Famous Faces That Were Once In Kidz Bop

It’s the musical phenomenon that every aspiring singer and dancer wants to be a part of when they’re in their tweens. It’s also one that every member probably wants to eradicate all memories of when they get to their teens. Essentially a glorified version of children’s karaoke, Kidz Bop has been producing family-friendly versions of contemporary hits since the turn of the century, racking up astonishing sales of over 21 million, 41 billion streams and more than 40 entries on the Billboard 200.

If you don’t have kids, chances are you haven’t even heard of this curious franchise, which alongside its bread and butter compilation album series has also spawned world tours, video games and even fashion ranges. However, you are likely to know of at least a handful of its graduates. 

Yes, over the last 20 years Kidz Bop has given the likes of the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon a run for their money when it comes to spawning the stars of the future. “We joke that it’s the new ‘Mickey Mouse Club,’ ” its record company Razor & Tie’s COO Victor Zaraya told the New York Post in 2015. From chart-topping singers to Emmy Award-winning actors, here’s a look at some of the famous names who emerged from the collective that’s given everyone from Madonna to Modest Mouse the squeaky clean treatment.

Noah Munck went from Kidz Bop to dubstep

As Gibby in Nickelodeon comedy iCarly and “Naked Rob” in ’80s nostalgia-fest The Goldbergs, Noah Munck has carved out quite a niche for himself playing guys who appear to be averse to a shirt. But you may not know that the actor, who, as his IMDb page indicates, has appeared in Bad Teacher, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and Just Before I Go, used to moonlight as a music producer, too.

In 2012 he released his first single under the guise of NoxiK after becoming obsessed with the dubstep of Skrillex. In 2016 Munck told Paper, “That genre blew my mind. I was like, ‘Oh my God, what the hell is this s***?’ So I decided to try to make it.” By this point the double threat had also released the Hotline EP, gone on tour and formed a synth-pop outfit with his younger brother inspired by the likes of The Growlers and Mac DeMarco.

It’s fair to say that Munck’s first musical venture wasn’t so cool. The actor was reportedly part of the gang that covered the Jonas Brothers’ “When You Look Me In the Eyes,” Danity Kane’s “Damaged” and Miley Cyrus’ “See You Again” on Kidz Bop 14.

Olivia Holt kicked it with Kidz Bop

Olivia Holt’s first brush with fame occurred in 2008 when she joined the Kidz Bop cast for the 14th volume of its phenomenally successful compilation series. The youngster not only appeared in the TV commercial for the album but also got to join bona fide chart star “Beautiful Girls” singer Sean Kingston on the record, too.

Holt has continued to pursue a career in music, contributing tracks to Disney Channel films Girl vs. Monster and Bears, scoring a US Dance No. 1 with 2016’s “Generous” and collaborating with various superstar DJs like Martin Jensen, R3HAB and Nicky Romero.

But the former tween star’s biggest success has come in the acting world. Three years after her one and only Kidz Bop appearance, she landed the lead role in martial arts series Kickin’ It. Holt subsequently became a Disney Channel regular before making the step up to more adult-oriented fare, playing Renée Zellweger and Greg Kinnear’s daughter in Christian drama Some Kind of Different as Me, and then starring as Tandy Bowen in Freeform’s Marvel Comics series Cloak & Dagger. The multi-talented star reprised the latter role in Runaways‘ third season and in Disney XD animation Spider-Man.

Ross Lynch let it rock after Kidz Bop

Possibly the biggest male breakout star from the Kidz Bop stable, Ross Lynch lent his vocals to Vol. 15 in the late ’00s. You can also see his blond locks in the video for their tween-friendly cover of Kevin Rudolf’s “Let It Rock” (sample lyric change: “so he raised his middle finger” becomes “so he raised his hand and waved it”).

In 2011, Lynch once again got the chance to play the pop star when he landed the role of singing viral sensation Austin in Disney Channel series Austin and Ally. The youngster also showcased his multiple talents as a cast member of the Teen Beach Movie franchise, appearing on the soundtrack which charted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200. Of course, by this point Lynch had already become a bona fide pop star himself as the frontman of R5, a guitar-led outfit also featuring three of his siblings.

Lynch then made quite the departure from his squeaky clean past by portraying real life serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer in his teenage years in the 2017 indie movie My Friend Dahmer. He went on to star opposite fellow Kidz Bop graduate Olivia Holt in Status Update and bag the part of the titular witch’s boyfriend Harvey Kinkle on Netflix hit Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

Jake Short stayed in showbiz after Kidz Bop

Party Boyz’s “Party Like a Rockstar” (“H** don’t you know I f*** with fine diamonds”), Sean Kingston’s “Me Love” (“We used to kiss and caress”) and Boys and Girls’ The Great Escape (“Let’s get drunk and ride around”) were just a few of the slightly inappropriate chart hits that Jake Short got to make listenable for tween audiences on Kidz Bop 13.

