If you were a child in the ’80s, you will most likely remember the hit television show Kids Incorporated, which featured a cast of child and teen singers performing the pop hits of the time. But they weren’t just singing and dancing–musical numbers were integrated into an overarching story about the challenges and adventures of tweens and teens, such as making new friends and navigating that first crush. The show ran from 1984-1993 and was the star-making start of singers and actors like Martika, Fergie, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Mario Lopez.
Let’s remember that these were the days before Radio Disney, which spotlights kid-friendly tunes like a techno version of The Hampster Dance. Kids of the ’80s listened to the same radio stations that their teen and young adult counterparts enjoyed, “iffy” lyrics and all. And given that Kids Incorporated required musical numbers for each episode, you can bet they mined some pretty unlikely choices.
And that’s where this blog post and its “They covered THAT?!” theme comes in… Here are some of the surprising choices that could’ve been disastrous, but thanks to some bombastic energy and wicked singing, end up scoring unforgettable, even borderline inappropriate hits!
We’ll start with the Kids’ cover of Olivia Newton John’s “Physical.” Yes, it’s an odd choice for a children’s television show, but this was the ’80s, people, before the days of the child-appropriate Kidz Bop. With some clever exercise-themed visuals, strong lead singing by Renee Sands and the backup vocals of the amazing Rashaan Patterson (especially in verse 2), you’ll be asking “Olivia Newton Who?”:
Next we move to this unlikely choice by New Wave duo Sparks with Go-Go’s guitarist Jane Wiedlin. Sparks’ offbeat style and cult following clearly did not intimidate Kids Incorporated, and the result was bizarro in the most wonderful sense of the word. The quirky harmonizing of Jerry Sharell and Martika Marrero gives the number an edgy quality, and the Jordache fashion consisting of shoulderblade-enhancing denim with hot pink accents (also shown above) is too cool for school!:
We end with the Kids’ cover of “We Built This City” by Starship, a track that once earned the “worst song ever” ranking but effectively sets the stage here for a sound effect-ridden musical number on par with the most ambitious of community theater performances. But with metallic construction hats, cuffs and collars, the number sparkles in a way that makes me think the joke’s on us. Somehow we can’t stop watching, or listening, thanks to that springboard sound effect (used bountifully in this clip). Resist the urge to do a cartwheel as you enjoy this piece:
Now if only a Kids Incorporated reunion were in the works…