Tuesday, February 24, 2009

She Bops

The people behind it are evil geniuses. I would say that I hate them, but that's just my jealously talking. If only I had thought of it first...

I am talking about Ainsley's newest discovery, Kidz Bop CDs. You've probably seen their commercials and are familiar with their concept: take hit pop songs and have a chorus of kids sing along. Until last week, I never got the true genius of this idea. Why does having kids sing along to these bubblegum songs that get overplayed on top 40 stations make them more appealing to kids? I used to think.

Then Ainsley asked for one. The Kidz Bop Valentine CD was a special item in her last Scholastic book club flyer, and since I order her a book from that catalog every so often I thought I would give it a try.

The CD arrived last week, and Ains immediately wanted to hear it. The track list was, shall we say, interesting. There were tracks that I knew would lend themselves well to a choir of kids singing along, like "Accidentally in Love" (after all, it's part of a Shrek movie.) Then there were songs where the thought of kids singing the lyrics boggled the mind like "Far Away" by Nickelback and "My Love" by Justin Timberlake. I'll admit; I was intrigued.

We popped the CD in. Based on the commercials, I thought that it would just be kids singing. Instead, each song is more like a duet between the kids and a singer who tries his/her best to sound like the original artist. The kids generally just join in on the chorus or the parts originally handled by backup singers. Some of the adult singers do quite well; the Alicia Keys sound-alike who does "No One" sounds enough like her that it took a minute before I realized it wasn't the original artist. Some, sadly, do not. There is only one Kelly Clarkson in this world.

These songs sung in this way have an interesting effect on my kid. During the very first time we listened, as I was musing over whether or not I wanted to puncture my eardrums during the butchering of "Hey There, Delilah", I heard a sweet little harmony coming from what I thought were the rear speakers of my car stereo. I realized that it was Ainsley. I am sure she wasn't trying to harmonize, but any time the kids came in on the soaring, "Oh, it's what you do to me..." Ainsley sang along and didn't quite get all the way up to the first note. But it still sounded good. Awwww. How cute is my kid, I ask you?

Like most of America, she and I have heard that song on the radio hundreds of times. I have been known to sing along, but I have never heard a peep from the backseat. For some reason, hearing other kids sing along to these songs makes Ainsley want to belt them out, too.

It makes sense, really. Having a chorus of children's voices singing in a child's natural range makes it easy for kids to find the right pitch and join in. It turns songs that aren't remotely intended as children's songs into tunes that kids can love and sing along.

But it is also ruining songs for me. Shortly after our first Kidz Bop listen, I heard the "real" version of "My Love". In case you aren't familiar with the immortal works of the Timberlake, the chorus goes like this:

My love...
(So don't give away)
My love...
(So don't give away)
My love...

It's catchier than it looks.

For the rest of my days, whenever I hear that song, I am going to hear wee voices in unison on the "So don't give away" part. It just doesn't have the same effect on me anymore. I no longer want to get my groove on when I hear it.

The fact that I will forever and for always hear kids' voices on these songs actually helps some of them. It's no secret that I am a Nickelback hater, but I could grow to love this new version of "Far Away." I think the kids have vastly improved the original; it no longer sounds like every other Nickelback song.

The people who came up with this idea of introducing popular songs to kids are smart. By making them want to sing along, they make them like these tunes and step outside of the Disney HSM/Hannah Montana/Jonas Brothers box of kid music, which I think will make most parents happy. In fact, I'd like to see the Kidz Bop people take it even further and take non-pop music and Bop it. Here are some artists I would pay good money to see in a future Kidz Bop CD:

Disturbed (Can't you hear kids doing the "Wah-a-a-a" part on "Down With the Sickness"?)

System of a Down

Metallica (I think "Enter Sandman" in particular would translate well, don't you? It is kind of a lullaby, after all.)

David Allan Coe (He did write the perfect country-western song, you know. As well as some ditties that, if movies, would get an NC-17, so maybe just the one song.)

Chime in below, especially you parents. Which performers or songs would you love to hear Kid-Bopped so that your kids will love it as much as you do? Or, which performers or songs would just make hilarious train wrecks if sung by innocent little children?

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