Almost everyone remembers Kidz Bop, right? It’s a cash-in creation of the early 2000s when record labels could release whatever the hell they wanted from [teen artist here], charge $18.99 for it, and you’d blow a month’s allowance on that shit because Napster wasn’t a major thing yet. Anyway, they’re still churning out bastardized versions of the most recent pop hits (they’re currently on volume 23), and the entire back catalogue is available on Spotify, if you’re curious or spontaneously develop a self-loathing streak the size of a small country.
The only redeeming quality of the Kidz Bop Kids as they’re called is that they have to scrub all that filthy sex and touching out of the songs they sing. Not just the cursing, but anything that sounds dirty has to go. So how do they replace those dirty lyrics? Well…
8. Bruno Mars – It Will Rain (special mention)
The Original: In “Reason Number 16 Why Bruno Mars Is Probably Undateable”, colloquially known as Twilight soundtrack cash-in “It Will Rain”, Mars wails about how hard life would be if you leave him. It’s kind of a variation on “Grenade”, where the message was “I will die for you”; here it’s more “I’ll die without you”. Most of the lyrics are fairly standard mope affair: no clear skies, rain, parents hating you, the usual. But it all starts with the slightly questionable use of heavy narcotics.
The “Dirty” Lyrics: “If you ever leave me, baby/Leave some morphine at my door/Cause it will take a whole lot of medication/To realize what we used to have/We don’t have it anymore/There’s no religion that could save me/No matter how long my knees are on the floor”.
The Kidz Bop Lyrics: “If you ever leave me, baby/Leave our memories at my door/Cause it would take a whole lot of remembering/To realize what we used to have/We don’t have it anymore/There’s no decision that could save me/No matter how long my kneeds are on the floor”.
Now, here’s where it gets tricky. “It Will Rain” gets tagged with a special mention because I don’t think the Kidz Bop Kids made the original worse. If anything, it’s actually a more bearable edit. The “whole lot of remembering” could stand for a little rewording, but the memories/remembering/decisions bit genuinely sounds more understandable than Mars’ “I need to crowbar metaphors in this verse” method. Yes, I just called a Kidz Bop edit an improvement. But hey, blind squirrel, nut, all that.
7. Don’t Bore Us, Repeat the Chorus (You Don’t Need Verses, Do You?)
The Originals: I don’t have the demographics of Kidz Bop’s largest audience, but if I had to guess, I’d imagine it’s upper middle-class, white, suburbanite parents that clip hand sanitizer to their kids’ shirts every time they leave their rooms. That level of cleanliness would explain some of the Kidz Bop edits, at least.
Of course, that whole “rewriting” thing can get tiresome, and these kids need their painful neutered Ke$ha now. If a song concentrates all its vileness on one verse, or one section of the song, why not just gut that fucker like a fish, slop the remaining one verse, three choruses, and a bridge with some kiddie vocals, and call it a day? Can you get away with that?
You totally can.
The Kidz Bop Lyrics: For example, “Tik Tok”, which would have been a gold mine of ass-pull edits, completely ignores the fact that the song has a second verse and just loops the chorus around an extra time. The most baffling of this particular type of edit is Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”, a LGBTQ anthem that completely removes any slight reference to homosexuality; even the “Don’t be a drag, just be a queen” refrain. Other songs that get this treatment include “California Gurls”, which also cut Snopp Dogg’s verse (although if that was for Snoop or the kids, we’ll never know). Which brings me to the second point here: Kidz Bop doesn’t believe in rap.
It will, when forced, include hip-hop and rap (we’ll get to those in a bit), but pop songs with rap verses get the rap cut in the blink of an eye. It can make sense with swear-heavy affairs like Wiz Khalifa on “Payphone”, but even innocuous tunes like “Crazy In Love”, “Umbrella” (sorry Jay-Z), and “Baby” are all rapless. And while I’m at it, the world really needed a more infantile version of “Baby”?
6. Jessie J – Domino
The Original: “Domino” is the biggest hit of British import that tried to happen Jessie J. It was enough of a hit that you probably heard it five times without realizing you did, because “Domino” doesn’t leave an impression like that. It’s kind of like musical lettuce, if Katy Perry-lite pop was chewable. Anyway, the only real talking point to the song’s vaguely disco sound is that it throws every simile it can at you.
The “Dirty” Lyrics: “I’m feeling sexy and free”, “You’re like a shot of pure gold”, “We can do this all night/Damn this love skin tight”, “Boom me like a bass drum”, “Dirty dancing in the moonlight/Take me down like I’m a domino”, “When we touch don’t ever let me go”, “You strum me like a guitar”.