The Indianapolis native had already appeared as Anna Nicole Smith’s son, Daniel, in a biopic about the tragic star. And following a brief brush with pop stardom, Short went on to play scientist Nose in kids fantasy Shorts and bag the recurring roles of creative genius Fletcher Quimby and young doctor Oliver in Disney sitcoms A.N.T. Farm and Mighty Med, respectively.

In 2018, Short returned to the big screen in #Roxy, a teen rom-com adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac and two years later he joined fellow Disney Channel grads David Henrie and Gregg Sulkin on the Selena Gomez-executive produced This Is the Year. The actor also traveled across the pond to take the lead role of Mattie Sullivan, a middling American soccer player accidentally transferred to an English Premier League club, in BBC sitcom The First Team.

Elijah 'EJ' Johnson was part of the golden Kidz Bop era

Elijah ‘EJ’ Johnson was a longtime member of one of the most successful Kidz Bop cadres. As The Hype Magazine reported, he appeared on compilations 20 through 24, all of which reached the top three on the Billboard 200 in the early ’10s. Unlike the majority of the franchise’s tween singers, the Detroit native was already an experienced star of the stage.

Before joining in with renditions of Bruno Mars’ “The Lazy Song,” One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” and Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger,” Johnson played Young Simba in The Lion King musical that took Broadway by storm. As The Hype Magazine noted, he reprised the role in its National Tour and its Las Vegas production, too.

After leaving Kidz Bop, Johnson joined another already established crew: R&B boyband Mindless Behavior. Following their third LP, #OfficialMBMusic, the group went their separate ways. The star has since focused on his acting career, playing Kevin Miller in gritty teen drama Misguided Behavior and Jacob in The Millennial.

Spencer Locke went from Kidz Bop to K-Mart

Spencer Locke was one of the Kidz Bop series’ earliest recruits, having appeared in 2003’s Everyone’s A Star!, an original flick from the franchise. The Florida native got to perform the likes of Christina Aguilera’s “What A Girl Wants,” Pink’s “Get the Party Started” and Sheryl Crow’s “Soak up the Sun” in the direct-to-DVD movie. But unlike most of her fellow famous alumni, Locke decided against pursuing a career in music.

Instead the youngster focused on her acting talents and within a year she’d landed parts in Spanglish and Without a Trace. Her big break came in 2007 when she bagged the role of K-Mart in the more bloodthirsty franchise Resident Evil. Locke went on to boost her horror credentials by pulling double duty in mind-bending slasher Detention, appearing in the fourth installment of the Insidious series and reuniting with Lin Shaye in The Final Wish.

Locke has still put her voice to good use in animations Monster House and Tarzan and video game Forza Horizon 2. And she got to showcase her singing and dancing skills once again in 2010 when she was cast as one of The Jennifers in Nickelodeon musical comedy Big Time Rush.

Kidz Bop alum Becky G brought things full circle

How’s this for bringing things full circle. In 2011, Becky G lent her vocals to the 19th volume of the hugely popular Kidz Bop compilation series. And then just six years later, one of her very own songs, “Shower,” was given the tweenybopper treatment by a younger group of aspiring pop stars on album number 27.

The singer born Rebbeca Marie Gomez first caught attention outside the franchise when she was invited to appear on will.i.am’s single “Problem.” This was just the first of many star collaborations Becky G would record over the next decade, with Pitbull, Cher Lloyd, Bad Bunny, Maluma, Lil Jon, David Guetta and Jessie J some of the big names who joined her in the studio. But she took some time dropping her debut album, with Mala Santa only arriving in 2019, by which point she’d already picked up numerous Latin American Music Awards.

The Californian has also found the time to carve out an acting career, too, appearing as Trini Kwan in the Power Rangers reboot, starring in sci-fi adventure A.X.L. and voicing Chloe in CGI animation Gnome Alone. Becky G has also guested on Empire and Austin and Ally, and in 2019 hosted the MTV European Music Awards. 

Kiana Ledé was a Kidz Bop competition winner

Kiana Ledé has her mother to thank for her blossoming acting and music career. In 2011, Ledé’s mom uploaded a video of the youngster singing a self-penned song while also playing the piano for a Kidz Bop competition to discover the next big star. As J-14 reported at the time, Ledé went on to beat 45,000 other kids to the KIDZ Star USA Grand Prize, which was awarded to her by American Idol winner Kris Allen.

