A Deep Dive into Kidz Bop Kids: Part One
I know what you’re thinking. Jonathan, isn’t this a film blog? It’s literally called “Another Film Blog”? And you are right, this is a film blog…but it can be more than that. For now, let’s call it “Another Blog”, because this story is too important to not write because it doesn’t fit the title of my blog.
For the last few years, I have been simultaneously irritated by and perplexed by the continued existence of Kidz Bop. I have repeatedly tried to figure out “who is this for?”, to no avail. Among my network of friends and family, Kidz Bop is merely a joke, their songs laughable and even meme-worthy. To put it simply, Kidz Bop isn’t something to take seriously.
But I disagree. I believe that there is something of note behind Kidz Bop, and the stylistic choices made for the image, and the songs they choose to cover, and the ways in which they exist as a corporate entity. It is for that reason that I am embarking on a series of articles on everything Kidz Bop.
PART I: A Brief History
Kids Bop Kids is a musical group comprised of rotating members, that has existed since October 9th, 2001. The brand was developed by Cliff Chenfield, and Craig Balsam, co-founders of Razor & Tie.
Prior to its acquisition by Concord Music, Razor & Tie was known for several different musical ventures, including rock and metal through its signing of artists such as The Pretty Reckless, and Red Sun Rising. However, it’s safe to say that the company was most widely known for its compilation albums. First established in 1990, Chenfield and Balsam found success with albums themed for various decades, such as Those Fabulous 70s, which contains classics such as Afternoon Delight and Play That Funky Music. These compilations were consistently marketed on television, and that’s important to consider.
In 1990, the internet was barely an idea, and so for most families, their exposure to new artists was either through radio, or through television. Given that a majority of families owned a television, this provided an easy way to market to parents and older folk, who could sample songs from a variety of artists they remember listening to.
According to Chenfield and Balsam, the idea for Kidz Bop came about as a result of of their experiences at elementary-school birthday parties. The venn diagram of music played at these parties included both cringe children jingles, and also mature songs by artists such as Eminem. It was then that a brilliant idea was sprung.
Despite objections by those involved in the brand, Kidz Bop is an ongoing compilation project. They are covers of pop songs, scrubbed clean (most of the time, but we’ll get to that) of “adult” themes, so that children could enjoy these songs without their parents tearing their hair out.
What’s baffling is how well this worked; as of 2019, Kidz Bop had managed to score twenty-four Top 10 albums on Billboard. The only artists to have had more Top 10s are the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Barbra Streisand; I think I know why.
Much like the compilation albums they put out in the 1990s, Razor & Tie were able to mass-market Kidz Bop through television advertisements. Parents could see them, and from there it was simple to assume that caregivers would be persuaded to purchase the albums as a way to satiate their children’s desires for pop music. With over 20 million albums sold worldwide, it’s safe to say that the Kidz Bop brand is a massive success.
It is also worth mentioning that, as a result of the consistently shifting membership of the group of faceless child singers, there have been some who have become celebrities. Among the brand’s membership, stars Zendaya, Ross Lynch, and Becky G can all trace part of their success back to the smash-hit Kidz Bop. You can hear Zendaya on this performance of Hot N’ Cold by Katy Perry.
But, more interesting than all of this history, is how Kidz Bop operates in regards to the music. How does this stay so successful for so long? How do they decide what songs to cover, and how do they choose which lyrics to censor?
All of this, and more, will be explored in this ongoing adventure. I hope you’ll join me on this wild ride.