As long as there are children in the world, there will be someone trying to make kid-friendly versions of the stuff adults love. Music is no exception. In fact, an entire franchise, Kidz Bop, has been built around the idea that kids like Usher songs better when his capable vocals are replaced by the wailing of a roomful of tweens.
And maybe they're right. The Kidz Bop franchise has been in business since 2000, releasing over 20 albums of your favorite songs held down and punched in the face by a bunch of goddamn kids. Nine of the first 10 went gold in the U.S.
Here's the thing, though; sometimes no amount of censorship and lyric changes can mask the fact that the song in question is clearly intended for an adult audience only. When that happens ... the Kidz Bop Kidz usually just go ahead and sing that shit anyway. For example ...
5Maroon 5 -- "Moves Like Jagger" (Featured on Kidz Bop 21)
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Write this down, parents of America: Every song about dancing is actually about fucking. There is the rare occasion when a song will be written specifically about a dance, so you can count those as exceptions, I suppose. "Moves Like Jagger" by Maroon 5 is not one of those songs.
If you're one of the 11 people alive who still haven't heard it, for the sake of brevity, just know that the first line of the chorus is "Take me by the tongue." There is almost nothing in this world that we encourage the children of the world to take by the tongue.
So how do the Kidz Bop people handle the problem? Here's a side-by-side comparison.
OK, right off the bat, great job taking care of the "tongue" business. "Hand" is indeed less inflammatory than "tongue." Unfortunately, the rest of the Kidz Bop version sounds dirtier to me. "Kiss until we're drunk" is pure gibberish. By comparison, "dance until we're done" sounds more like sexual innuendo than anything else. There is literally no other time you can dance until. You can't dance until after you're done. You can dance until you're dead, but aren't you also done at that point? This line makes no sense if it's not a metaphor of some sort. It's pretty clear that these kids are singing about having an orgasm. Adam Levine wasn't nearly that presumptuous so early in his version of the song.
They don't even get through with the chorus before they make another change for the worse. Check this out:
I admit that the Maroon 5 version wouldn't play for the kids. It sounds like a promise that no one's getting roofied with a side order of assurance that someone is still getting blown at the end of the night. The problem is, the Kidz Bop version sounds even more rapey. Swapping in the word "convince" implies that consent is no obstacle to these kids, especially when they've decided they want to "know" you, if you know what I mean.
When the adult version does finally start delivering the sex metaphors, the Kidz don't flinch one bit when delivering them right back, verbatim.
That reads like a lost verse from "Little Red Corvette," except (given his modern-day status as a desexed Jehovah's Witness) Prince would probably hide under a couch if you sang those words in his direction. That's a damn creepy thing to have to say about a song performed by children.
4Franz Ferdinand -- "Take Me Out" (Featured on Kidz Bop 8)
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You all remember Franz Ferdinand, right? Of course you do, Scotland. Hey, everyone else -- Franz Ferdinand was the band that totally didn't sample Led Zeppelin or Ringo Starr for their breakthrough hit, "Take Me Out."
It's a swinging tune that you can sort of even dance to, and hearing the constant refrain of "Take me out!" might even give the less-attentive-to-details set visions of a guy asking a girl out on a date.
When put in the hands of children ...
... it's proof that you don't need exposed genitals or excessive swearing to make something inappropriate for certain ages. Between both versions, the lyrics pretty much remain the same, and that's exactly the problem. Case in point:
Does that seem ... dark to any of you? Is it possible that the "taking out" in question here is less of a meal at Hooters sort of thing and more like a murder? You bet it is! The most common theory is that the song is told from the point of view of a sniper waiting to kill his target but too exhilarated by the feeling of holding a life in his hands to let it go by pulling the trigger. And no, I don't know why the sniper would be the one yelling "take me out," in case you're wondering. There are also some domestic violence theories if that's more your speed.
Whatever the case, lyrics like this are not generally the domain of children.
Clearly, someone in this song is getting shot, and these kids sound downright giddy about it, as evidenced by the one subtle change they make to the lyrics:
They deliver that unsympathetically placed "WOOOOOO!" in the same way an arena full of concertgoers respond to being asked "How's everybody feeling toniiiiiiiight?!?!?"
The most uncomfortable aspect of this Kidz Bop cover is that they try to offset the inappropriateness of the lyrics by having some older dude sing the really gory parts, because having a grown man wander into a kids' party to croon about death makes it way less weird.