The Kidz Bop Lyrics: “I’m feeling happy and free”, “You like a ton of pure gold”, “We can dance here all night/Turn this club up real tight“, “Feeling like your bass drum”, “Now we’re dancing in the moonlight/Knock me down like I’m a domino”, “When we dance don’t ever let me go”, “With crazy lights and guitars”
Kidz Bop can handle songs that swear every now and again rather smoothly; their take on “Fuck You” is no worse than Glee‘s (well, not especially worse). But suggestive lyrics? Then they have to scramble–no demanding, no touching, no sex. Other entries make the list for the quality of their edits, but “Domino” makes up for it in sheer quantity. I know it’s hard to get the proper size of the edits on paper, but every stanza besides the pre-chorus has at least two edits on it. These would almost be forgivable if they made any sense–what the hell does “Turn this club up real tight” even mean? Or why, for that matter, is “Knock me down” any less sensual than “Take me down”?
5. Bruno Mars – The Lazy Song
The Original: The bro-coustic “The Lazy Song” zig-zags the line between a cutesy chorus of someone taking a day off, and verses of a dudebro giving his dick a Yeezus-level holiday of its own. You could argue that it’s halfway to Kidz Bop territory itself, until you get to all the dick references. But hey, there’s one way to fix that!
The “Dirty” Lyrics: “I’m gonna wake up and stare at the fan/Turn the tv on, throw my hand in my pants“, “Cuz in my castle, I’m the freaking man”, “Tomorrow, I’ll wake up, and do some P90x/Meet a really nice girl, have some really nice sex/And she’s gonna scream out ‘This is great'”, “I’ll just strut in my birthday suit/And let everything hang loose”
The Kidz Bop Lyrics: “I’m gonna wake up and stare at the fan/Turn the tv on, throw my hands in the air“, “Cuz in my castle, I’m the only man”, “Tomorrow I’ll wake up and do some P90x/Meet a really nice girl, send a really nice text/And she’s gonna write back ‘You’re so great'”, “I’ll just strut with nothing to do/And let everything fall through”
The first two edits are nothing noteworthy, but the “really nice text” is a keeper. Kidz Bop managed to keep the smarmy douche tone of the lyric, complete with “OMG, you’re so great” in the background, so it sounds less like this kid sent an honestly nice text, and more like he’s stringing her along for a booty call later. The edits at the bridge fall victim to a common Kidz Bop problem of sounding like they gave the performers the rewrites at the last possible second, so the kid has to sputter through an awkward change in one take.
Or they’re just disgusted at themselves for singing on a Kidz Bop track, either/or.
4. Cobra Starship ft. Sabi – You Make Me Feel
Cobra Starship started life as a Warped Tour gimmick around when Snakes on a Plane came out, but slowly took more of a pop sound as time went on because literally nothing dates a band like being a Snakes on a Plane gimmick. That pop direction culminated with crossover hit “Good Girls Go Bad”, and, in an attempt to replicate that song’s success, the band led their next album with “You Make Me Feel”. “YMMF” is damn near an innocent song: no swearing, no genitalia. So why’s it here? Well…
The “Dirty” Lyrics: “I’m known for taking what I think I deserve/And you’re overdue“, “Everything you wanted let me get up there/I’m the baddest baby in the atmosphere/Tell me what you want so we can do just what you like“, “Cause if you want a guy that knows what you need/Well, then I’m your man“, “You know I like it loud“
“I’m known taking over out on the floor/And I’m overdue“, “Everything you want so let me get up there/I’m the best dancer in the atmosphere/ Show me how you dance so we can move just how you like“, “Cause if you want a boy who knows how to dance/Well, then grab my hand“, “You know I sing it loud”
I know this one was never an especially big (or good) hit to begin with, but there are so many painfully clumsy, shoehorned lines here that the song tanks as a result. It’s like fucking up a Big Mac. “Dance” is an awkward word to drop all over the track; it has such a distinct sound that it always calls attention to itself, especially when wedged where it wasn’t originally. Replacing “I’ll be your man” with “Well then grab my hand” is a lose-lose because hand-holding just means hand holding, right?
It’s also funny to see Kidz Bop overedit like this, because they used to just sing the songs as they are. All the way on Kidz Bop 1, “All The Small Things” keeps the original “Late night, come home/Work sucks, I know” lyric, and a few editions later, “This Love” retained a line about fingertips and hips. Kidz Bop started back when the charts were, at least on the surface, much cleaner, and now that they aren’t, there’s a lot of overcompensating going on.
3. Shop Boyz – Party Like a Rockstar
The Original: But that isn’t to say that older songs didn’t get censored to hell and back, either. Revisiting “Party Like a Rockstar” for this list made me aware of two things: it marks the last time that “rockstar” was used as a major boast, and my own relief that 2007 is over so I never have to hear this song again. It’s a standard definition one-hit wonder: Shop Boyz have barely put anything out since “Party like a rock, party like a rock star” was everyone’s ringtone.
