5 Inappropriate Children's Versions of Famous Hit Songs
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 ...
Maroon 5 -- "Moves Like Jagger" (Featured on Kidz Bop 21)
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.
Franz Ferdinand -- "Take Me Out" (Featured on Kidz Bop 8)
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.
Hinder -- "Lips of an Angel" (Featured on Kidz Bop 11)
Unless there's a construction project currently in progress somewhere near the Oklahoma trailer park you call home, there's a good chance it's been a while since you've seen or heard from the band Hinder (the name is a sly reference to the effect their songs have on your ability to hear good music on the radio). Their 2006 single "Lips of an Angel," a song about how it's bullshit that you can't freely talk on the phone to your side piece while your spouse is in the room, was a massive hit.
Probably not the most kid-friendly song scenario, unless any single moms out there are looking for a catchy way to tell the little ones why Dad's an asshole. The Kidz Bop franchise has never been one to let a minor thing like inappropriateness get in the way of massacring an already terrible song, though. Once again, to lessen the discomfort of hearing a group of kids tackling such adult subject matter, a grown man sings most of the lyrics while the youngsters squeal along on background vocals, dropping out only when doing so shields them from singing about boning.
Adding the cigarette-ravaged voice of an adult male makes it sound like a dude who's been married seven times previously has roped in his army of kids to sing backing vocals on the romantic modern rock cover he's recorded to play in the background when he proposes to Future Stepmom Number 8 at a NASCAR event.
There's only one real lyric change to speak of, but once again, as necessary as it may be, it only makes the implication behind the lyrics far worse. Behold:
Just what the fuck is that supposed to mean, Kidz? At your age, you damn well better be grateful. Your parents' mortgage isn't just paying itself, and being one-fifteenth of the Kidz Bop band isn't going to make you or them a whole lot richer. If kissing this floozy makes you less appreciative of the stupid neon hats and skinny jeans and whatever else your parents work so hard to provide for you, then I'm assuming the "girl in the next room" is your mother, and it sounds like she has good reason to forbid this relationship from continuing. Also, calling your mom "my girl" is fucking disgusting. Stop it.
Pretty Much Any Adele Song (Featured on Kidz Bop 21 and Kidz Bop 22)
Look, I understand that in the strictest sense of censorship tradition there's no reason to worry about a bunch of kids singing your ex-girlfriend's favorite songs. After all, Adele is just a girl who sings about missing the guy who broke her heart. There are no curse words. No one dies. No one has strip club champagne room sex. They're perfectly innocent songs. They're also the saddest shit ever.
Listen, makers of Kidz Bop, there is nothing in the Constitution that says you must include a song on your ridiculous albums simply because it performed well on the Billboard charts. I get that "Someone Like You" was the biggest song of whatever year it came out, but isn't the "girls aged 6 to 8" demographic a bit early to start selling the idea that breaking up with your boyfriend is a life change worthy of funeral music?
They do make sure to change one word, though:
See that? Of all the potential "too hot for kids" lines in the song, the one about getting married is probably the last one they should have focused on. A better choice? Oh, I don't know, maybe the line immediately after that? You know, the one where Adele wonders if maybe the relationship failed because the other girl gave the man in question things she didn't? Right, it's never too early to learn that the best way to keep a man is to give him anything he wants. It's what all the popular girls are doing, you know. Just look at Adele! People love her!
You know who else loves Adele? Kidz Bop! This isn't the only song from England's newest hit maker that they've given the "add an inappropriate chorus of children" treatment. Remember this song?
That's "Set Fire to the Rain," and it's goddamn intense, especially when the vocals are being handled by an awkward 12-year-old boy.
Relax, Child Protective Services enthusiasts: No matter the emotional intensity conveyed by Adele's vocals, there's nothing going on in this song that you wouldn't hear coming out of the mouths of so many tweens across the country. Case in point:
See? You probably ran home to Mom and blurted out something just like that when your first boyfriend dumped you after fifth period math. Nothing to see here, folks. Just kids being morbidly depressed kids.
Britney Spears -- "Toxic" (Featured on Kidz Bop 6)
Let's talk about high-water marks. When it comes to the music of Britney Spears, "Toxic" was just that, a creative peak she'll probably never reach again. Am I saying it's a good song? No, I'm saying it's a great song.
"Toxic" is also a high-water mark of sorts for the Kidz Bop franchise, in that it represents the apex of their we-don't-give-a-fuckitude as it relates to letting the Kidz loose on songs they have no business even being within earshot of. This song could not be more about sex if it was literally called "Britney Spears Sings About Sex." So of course you're going to want a version for the kids ...
If you steadfastly refuse to listen to either version, enjoy a sampling of the kid-unfriendly lines they have in common. Like this beauty, for example:
Given Britney Spears' history of drug abuse, she could just as easily be singing about OxyContin there. Either way, it's not the kind of thing you want your kids singing when the grandparents come around. And there's more!
Yep, I feel you. We're using substance abuse as a metaphor for sex. Isn't that right, kids?
That was a rhetorical question. So, this is all pretty racy stuff for a kids' song. Does the Kidz Bop version of the song bother changing anything at all? Sure, occasionally this happens:
I love the enthusiasm, kids! In their defense, at least the Kidz Bop people pull the same "let an adult sing the dirty bits" trick here that they've employed on so many other songs. It makes absolutely no difference, of course, but I applaud the effort nonetheless. Unfortunately, it turns out making something kid-friendly involves more than just having a bunch of kids in the room when it's happening.
Adam hosts a podcast called Unpopular Opinion that you should check out right here. You should also be his friend on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.