For those who wish recent popular songs could all be rewritten by Ned Flanders and performed by Rod and Todd Flanders, the venerable, lucrative Kidz Bop franchise has been providing infantilized, watered-down versions of Top 40 hits for 15 years now. Now that the series has reached its 30th installment, A.V. Club contributor Myles McNutt has written an analytical Slate think piece about the phenomenon, called “The Kidz Are All Right.” This level of attention is justified, since McNutt attests that Kidz Bop is “one of the most powerful brands in music.” The article further suggests that this mighty brand has recently been mutating in some strange, fascinating, and potentially disturbing ways. There is a creeping conservatism at the core of Kidz Bop, and it only becomes more pronounced with each subsequent, squeaky-clean release.
As the article explains, the first Kidz Bop album from 2000 was the brainchild of two music execs, Craig Balsam and Cliff Chenfeld, who just wanted to take the edge off some pop songs by having them performed by children. But as the series has progressed and Top 40 music has become racier, the Bop-ifying process has involved the censoring of lyrics to a greater and greater degree. Whereas in the old days, the Kidz version of “That Don’t Impress Me Much” by Shania Twain could retain the line about staying warm in the middle of the night, the franchise‘s more recent take on Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” even excised a reference to red lips. Where, McNutt wonders, does it all end? As the article reveals, the makers of the Kidz Bop albums are hardly transparent about their creative process. Still, the Bop brand is only getting stronger, branching out into other media and producing live touring shows. The worst, it seems, may be yet to come.