For a vast many people who haven’t put birth control to the test (and failed), Kidz Bop isn’t a thing. If you don’t have children, there’s literally zero reason to know of its existence. But for a lot of us with kids old enough to comprehend, process and regurgitate what they hear, the music struggle is real, especially for those of us who are hip-hop and R&B heads. Pretty much 175 percent of the music I grew up listening to, created after 1992, is too suggestive for my 7-year-old daughter’s innocent ears. For musical stylings, this leaves very few options.
Look, we all love our kids; we do. But we’d also like them to not entirely usurp our lives, especially the music we know and love.
Enter Kidz Bop. Created in 2001 to clearly capitalize on the pain of parents everywhere, it started as a few dudes re-creating pop songs, terribly. It’s evolved into, in 2016, a group of kids re-creating pop songs, sometimes even better than the originals. And, sometimes, horrendously worse than the originals. Of course, the key component of Kidz Bop is that it can take songs that are more adult in nature, reinterpret them with different lyrics where necessary, get some kids to sing the songs, rebrand them under Kidz Bop and have your impressionable youth singing along to innocent versions of songs that are naughty in real life.
And to that end, Kidz Bop is like the best hustle ever. Kidz Bop has expanded to world tours and albums and even started making its own original compositions. In short, Kidz Bop is out here winning. And since I’m a parent of a 7-year-old who actually said to me, “Wow, Daddy, this Kidz Bop 32 album is actually really good,” and meant it, I’m stuck with Kidz Bop. Which means that I’ve started listening to these songs differently. Which means I’ve noticed that, while grating at times, these Kidz Bop kids have actually remade quite a few songs better than the originals. It’s true; oh yeah, it’s true.
Here are eight songs that Kidz Bop has made better than the originals.
1. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, “Downtown”; Kidz Bop version
This song literally plays two or three times every single fothermuckin' hour. Even my daughter, who loves all things Kidz Bop, has remarked that they’re sounding like Hot 97's playlist. OK, she didn’t say it like that, but she definitely said, “How many times are they going to play this song?” Thing is, this isn’t a great song in real life. In fact, it sounds like a kid’s song because no grown-ass man would legitimately rap about buying a moped or involve himself in such a show-tune-y song, on the real tip, despite the fact that the video has over 124 million views. Hearing kids do that, though? It’s kind of awesome. Plus, they made the music sound better. Which makes this song way more awesome. Score one for Kidz Bop.
2. A Great Big World, “Say Something”; Kidz Bop version
I mean the non-Christina Aguilera version, which is much better. Here’s the thing: The two dudes who make up A Great Big World aren’t exactly singers. They’re vocalists and, for my money, not very good at it. I acknowledge that there are probably lots of people who would like their nonsinging asses; I’m just not one of them. I mean, lots of people think Bob Dylan could sing. Lots of people are wrong. But I ain’t one to gossip, so you ain’t heard that from me. The words are powerful, though. The first time I heard this song—on Kidz Bop, no less—I said, “S—t, that is some of the saddest, but most perfect songwriting ever.” These words: “Say something, I’m giving up on you/I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you … ” If you’ve ever been in a relationship, you’ve been at this point. Again, Kidz Bop kids, well, they actually sang the song, which gives it a whole lot more ease of listening. Kidz Bop bodied this song.
3. Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth, “See You Again”; Kidz Bop version
Full disclosure: I love this song. But it’s entirely for the sentiment and because I cried at the end of Furious 7. RIP, Paul Walker. The song itself? Eh. Look, Wiz is a trash rapper. Charlie Puth is serviceable on the hook and effectively makes the song work. But you have some kids on this s—t? Whole different complexion. It works like Jamaicans in Rihanna’s video. Triple entendre—don’t even ask me how.
4. Flo-Rida, “My House”; Kidz Bop version
Real question: How many of you realize that Flo-Rida has a very successful music career and is the artist behind several huge hits where you can’t discern who the artist is? Probably not that many. You know who does know this? Kidz Bop. I feel like it just waits for Flo-Rida to drop albums, then it scrubs them for profanity and questionable lyrics, then rereleases them. In fact, I’m waiting for the day that Kidz Bop starts just taking on artists as opposed to singles and releases Kidz Bop Does Flo-Rida. The album? Already done. “My House” is one of those songs. Flo-Rida is already making songs that are pretty much him mailing it in, so they can’t be taken seriously. Songs about a house party, though, should be left to people from California, Kid ’N Play and kids. Come through, Kidz Bop.
5. Flo-Rida, “GDFR”; Kidz Bop version
See No. 4. Same s—t, different song.
6. Daya, “Hide Away”; Kidz Bop version
I like Daya. She’s got a good voice. I like good voices. However, I feel like the Kidz Bop folks listened to this song and said to themselves, “Got ’em.” They figured out a way to improve the song, and #wallahmagic. They changed keys, removed the suggestive wording and made a better version because they upgraded the actual music. The singing works because the vocals drive the melody. As long as the Kidz Bop kids kept it in the pocket (which they did), it was all win. The hook sells the whole song. Point is, this song is better as a Kidz Bop song. Full disclosure: I’ve listened to this song, the KB version, without my daughter in the car. Word to Spotify.
7. Drake, “Hotline Bling”; Kidz Bop version
Listen, no amount of debate can convince me this is a good song. I know people like it. Even Erykah Badu likes it. But if it wasn’t Drake, this would be trash. So it’s trash, recorded by Drake. However, you take away the fact that it’s an intentional song and have some kids make it, and boom, clap. It’s much better with some kids singing this song. And it’s still not a great song. But a kid singing about hotlines blinging sounds more reasonable to me.
8. Meghan Trainor, “Lips Are Moving”; Kidz Bop version
Another one whom, like Flo-Rida, Kidz Bop looks to as its musical muse. Look, this is a terrible song for kids to listen to in the first place. The hook is “Your lips are moving so you lie, lie, lie … ” This isn’t exactly a lesson we need to be imparting to kids too early. Give them some hope, ya know? Obama is still in office. But I just don’t take Meghan Trainor seriously, anyway. For one, she’s, like, 15 years older than I thought she was. For two, I just don’t think she’s that good at what she does for a living. I’m glad she’s successful at it, though. Shoot your shot. But let’s just say, hearing kids sing this song makes it more palatable, since it seems like some s—t kids would say in the first place.
Panama Jackson is the co-founder and senior editor of VerySmartBrothas.com. He lives in Washington, D.C., and believes the children are our future.