Ask any kid who has belted out a tune in front of the mirror with a hairbrush as a microphone. Matt Martinez is a 13-year-old living the dream as one of the stars of the Kidz Bop Kids: Life of the Party tour coming to Clearwater's Capitol Theatre on Friday.
For the last 15 years, Kidz Bop has put together a family-friendly quartet that performs pop music cover tunes. It has become a media empire, selling more Top 10 albums than Bruce Springsteen or Madonna. Last year alone, the sing-along superstars sold more albums than Nick Jonas, Katy Perry, Demi Lovato, Ellie Goulding, Wiz Khalifa, Jason Derulo and Rihanna — combined.
In a phone call from a 50-city tour stop in Washington, D.C., Martinez talked of life as one of the Kidz, performing pop songs and dance moves in an interactive show with cleaned-up lyrics. The job allows the kids to live the life, sorta, of a pop star — hitting the road, making videos, performing with the Rockettes at Christmas at Radio City Music Hall.
Like their cover tunes, this brand of stardom is pretty similar to the real thing, and still a lot of fun.
"I kind of like that you are known, but, like, you aren't getting over flooded with attention," Martinez said. "I love the fans and stuff, and when they come up to take a picture we'll obviously say yes because it would be rude to say no. And you are under the view of the parents also, so of course you aren't going to be rude."
In many ways he's still a typical tweener, spending lots of time on YouTube. He's watching Tobuscus, the gamer and comedian also known as Toby Joe Turner, and endlessly rewatching Vines like the little kid in the "Oh my gawd, I love Chipotle" clip.
It's appropriate. It was YouTube that got him this gig.
His mom is a dance teacher in North Bergen, N.J., and his dad is a professional drummer. They saw the casting call two years ago, and he auditioned on YouTube, showing off killer dance moves for an 11-year-old. He was one of only 12 kids brought to Dallas.
In Dallas, the finalists learned a dance routine to Bruno Mars' Locked out of Heaven (changing the word "sex" to "love") and Beauty and the Beat by Justin Bieber (changing "Baby, do it like you do," to "Baby, dance it like you do.")
He made the final four, along with Ashlynn Chong, Sela Hack and Grant Knoche.
This could be a training ground for future stardom. Kidz alumni include Ross Lynch of R5, Noah Munck (Gibby from iCarly), Becky G (from the Kidz Bop 19 cast; her song Shower later appeared on Kidz Bop 27) and Disney Channel star Zendaya, who came in second to country singer Kellie Pickler in the 2013 finals of Dancing With the Stars.
This is the last tour for Matt Martinez because, like Menudo, the Kidz Bop managers regularly recast a new band of performers.
"They switch off every three years because we get too old," said Martinez, who dreams of becoming a film director one day. "I have really loved this whole opportunity, but I think of this as step forward and I will do some new things."
Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at [email protected] Follow @SharonKWn.