By: Rye Spooner
It was a simple Friday when this whole mess started. Pitch day, in Writer’s Workshop. I had completely forgotten all about it, and I was struggling to come up with some Buzzfeed-like idea I could use to turn out a story. However, I wasn’t the only student with this problem. A small group of us were frantically trying to brainstorm any idea that could even be a start for a simple story. One of our editors, Ella Rook, heard our struggle and showed us her list of open pitch ideas – things that she had thought could become a story, but didn’t necessarily have the time to write about. As she went down her list, the other students latched onto some of her pitches. In hindsight, I should have cherished this moment of peace that came before her next sentence, because in that moment, my life was about to be consumed by something completely idiotic.
“Who changes the lyrics for the Kidz Bop songs?”
I had my story, but unbeknownst to me at the time, I also had a new burden. She gave me a warning, one I foolishly ignored: “I did a quick Google search, and I couldn’t find anything, but I’m sure if you like really get into it, you can find the answer!” Like Icarus flying too close to the sun, I stepped up to the challenge, saying, “I’m sure I’ll be able to find it, and it would be great to interview the person behind all of it.” Yeah, it really would be great, Rye. It really, really would. I mean, it’s Kidz Bop, we’ve all heard of it in some way, shape, or form, whether you actually listened to it as a kid, or you’ve heard other people’s hatred of it.
I’m going to tell you now, this story does not get any less stupid. It just simply does not. I’m writing this out of pure spite, because I’ve spent three weeks of my life dedicated to this and I just can’t let this go without some form of expressing the pure stupidity I went through to find out what I foolishly assumed was easy to find information.
I started my research with a simple Google search. First result: Wikipedia. Kidz Bop was Created in 2000 by Cliff Chenfeld and Craig Balsam, the Co-Founders of Razor and Tie Entertainment company. This was a kids version of the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s hit compilation albums they were making at the time. Now, I have my theory that in the beginning the creators might have been the ones to change a word or two in the songs, but alas it’s only a theory with little evidence to back it up. The wiki page mentions, oh-so-briefly in the last sentence of the first paragraph, the changing of the lyrics. But that’s all you’ll get from it. Just a tease, not even a second thought in the words they wrote, no “huh, who changes them?” No, none of that, just the information simply stated like a fact of life. Stated as if no one should ever question it. However, the wiki page wasn’t completely useless, I did get the parent company from it – Razor and Tie.
I went to their website next and poked around. I found the kids section, which had a whole list of all the Kidz™ productions they own. Side note: Did you know that Razor and Tie owns the Wiggles? They own the Wiggles. Wild. I found the Kidz Bop website, searched for a bit, and found an FAQ section. Nothing there about lyrics. (Ok, fair, I’m sure that’s not a frequently asked question, but I wanted to try my luck.) Back to Razor & Tie’s website, as one small dead-end didn’t deter me. With more searching, I found a press email. That being my only lead at the time, I decided to send them a email regarding the lyrics of the Kidz Bop songs. As I ended my research for the night, I decided to ask for some help finding sources in class the next day. To this day, I haven’t gotten a response from that email.
A new dawn, a new day, ready to get back at it again with the Kidz Bop research. It’s FIT time in Room 47, and I opened my computer to continue the hunt for the information. What I was greeted by, however, wasn’t the sweet, sweet names and numbers of whomever changes the lyrics. No, it was the dreaded dark grey screen with that blue lock that says “WEBSITE BLOCKED” I had gotten the Kidz Bop website blocked because of my snooping. Well, that was definitely going to be a problem. A problem for later Rye, however, because I had some Famous Amos Cookies™ callin’ my name.
Writer’s Workshop finally rolled around, and we briefly checked in with each other on our stories. I was still hopeful about the email, so I said I was waiting for a response. I’m still waiting for that response. In the days following, I kind of let the story slip under my radar. I was so, so hopeful about that email. Days passed, and I realized, with my deadline getting closer and closer, there was still no word from Razor & Tie. I kept searching, kept getting websites blocked, kept almost getting the information, only to have the lyric changes just mentioned, but never expanded upon. Did you know: there’s a lot of articles written about the “censorship” of the Kidz Bop songs, but all of them are angry about how the lyrics are changed, and none of them even allude to who changes the songs. Not one. Not an interview, not a mention, just a lot of legal stuff about censorship laws. So, lost at another dead end, I decided to ask Mrs. Anderson for help.
Mrs. Anderson, with her fancy journalism skills and laptop equipped with unblocked websites, found a phone number to call. I almost cried with joy. Then with fear, because I’m a 17 year old with social anxiety, and I don’t like to make phone calls. You can’t see their face! How are you supposed to pick up on social cues!? As she moved on to help the next student, I hesitated – maybe one last Google search on my phone could pick up something I hadn’t seen before.
“I worked at KIDZ BOP for three years!!! Ask me anything!!! (AMA Reddit)”
Ohoho yes, this is what I needed! A man on the inside! It was perfect! It was around four years old, but I was sure that my inquiry was not a new one. I clicked the link and began to read. He worked there for three years, started as an intern, then was promoted to Market Coordinator. The AMA was filled with fun stories of all the departments, stories about the Kidz Bop Kidz™, a retelling of the time he was in a music video, and many more. I kept scrolling. I was still hopeful, some might say naively at this point. Then, I see it.
He…he didn’t – he didn’t know. Not only did he not know, he had no idea. Not even a hunch, a theory, or a quip about how he heard someone talking about it once. No, none of that, nothing. Utterly, and truly defeated, I called the number Mrs Anderson had given me earlier. My need for knowledge overpowered my social anxiety. I just needed to know. A woman picks up the phone, and listens to my plea.
“Hmmm, I’m not sure, because I don’t work specifically with Kidz Bop, but I have a contact that may be able to give you that information,” she said so innocently, not knowing the great pain she has caused me with just one sentence. I fall to my knees, rip my notebook out of my backpack, and ask for the contact. It was an email. I go home, write an email to the contact, and wait for a response.
I’m still waiting for that response.
When it comes down to it, it’s probably some intern out there just trying their best to make the songs more kid friendly. It’s the uncertainty, the not-knowing, however, that keeps me up at night. I know so much about Kidz Bop now, the names of the the Kidz Bop Kidz™, the tour dates, the parent company’s contacts, when they were bought out, the reason they chose the songs (they just rip off the the Billboard Top 100 list), the anger some people have around the whole company, the backlash, tips and details of their marketing campaign… Yet in my journey, I could not find who changes the lyrics.
Socrates once said, “All I know is that I do not know anything.” In the terms of who re-writes the Kidz Bop lyrics, I do not know anything.
Kidz Bop 36 came out October 13th.