Music News & Reviews

Kidz Bop Kids lend hits a youthful pop

Kidz Bop Kids are, clockwise from left, Bredia Santoro, Matt Martinez, Ashlynn Chong and Grant Knoche.
Kidz Bop Kids are, clockwise from left, Bredia Santoro, Matt Martinez, Ashlynn Chong and Grant Knoche. Kidz Bop Kids

Millennials and post-millennials who grew up watching Nickelodeon are sure to remember seeing at least one “Kidz Bop” commercial during their childhood cartoon binges.

First released in 2001, the heavily marketed Kidz Bop albums feature compilations of contemporary radio hits from various well-known artists, but with kids handling vocal duties (often the lyrics had been softened to become family-friendly).

The idea was developed by Cliff Chenfeld and Craig Balsam, co-founders of music imprint Razor & Tie, which reps a diverse roster of artists, including Joan Baez, Foreigner and HIM.

Out of the gate, the “sung-by-kids-for-kids” concept found traction, with the first Kidz Bop debuting at No. 76 on the Billboard 200 chart, with remade songs from ’N Sync, Blink-182 and Christina Aguilera.

Dozens of albums later, the franchise has an enviable force in the music business, accounting for nearly 19 percent of all children’s music sales in 2013. What’s more, its records regularly chart in the top 10 of the Billboard 200.

Over the years, Kidz Bop has expanded its business to include music videos and live shows, such as the one set to take place at Sacramento’s Crest Theatre on Sunday. Part of its national “Make Some Noise Tour,” the show is one of only two stops in California.

By releasing multiple albums a year and making its music available on various platforms – digital downloads, a 24/7 Sirius XM radio, streaming services – Kidz Bop has been able to develop a wide audience and maintain its cultural relevance, says Sasha Junk, Kidz Bop’s senior vice president of marketing.

“I think for a lot of families, we’re part of their daily lives,” Junk says. “They listen to us in the car, on the way to school or on the way to soccer practice. Or they’re listening together at home, you know, singing along. … And I think kids just love to sing and dance, and they love to hear other kids sing.”

As tastes have changed, so have Kidz Bop performers, Junk says.

In the early years, the roster of kids making Kidz Bop TV commercials and albums was a relatively large one. In 2009, franchise owners decided to winnow down that number with the creation of Kidz Bop Kids, which features around five regular performers who sing and dance. In addition, the cast would change every three years.

“I think as we continued to expand and grow, we wanted a dedicated group of kids that could be the face and voice of Kidz Bop – so that we could have consistency kind of across the brand in everything that we did,” Junk says. “And I think the fans love it as well, because they get to know and really love the current group of Kidz Bop Kids.”

The third incarnation of Kidz Bop Kids is Grant Knoche of Texas, Matt Martinez of New Jersey, Bredia Santoro of Illinois and Ashlynn Chong of Southern California.

Chong, 13, says being a part of Kidz Bop has been a dream come true, and expects this experience will help her achieve her dreams in the entertainment industry.

“I think being with Kidz Bop is kind of extraordinary,” says Chong, who adds that she doesn’t feel she’s “missing out” on other childhood experiences by working and touring the country. “I’m kind of getting more out of my childhood than I hoped.”

Despite the many hours they log as professional entertainers, the Kidz Bop Kids do return home often and live normal lives, says Sacramento native and Kidz Bop studio teacher Theresa Parilo, who assists the performers in their required three hours of online education during school days.

“I mean, it’s a huge change for all their families, for sure,” Parilo says. “You can’t say that it isn’t. But they do get a couple days a week usually to be home with their friends and their families.”

Parilo says she’s looking forward to having Kidz Bop come to Sacramento, especially with it being her hometown.

“I’m really excited to have the show in Sacramento,” she says. “I have a huge family and cousins that are full of kids, so we’re going to make sure they all get to the show and have a good time.”

Kidz Bop

What: Pop-music hits sung by kids for kids on the “Make Some Noise Tour”

When: 3 p.m. Sunday

Where: Crest Theatre, 1013 K St., Sacramento

Cost: $25-$45