Decades after climbing the charts with Video Killed the Radio Star and other famous covers, the Mini Pops are back with a new set of performers serving up Top 40 hits with a family-friendly twist, writes Leslie Foster.
Did you listen to the Mini Pops while you were growing up?
The iconic top 40-compilation albums were first launched by K-tel in the 1980s by Philip Kives, an innovator in direct marketing and creator of the first infomercial. Mini Pops albums featured classics such as Cruel Summer, Video Killed The Radio Star and Rock This Town. Bringing back memories yet?
Well, the Mini Pop Kids have returned, with a new cohort of talented performers rocking out to songs from today’s top 40 hits.
The Mini Pop Kids, ages 10-14, are from all over Canada. In December, they released Mini Pop Kids 12, featuring 22 of today’s biggest hits, like All About That Bass, Shake It Off, Fireball, and the ever popular Let It Go.
The reintroduction of Mini Pops continues the tradition of entertaining kids with their family-friendly style, allowing them to just be kids a little while longer.
“We offer the Top 40 hits of today, with family-friendly lyrics,” said Stephanie West, show director/producer.
“Kids want to be part of pop culture but there’s a lot of violence and gratuitous sex that we don’t need to expose them to. This is a great alternative.
“Our mandate is to keep things fun and safe.”
Mini Pops appear to be loved as much today as they were in the ‘80s. Mini Pop Kids 11 topped the iTunes Kids Charts and the Wal-Mart sales charts, even beating out A-list musicians such as One Direction and Lady Gaga some weeks.
And in support of the most recent album release, Mini Pops announced multiple live Canadian shows in 2015, including a stop at Ottawa’s Centrepointe Theatres March 28.
“The Mini Pops have struck a chord in kids of all ages, so now, being able to perform live for their fans in Canada was a natural progression for us,” said Samantha Kives, business development and music licensing at K-tel.
“These kids have a true passion for what they do and it shines through their music and in their performances.”
The high-energy concerts will have families dancing in their seats, as the Mini Pop Kids sing and dance to versions of the latest hits by Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj and more. The show sneaks in some nostalgic fun for parents, too.
Mini Pops will also invite one or two dance clubs in each city to join them on stage as backup dancers, to increase the show’s energy and get the community involved.
Parenting Times recently interviewed two Mini Pop Kids, Jake Donaldson and Mylie Taylor.
Donaldson, a well-spoken, energetic 13-year-old from Newcastle, Ont., has been performing all his young life. He developed a deep interest in music about four years ago and has been with the group for two years, performing on albums 10, 11, and 12.
He has a heavy training schedule. In addition to rehearsals for Mini Pop Kids, Donaldson has over 10 hours of dance per week and an hour each of vocal and guitar lessons. He plays his guitar every day and also plays piano, ukulele, and other instruments that he teaches himself.
And, he admits he is always singing.
Donaldson explained that it is a big deal for him to be part of the Mini Pops family and such a talented group of kids. “It’s an amazing experience,” he said.
“I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
His favourite part of being a Mini Pop Kid is recording albums and having the opportunity to go into the studio, meeting people in the music business, and seeing the album come together.
He says the most challenging part is the dancing, especially memorizing all the steps.
“When singing and dancing at the same time, breathing can be tough, but they’re crazy awesome dances, and I get better and better all the time.”
And Mylie Taylor, an outgoing and bubbly 12-year-old from Burlington, Ont., loves to dance, act, and sing. She has also performed on albums 10, 11, and 12.
Taylor is also very busy. She dances competitively and appears as a correspondent for YTV The Zone!
She dances six days per week and her dad, Mike Taylor, a band member in the Canadian rock band Walk Off The Earth, helps her with vocals.
Taylor said being a Mini Pop Kid is a great opportunity. “I’ve learned so many skills, especially when working on commercials and music videos.”
However, her favourite part is the live performances, and seeing all the kids enjoy the songs.
Her toughest challenge is balancing training, performing, and schoolwork. With tests at the end of the year, it can get hectic, and she appreciates the support she gets from her teachers. “It’s great to have teachers that understand and help me catch up.”
In addition to their already busy lives, Donaldson, Taylor and the other Mini Pop Kids have rehearsals. Training varies. With live performances, rehearsals are more frequent, learning new dances and putting the whole show together. There really is no typical week. But the kids seem to
Most important, the Mini Pop Kids are surrounded by a supportive group of grownups. “The team we work with is incredible,” said Donaldson.
Stephanie West, choreographer Jamie Hodgins, and vocal coach Michelle Neman are all there to make sure the kids perform to the best of their abilities in a safe and nurturing environment.
“Our parents, the dance choreographers, vocal coaches. They are amazing and supportive of all of us and we couldn’t do it without them.”
Mini Pop Kids
When: Saturday, March 28 at Centrepointe Theatres