The Big Hurt: Ten years of Kidz Bop

The kidz are alright
By DAVID THORPE  |  August 16, 2011


Can you believe Kidz Bop is turning 10 years old this fall? It seems like just yesterday we first heard a cut-rate wedding band reconstruct "Livin' La Vida Loca" with a gaggle of children hollering tunelessly over the chorus; now we're a decade deep, with more than 40 compilations racking up over 10 million in sales, and the kids who grew up listening to kiddie Smash Mouth covers are 19 and cooler than us.

I've made fun of Kidz Bop plenty in the past, but it's time to get real: Kidz Bop is a venerable institution now, worthy of serious retrospection. All of the Kidz Bop albums are on Spotify, so I'm going to listen to every goddamn one of them and bring you the highlights.

"ALL THE SMALL THINGS" [KIDZ BOP, 2001] | While later Kidz Bop efforts are heavier on child voices, early tracks relied on adult vocalists to anchor the verses. Most charming among these early miscalculations was the Blink-182 cover on the first volume, in which a raspy bar-band dude croaked out the verses like an irritable dad pressed into karaoke service by the kids. The "na na na" chorus even becomes a jeering "nyan nyan nyan," further adding to the dad-abuse illusion. I'm sure a lot of parents who had to pop this into the Windstar stereo again and again could relate.

"TOXIC" [KIDZ BOP 6, 2004] | This is exactly the kind of shit you dip into a Kidz Bop record hoping to hear. It's ill-advised, unintentionally funny, and lightly nauseating. "Toxic" isn't an easy song to knock off, and the production here gets it almost right and entirely wrong — combine that uncanny vibe with the pure psychosis of a child chorus moaning about poison lips and you've got the purest essence of the Bop.

"GOOD MORNING STARSHINE" [KIDZ BOP GOLD, 2004] | There's been a lot of controversy over the years about inappropriate song choices in the KB series — most recently, objections arose over the inclusion of the booze-soaked "Tik Tok" by Ke$ha — but I haven't heard anything that tripped my child-protective sensibilities more than this track. It sounds for all the world like a few dozen kids being indoctrinated into a new-age suicide cult.

"FLOAT ON" [KIDZ BOP 7, 2006] | The Bop's first foray into indie rock was a major laughingstock at the time, but it's aging comfortably into a priceless relic of Americana. In fact, it may hold more cultural significance in 2011 than any authentic Modest Mouse track.

"WE CAN WORK IT OUT" [KIDZ BOP SINGS THE BEATLES, 2009] | I can't think of many rock bands as accessible to kids as the Beatles, but I'll hold my objections. As soon as we start tickling the "why is this necessary" question, the whole Kidz Bop house of cards tumbles. Let's just enjoy the existence of a truly pointless thing.

"HEARTLESS" [KIDZ BOP 16, 2009] | You probably don't believe me that the Kidz Bop Kids' rendition of "Heartless" is better than the original, but it's true. The harmonizing child vocals float uncannily over the tune, adapting much better than the auto-tune Yeezy did, and the beat is flattened into a superior chintzy minimalism. Y'know how Mark Mothersbaugh resented Weird Al for one-upping him in the Devo-mocking "Dare To Be Stupid"? I bet Kanye feels the same flush whenever he's confronted with this bunch of kids stylin' on him.

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Related: Suede reclaimed, The Big Hurt: Smash Mouth egg, Juggalos gather, Oasis grump, Bieber fades, The Big Hurt: Kiedis's new look; plus, Incubus, Moz, Bieber, and Robbie Williams, More more >
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