Although her subsequent deal with RCA Records failed to launch her to stardom, Ledé enjoyed much more success when she signed with Republic. She collaborated with the likes of Offset, Matoma and Ari Lennox, supported Jessie J on tour and reached No. 30 on the Billboard 200 with her 2020 debut album, Kiki.

But as with most of the Kidz Bop graduates, there’s more to Ledé’s talents than just singing. As her IMDb page indicates, she has also launched an acting career, playing secretive intellectual Zoe in MTV’s adaptation of Scream, voicing bully Greenwood in sci-fi animation Next Gen and starring as the eldest daughter Veronica in Rev Run’s Netflix sitcom All About the Washingtons.

Kidz Bop turned Fin Argus' world 'upside down'

“It kind of turned my life upside down,” Fin Argus told You’re So Beautiful Now in 2020 about his stint recording two albums, making commercials and performing in front of thousands of fans as a member of Kidz Bop. And he’s not wrong. Since leaving the franchise, the Des Plaines native has taken center stage in a hit Christian movie and appeared in not just one, but two Marvel series.

The man also known as Steffan Argus first entered the comic book universe playing Jack in an episode of Fox’s alternative X-Men series The Gifted. Three years later he popped up as Gordon in a more successful comic book spin-off Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. But his big break came in 2020 when he was cast as Zach Sobiech, the real-life singer-songwriter who sadly died of cancer seven years previously, in the Disney movie Clouds.

So why the name change? Well, Argus told Schön in 2020, “Fin is a nickname that for a long time only my dad and little sister called me. The name came to hold a special place in my heart and ultimately felt more like me. More and more friends started calling me Finover the years. As I’ve been coming into myself and breaking down bounds that limit my self-expression, I’ve begun to realise that name resonates deeply with what I represent artistically.”

Kidz Bop inspired Mary Sarah to forge a music career

Country music star Mary Sarah is one of the few famous Kidz Bop graduates who’s discussed her time in the family-friendly franchise. In 2014 she told Elicit magazine that her stint on tour with her fellow tweenyboppers inspired her to take up a career in performing: “I was singing a solo and the entire audience was singing with me. I walked off that stage and knew that I wanted to sing for the rest of my life.”

Sarah was promoting her second album at the time, Bridges, an impressively star-studded affair which featured duets with country legends such as Willie Nelson, Vince Gill and the one and only Dolly Parton. She went on to release the EP, Dress Up This Town, and as the Houston Chronicle reported, she performed at the Grand Ole Opry after attracting attention as a contestant on The Voice.

Coached by Blake Shelton, the Tulsa native made it all the way to the semi-finals in the tenth season, and as Taste of Country noted, it was thanks to knockout performances of tracks by Maren Morris, Randy Travis and Tammy Wynette. Five years later, the Kidz Bop star made everyone feel old when she became a mother herself. Yes, in January 2021, Sarah and boyfriend Mitch Clark welcomed into the world daughter Avalyn, a name the singer told People means, “‘sound, voice, power, beautiful breath of life.”

Zendaya lip-synched for her life and Kidz Bop

Of course, the most successful Kidz Bop star is undoubtedly the Emmy-winning, box office chart-topping, superhero franchise star known as Zendaya. Yes, back in 2009, the multi-talented Californian lent her vocals to the 15th volume of the compilation series and even appeared in a promo video singing Katy Perry’s “Hot N Cold.” Although as she revealed on Twitter some years later, she was actually lip-synching to someone else’s vocals!

Zendaya went on to become one of the Disney Channel’s biggest names thanks to her starring role in sitcom Shake It Up. And just like Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez before her, she managed to parlay her child success into adulthood, appearing opposite Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron in musical phenomenon The Greatest Showman and playing Tom Holland’s love interest MJ in the third big screen incarnation of Spider-Man.

Zendaya has also finished runner-up on Dancing with the Stars, reached the Billboard 200 with her self-titled debut album and lent her voice to animations Duck Duck Goose and Smallfoot. But perhaps her most impressive, and audacious, career move came in 2019 when she signed up to play the drug-addicted teen Rue Bennett in HBO’s teen drama-that’s-not-actually-for-teens, Euphoria. At just 24 years old, Zendaya became the youngest ever recipient of the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her acclaimed performance. She’s since added to her filmography with a co-starring turn in black and white two-hander Malcolm and Marie.

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