Kidz Bop, the brand of compilation albums which features child musicians who perform contemporary music hits is pretty popular with some preschoolers and early elementary children. In 2010, the brand scored three of the year’s top ten children’s albums. It’s not surprising that they often have to change their lyrics to suit young ears and take out the overtly sexual references or an F word here and there. But the company recently did their own version of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way and took out quite a lot of the meaning behind the song. In fact, they negated its message when they edited a few lines that don’t say anything explicitly sexual or violent, but merely reference the gay and lesbian population. It is a contradiction in terms of the current anti-bullying campaign we are trying so desperately to get across to today’s kids.
When we censor what kids should hear and not hear, one of the things we are saying is that they are too young to understand certain concepts. I tend to think that if they have to change a song’s lyrics so much, they probably shouldn’t be using that song to begin with as a marketing tool for a children’s song. Furthermore, the changes that were made to this song were not even necessary.
Some of the lyrics that were either edited out completely or changed are”No matter gay, straight or bi/lesbian transgendered life/I’m on the right track baby, I was born to survive” and “Same D.N.A., but born this way.”
Caryn Gantz of Yahoo’s music blog, the Amplifier writes:
It may be early to explain what a drag queen is to a tween, but “No matter gay, straight or bi/lesbian transgendered life/I’m on the right track baby, I was born to survive” doesn’t strike us as particularly controversial.
While I agree that I don’t find those lyrics controversial either, I disagree that tweens don’t know about drag queens. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a twelve-year-old out there that doesn’t. And for the small number of preteens that might not know, isn’t puberty a fine time to learn?
I realize that Kidz Bop is geared toward younger children but if we start censoring the words gay and lesbian out of mainstream use, then aren’t we implying that they are bad or something that kids shouldn’t know about? At the same time, how many of these kids are younger than 10 and already know that they are gay or lesbian themselves? And since many of these kids know the real Lady Gaga lyrics, coupled with the fact that children are even more astute than adults when it comes to minor changes, they will notice them right away. It’s an awful case of subliminal messaging.
My 8-year-old son knows what all these words mean and doesn’t think anything weird or strange about it. In fact when he learned that gay marriage became a law in New York, he simply said, “I don’t know why it’s a big deal and why gay people couldn’t get married before.” In his mind, not yet knowing all the struggles gay and lesbian New Yorkers have gone through to get to that day, he couldn’t reconcile why they had ever been prevented from it in the first place.
I have never tried to shelter him or my girls from hearing those words. To them, they are simply words that describe people, similar to married, single, brunette, tall, etc… I never was a big fan of Kidz Bop, not only because I think the manufactured songs sung by kids sound disingenuous, but because I really don’t believe in censoring music. Ever since I was a teen when Tipper Gore’s group, the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) formed in 1985 with the goal of “increasing parental control over the access of children to music deemed to be violent or sexually suggestive”and blamed teen suicide on rock lyrics, I’ve had a deep aversion to music censorship. But I am against censorship in general, and also believe that kids are smarter and more savvy than many adults think.
When you censor words, you project viewpoints and foster implications. I gotta say I really like this song’s message: be exactly who you are, fully and unapologetically, because who you are is beautiful. Unfortunately, by altering this song, Kidz Bop has changed the meaning to completely opposite of what was originally intended, and used it to promote intolerance … not to mention a whole of lot of dollars.
Censoring songs is one thing, but would you let your young child swear?