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5 songs Kidz Bop really didn’t need to cover
Was anyone listening to the lyrics?
Kidz Bop is still happening.
If you were a child of the ’90s and early 2000s, you probably remember the commercials they’d run in between Nicktoons for these weird, Now That’s What I Call Music–esque CD compilations that contained a random selection of pop songs sung by children. Basically, Kidz Bop is a franchise that removes the naughty words from Top 40 songs so some distant company can make easy money as a weird parasite on the music industry.
For the most part, these covers are pretty boring, but occasionally Kidz Bop churns out a cover that’s unintentionally hilarious—sometimes because of context, sometimes because they sound really weird. It doesn’t really matter why. Here are five of the weirdest moments in Kidz Bop history:
1) Modest Mouse, “Float On”
The realest of real indie snobs will remember Modest Mouse as the ramshackle, apocalyptic rock group who took the world by storm with a few sprawling classics like The Moon & Antarctica and The Lonesome Crowded West. If you weren’t on your game at the turn of the millennium, you might be more familiar with Modest Mouse as the steadfast alt-rock force that peaked in 2004 with “Float On.”
And that’s fine! “Float On” is a great song. But there’s something vertigo-inducing about children filtering it through the cheeriest gauze possible. This is a band that once started an album with the line “EVERYTHING THAT KEEPS ME TOGETHER IS FALLING APART, I’VE GOT THIS THING I CONSIDER MY ONLY ART OF FUCKING PEOPLE OVER.”
Personally, I can’t wait for their take on “Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine.”
2) Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, “Thrift Shop”
I am not here to dump more water on Macklemore. The guy is doing his best—it’s just funny that someone with that hair and those jeans happened to get famous off the corniest thing to ever grace hip-hop. Again, I’m not a “Thrift Shop” hater! But in our (important) moment, where everything is carefully vetted for appropriation, it was destined to be eaten alive.
In that sense, maybe the Kidz Bop version of “Thrift Shop” should be considered a scientific breakthrough. Somehow we managed to make “John Wayne ain’t got nothing on my fringe game” more cringeworthy.
3) Kanye West, “Heartless”
Out of the entire Kanye West catalog, this is simultaneously the best and worst choice for a Kidz Bop cover. On one hand, you’d much prefer this over “Blood on the Leaves” or “New Slaves,” because the children of America don’t exactly need to hear “FUCK YOU AND YOUR HAMPTON HOUSE, I’LL FUCK YOUR HAMPTON SPOUSE.” At the same time, “Heartless” might be the most despondent West has ever sounded. Seriously, listen to the first 15 seconds of this thing—it’s a zombie choir of children murmuring about indescribable emotional pain. Also, it forces me to hear some hapless 12-year-old Auto-Tuned, which is bad.
4) Ke$ha, “Tik Tok”
As a quick aside, I’d like to say that I’m really happy I was in college for “Tik Tok.” It spurred a very particular white-girl crunkness that was equally disappointing and amazing, and I’m glad Ke$ha didn’t fall into thinkpiece hell like, say, Iggy Azalea. You gotta admit, 2009 was wild.
OK, moving on.
“Tik Tok” is one of the filthier songs to get the Kidz Bop treatment, which means they have to write around “brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack.” They go with “brush my teeth… and then I unpack.” They flip “try to get a little bit tipsy” to “try to get a little bit silly,” and, may I just say, if someone at a club was offering to get me “silly” that sounds like a way darker offer than a gin and tonic or something. Come home, Ke$ha—we miss you.
5) Psy, “Gangnam Style”
Maybe we’re meant to leave it here. Kidz Bop was designed to adapt everyone’s favorite cosmopolitan pop music for elementary school ears, but unfortunately, the idea of what constitutes a “pop hit” has gotten progressively muddled and confusing as the 21st century rages on. So a bunch of children are forced to learn a couple verses in Korean to make sure a YouTube meme can forever live on in G-rated compilation form.
If you’re familiar with “Gangnam Style,” you’re probably aware that the hook goes “AAAAAAAAAY, SEXY LADY.” But because this is Kidz Bop, it was changed to “AAAAAAAAAAY… AAAAY LADY!” You can’t say “sexy lady,” Kidz Bop—we don’t want America’s youth to get the wrong idea.
Photo via KIDZ BOP/YouTube
Entertainment and sports reporter Luke Winkie has written everywhere from A.V Club to Vice, including Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone, Kotaku, Playboy, Mel, and Polygon.