, which is important in the history of the franchise considering that this album (along with Kidz Bop 19) marks the 10-year anniversary of Kidz Bop. But just as surprising as Kidz Bop existing for over a decade is the fact that both 19 and 20 peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. Number. Fucking. Two. Just to give you an idea of how bizarre this is: KB 20 shared the Billboard Top 10 with Adele (21), Beyonce (4), 311 (Universal Pulse), and DJ Khaled (We The Best Forever). This brings us to the critical question: who the fuck buys Kidz Bop? Well, being the journalist I am, I scoured the internet in search of sources, and tirelessly called people who could offer any insight into the purchasers of Kidz Bop.
I’m just fucking kidding, I didn’t do that. Instead I’m going to assume that conservative, suburban parents are the driving force that keeps Kidz Bop alive. That’s funnier.
9:25pm: Kidz Bop 23 ends with Psy’s Gangnam Style.” Remember Psy? 2012 was a strange year.
10:15pm: I like the Kidz Bop 24’s cover of “Thrift Shop” more than I do the original. At this point I’m pretty sure I’ve lost my mind listening to Kidz Bop.
8:00am: Kidz Bop 25 ends with “The Fox (What Does The Fox Say?)” by Ylvis, and I’m reminded that such a song actually exists, and that we as a human race deserve everything that is coming to us, because some people actually like this stuff.
11:10am: Kidz Bop 28 changing the lyrics from “Fill my cup / Put some liquor in it” to “Fill my cup / Put some water in it” for their cover of “Uptown Funk” is peak Kidz Bop.
12:00am: Why am I drunk and listening to this Kidz Bop cover of “Hotline Bling”? Why does the kid singing sound like a fuckboy? What is the proper terminology for someone that isn’t of age to be a fuckboy but clearly is? What is the initial age at which one can be classified as a fuckboy? I really hope the singer of this cover never reads this.
1:15am: Finished Kidz Bop 32. In conclusion, it’s actually really fascinating to see the ways in which the Kidz Bop model has changed throughout the years—from having adults sing the lead parts to a core group of children becoming the face of the brand. It’s unfortunate, because the Kidz Bop franchise probably has a really interesting story that’s undermined by what it’s generally known for. In telling friends about what I was doing, it was surprising to see them slowly become intrigued by my own commentary on Kidz Bop, and have them ask questions such as “So, who listens to Kidz Bop?” or “In what ways do they actually adhere to their motto?” Hopefully, someday I’ll become the dude to write the oral history of Kidz Bop. But until then I’m just here, slowly trying to regain my sanity after listening to all 32 Kidz Bop albums.