By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
The Kidz Bop Kids are the reigning lords of pre-tween pop, having held the Billboard charts in their tyrannical grip since the first installment of Kidz Bopappeared sometime in the early '00s. For the uninitiated, Kidz Bop features the Hits of Today remade by a chorus of anonymous tykes (the better to discourage stalkers or contract renegotiations). The contemporary compilations mostly offer Top 40 pop hits that have been scrubbed of nuancewhich, being Top 40 pop hits, they didn't have much of anywayand expletives.
Whatever's left is essayed with the breezy simplicity and utter lack of discernment only an eight-year-old can muster. More than most of their adult counterparts, the Kids are weirdly adept at stripping a track down to its emotional nub, which is why their version of "Since U Been Gone" is a roof-raising delight, and their rendition of "Lonely No More" (also on Kidz Bop 8, the series high point so far) sounds as miserable as if it were being sung by a choir of Dickensian orphans. Because the Kids are only as good as their material, even they can't do much with the coma-inducing "Speed of Sound" or "Chariot," low points of the anemic new Kidz Bop 9. Renditions of "Axel F (The Frog Song)" and Weezer's "Beverly Hills" are treated with equal gravity, though the Kids seem to have no more use for Weezer than the rest of us.
After several scrupulously secular holiday compilations, a Christian pop collection was probably inevitable. But did it have to be so dull? While the pop compilations remain mostly faithful to their source material, most every track on Worship Jamz is reduced to an ungodly jumble of synthesizers, gratuitous telephone-style vocal effects, and disembodied chirping cut with the occasional whiff of reggae or Europop. Mostly the album sounds like a pint-sized Ace of Base cover band. The Kidz labor mightily throughout, but unlike their secular counterparts, no one sounds like they're having a particularly good time. By the time you get to track 29 or so ("You're Worthy of My Praise," probably perfectly nice in its original version), you'll know just how they feel.