The Kidz Bop Kids’ new video for “Born This Way” raises so many questions that we don’t even know where to start. Are the kids in the video even the same kids on the vocal track? (Does it matter?) How much money did this video cost (and how much did they save by shooting the commercial for Kidz Bop 20 at the same time)? Will this guaranteed-viral video approach the number of views (and for that matter, number of thumbs-down votes) that Rebecca Black’s “Friday” reached before it was pulled from YouTube? Is that an Orange amp onstage?? (Did a metalhead Kidz Bop employee get a pretty convenient write-off from this shoot?)
What’s really bugging us, on first blush, is the ways in which the song has been edited, presumably under the rationale of “suitability for child consumption.” We have defended the Kidz Bop series from easy aesthetic mockery simply because pop music is infectious and social and sometimes contains material that parents of the target 5-12 year old audience might find objectionable. (Kidz Bop 20 also contains versions of the radio edits of Cee Lo’s “F?k You” and Pink’s “F?king Perfect.”) But just because a parent might not want to answer a five-year-old’s questions about the mentions of racial background or sexual orientation doesn’t necessarily mean that Kidz Bop ought to have completely defanged the song.
The removal of mentions of sexuality is particularly problematic. We don’t necessarily agree with the removal of “You’re black, white, beige, chola descent/ You’re Lebanese, you’re Orient” (though in fairness, the word “Orient” in particular probably shouldn’t have made the cut for the original song), but we can understand that, say, the word “chola” has layers of meaning that might be beyond the understanding of children. Possibly the reason for eliminating mentions of race is in fact that race is a social construct, and thus, people are not “born” that way! (Okay, probably not.)
But the mentions of sexuality are merely labels, without specifics, and can be explained without any discussion of sex, by eliding the specifics of the words’ definitions into a simple explanation of what types of people “like” what types of people. And even if they felt the need to remove those lines, couldn’t they have left the practically innocuous “don’t be a drag, just be a queen” refrain alone? That omission is particularly glaring considering it can easily be read without connotation.
We’re curious whether Lady Gaga will take this up as a cause c?l?bre. She has no legal right to stop the Kidz Bop Kids from covering and releasing her song, but she can certainly condemn the edits, or maybe even donate the songwriting royalties she’ll receive from sales of the cover version to an appropriate organization. When she allegedly denied “Weird Al” permission to parody her song, the story blew up. And in a similar case of editing for children, Lee Hall’s opera Beached became national news in the United Kingdom when a school district protested to lines about queerness (spoken by an adult to an adult, even).
We’ve listed all the lyrics that the Kidz Bop version of “Born This Way” excises below:
Don’t be a drag, just be a queen (3x)
A different lover is not a sin (changed to “A different viewpoint is not a sin”)
Don’t be a drag, just be a queen
Whether you’re broke or evergreen
You’re black, white, beige, chola descent
You’re Lebanese, you’re Orient
No matter gay, straight, or bi,
Lesbian, transgendered life
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born to survive
No matter black, white or beige
Chola or Orient made
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born to be brave