What’s So Bad About Kid-Friendly Pop?

Reyan Ali defends Kidz Bop, the CD series featuring bowdlerized Top-40 hits:

Loads of frivolous, materialistic pop songs have no beneficial messages, and rewriting their lyrics while keeping the tune doesn’t deprive young listeners of a worthwhile experience. The Kidz Bop version of “Thrift Shop” retains the track’s closest thing to a positive thesis (i.e. be thrifty and engage in a smarter kind of conspicuous consumption) while extracting references that have little to no effect on that song’s message. Are the rewritten results corny? Certainly, but they’re also there to be consumed by children who’ll accept, laugh at, or entirely overlook the new turns of phrase.

But not all the songs are so benign:

In 2011, Rich Albertoni a writer at the Madison, Wisconsin, alternative weekly Isthmus, pointed out that the Kidz Bop version of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” excluded the song’s key verses about inclusivity.

The passages, “No matter gay, straight or bi/Lesbian, transgendered life/I’m on the right track, baby/I was born to survive” and “No matter black, white or beige/Chola or Orient/I’m on the right track, baby/I was born to be brave” had both been axed in their entirety entirely. “Funny,” he wrote, “because for this parent, that’s one of the few meaningful lines this collection of pop songs might have had to offer.”

Removing those verses deprives listeners of one of the best elements found in pop music: its ability to create positive cultural change. As an LGBT anthem that nonetheless makes it a point to champion all sorts of subcultures, “Born This Way” carries a message that shouldn’t be discarded out of the fear that overzealous parents might be offended by mentions to any of these groups. And if such parents are offended, then a message of love and understanding is the sort that’s worth offending them over.

Dan Weiss recently compiled a playlist of the three dozen most ill-conceived Kidz Bop songs, including “Disturbia” and “Party Like A Rock Star.”