I didn’t have many child-rearing theories when my daughter was born. I hoped that my kid would be kind and have a good sense of humor, but that’s mostly dependent on genetics and my wife and I not being jerks. But the one thing that I did actively try to instill in her was a love of great music. Of course great music is subjective; one person’s Bob Dylan is another’s Barney (although who is that other person? I mean…c’mon). When I say great music I mean the classics, the songs that seem like they’re being sung directly to you, and most importantly, the music I like. Fortunately my plan worked. Sort of. Now that my daughter is eight, she loves all kinds of music; she’ll belt out some Sia or keep it mellow with “Here Comes the Sun.” But somewhere along the way, she also got all tangled up with Kidz Bop. I blame her friend Emma and Emma’s mom who plays that Kidz Bop Kidz station pretty loudly during carpool. I see you, Emma’s mom!!!
If you’re not familiar with Kidz Bop, it’s a music group comprised of overjoyed pre-teens who cover popular songs. To appeal to parents, Kidz Bop changes the “naughty” words in the lyrics, often to only make it ridiculous. It’s like when they change a swear word on an airplane movie. You know Matthew McConaughey did not just call someone a “mother fleaker!”
Also sometimes the lyric changes result in more inappropriate songs, like in this tweak of “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen.
Real lyric: I beg and borrow and steal.
New Kidz Bop-ifed lyric: I beg and borrow and feel.
Wait…what? Why’d you go that route? I’d rather have my kid shoplifting a candy bar than feeling everyone around her because she’s on Molly. Did I take this too far? Maybe. But only because Kidz Bop forced me to!
You can learn from my successes and mistakes. Here’s how to avoid the Kidz Bop morass so that your kids can grow up to actually have good taste in music:
1) When your child is a baby, play her the classics. Say the baby is eating in her high chair; feed her mushed up carrots and an Aretha Franklin song or Stevie Wonder or some Beatles. If the kid’s lolling around in the Pack ‘n Play, throw on “Beggar’s Banquet” by the Rolling Stones. Side note: play the real songs, not those baby-friendly lullaby CDs. I used to give those CDs as presents (sorry, former co-workers), but upon further review, they’re creepy. A slow, all-xylophone version of “Stairway to Heaven” is what a homicidal maniac listens to while sharpening his pickaxe.
2) When she’s a toddler, make a playlist of your top 20 favorite songs. The songs have to be short and upbeat. Anything with a flute – out. An eight-minute folk song about whaling? Byyyyeeee. She’ll get into emo in middle school. Why skip to those years now?
3) Gamify for your preschooler. This is a big one because at this point, no matter how much of a foundation you’ve built, your kid has opinions (which is good but also uh-oh). DON’T PANIC. Just make a game of it and trade off playing songs. They’ll always choose some Kidz Bop or a nonsensical Barney song. But if you bring your A game, your own song choices will shed light on how bad their choices are. “Alexa, play ‘Particle Man’ by They Might Be Giants.” “Siri, play the rare Prince song that’s appropriate for children.”
4) Take your school-age kid to a concert. By now your kid has definitely heard some — if not a LOT — of Kidz Bop, and she doesn’t want to play your little trade off game anymore because she’s too old and would rather sit in silence than listen to a perfect song by David Bowie. This is the perfect time for them to see a real band play real songs with real instruments because they’ll catch the concert bug and want to see live music all day, err day. I took my daughter to see the Go Gos at the Hollywood Bowl, and I’ve never been prouder than I was seeing her dance in the aisle to “We Got the Beat.” “But Matt, aren’t concerts expensive?” Yes, they are. You know what else is expensive? Therapy to get Kidz Bop-ified Bruno Mars out of your head.
5) Do what you gotta do. Here’s the thing. Your kid is not a robot. They will beg you to play some Kidz Bop because it’s sweeter than an ice cream sundae with Candy Corns and gummy worms on top. But you’ve gotta be strong. You’ve worked too hard to throw away years of intense music listening so she can dig into a cover version of “Thrift Shop.” So just calmly look your sweet child in the eye and say Kidz Bop Kidz broke up so their music can’t be found, and, yes, you’re sad about it too, so why don’t we listen to Beck’s album “Sea Change” because it’s a really beautiful, sad album about break-ups, and it will help you heal. She will be furious at you tomorrow at school when she finds out that Kidz Bop Kids did not break up, but this tiny fib will buy you a Kidz Bop-free evening before…
6) Just let them listen to Kidz Bop. You won’t win. Upside: It will eventually pass. It seems like it won’t, but it will. And you know what, after listening to all 38 Kidz Bop albums for this piece, I’m thinking maybe it’s not that bad. In fact, funny story — my daughter has Kidz Bop’s “Havana” on repeat, and it’s totally imprinted on my brain now, and I don’t even think about the fact that an eight-year-old is basically belting out a song about a random dude she hooked up with in Cuba, because they sort of changed a few words so it’s ALL GOOD!!