The “Dirty” Lyrics: “I’m on a money making mission/But I party like a rock star”, “You know them hoes be at my show”, “My ice make’em go down quick/Like the Titanic!”, “On the yacht with Marilyn Manson“, “With a skull belt and wallet chain”
The Kidz Bop Lyrics: [redacted], [nope], [not happening], “On the yacht, yeah, we relaxin“, “With a cool belt and wallet chain”
Let’s start with the obvious: The KB version lopped off an entire minute’s worth of verses. Not that the world’s deprived of hearing more Shop Boyz verses vaguely about doing rock star things, but if you’re going to cut a fourth of a song off, is it even worth it anymore? Virtually all that’s left of the song is a near infinite repeat of the “Party like a rock, party like a rock star” hook that sounds more and more like water torture than a song after two minutes.
Not helping is that even by KB standards, “Party Like a Rock Star” is fucking awful; the group vocals and backing shouts mire together, the production seems tackier and sludgier than normal, and the song just goes on and on like a kids party from Hell. In terms of sheer badness, “Party Like a Rock Star” might be the worst of all 23 volumes.
And we’re not even done yet.
2. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Wanz – Thrift Shop
The Original: If you’re reading this, I’m going to go ahead and assume that you’ve at least heard “Thrift Shop” once or twice since the rap ode to Goodwill’s been inescapable for the last four months. Unlike virtually every other song in the KB oeuvre, “Thrift Shop” wasn’t engineered for mass consumption, but blew up after its doofy video was shown around by the same guy at your school/office that showed everyone “Gangnam Style” last September. It’s about a guy that loves buying tacky shit at a thrift shop to wear to clubs instead of designer shirts. You know, for kids!
The “Dirty” Lyrics: We’re going to be here all day if I list every single one, so I’m going to take a “best of” approach: “Walk into the club like, ‘What up, I got a big cock!'”, People like ‘Damn! That’s a coldass honky!'”, “Probably should have washed this, it smells like R. Kelly’s sheets (Pissssssssssssssssssssss!)“, “I’ll take those flannel zebra jammies, second-hand, I rock that motherfucker/the next two lines ending in motherfucker/Like this, motherfucker“, “I’m in this big ass coat from the thrift shop down the road”
The Kidz Bop Lyrics: “Walk into the club like, ‘What up, I got a hit song!‘”, “People like ‘Hey! The guy on the marquee!‘”, “Probably should have washed this, it smells like my baseball cleats (Ewwwwwwwwwww!)“, “I’ll take those flannel zebra jammies, second-hand, I rock that like it’s awesome/the next two lines ending in really awesome/Like this, really awesome!”, “I’m in this real big coat from the thrift shop down the road”
This song is so heavily scrubbed over and rewritten that Macklemore might as well be reduced to a co-writer with whatever hack changed most of the lines. From a business standpoint, I get why KB had to do a version of “Thrift Shop”–for better and (mostly) worse, it’s the song that’s going to play in the background of stories set 2013 for years to come–but just because you have to doesn’t mean you should. There’s just no way to meaningfully kidify “Thrift Shop”.
Ok, credit to Kidz Bop where it’s due (*gag*): the “Guy on the marquee” line actually follows the meter of the original, and white parents can rest easy knowing that they just dodged another uncomfortable conversation about race relations. The three other blatant rewrites are nausea inducing; just about everything else in the song rhymes except the “hit song”, which doesn’t even try to fit. And aside from having all the grace of a ballet dancer strung out on Valium with a broken kneecap and the intelligence to go with it, the “Baseball cleats” and “REALLY AWESOME” lines are miserable because they completely miss the point of the original; grossing people out and gratuitously swearing are fun gimmicks. I hate to give “Thrift Shop” credit for anything beyond being a novelty, but there’s a sophistication to it that KB can’t dumb down.
Y’all better hope “Same Love” doesn’t take off!
1. Nicki Minaj – Starships
The Original: Nicki Minaj’s Designated Pop Single “Starships” was a hit last year, even if it sounded like Minaj was just making shit up as she went along (which she totally did). Rather curious for a song made to be a pop hit, the song features “motherfucker” smack dab in the chorus multiple times without a lot of room for interpretation. Well, that and some other lyrics to upset the Sunday School singalongs.
The “Dirty” Lyrics: “Have a drink, clink, have a Bud Light/Bad bitches like me is hard to come by”, “I’ma blow all my money, and don’t give two shits“, “Fuck who you want, and fuck who you like“, and most of all “We’re higher than a motherfucker!“
The Kidz Bop Lyrics: “Have a think, clink, have a good night/Good people like me is hard to come by”, “I’ma blow all my money and give into it“, “Dance with you want, dance with who you like“, and worst of fucking all, “We’re Kidz Bop and we’re taking over!“
Go listen to the KB version. There’s just no way to grasp how batshit vile the “We’re Kidz Bop and we’re taking overrrr!” sub sounds over text. It’s like someone running a finger down the back of your neck; you just have to experience it to know that you don’t want to do that shit ever again. And it happens multiple times; this isn’t a one-off like most of the other gags, it’s core to the song. The verses got gutted too, with the award for second worst edit going to whatever poor bastard had to rap “Dance with who you want, dance with who you like”, with “Good people like me is hard to come by” taking a commendable third.
And you thought Nicki Minaj wrote some crazy lyrics.