Single Review: Kim Wilde “Kids In America”

Kids In America
Album: Kim Wilde
Year: 1981

“Kids In America” is one of those 80s song which didn’t quite go away. In recent years, it’s the become the go-to song used in child-oriented entertainment: the Nickoldean movie “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius,” the American Idol spinoff, American Juniors and the Pokemon movie, “Digimon” have all featured it. In “Jimmy Neutron” and “American Juniors,” the song was promiment and was a lead single promoting the movie or television show.

Each current version has been sunny and celebrated being young. However, in Kim Wilde’s “Kids in America,” she sees teenagers as lost as she is while she walks the city, wasting time.

The synthesizers bustle, skirting past the low humming of the keyboards, capturing the atmosphere of a busy city filled with traffic and blaring car horns. She observes her home her window and watches people travel to visit some area of where she lives. She’s by herself and muses about her loneliness. (“Looking out a dirty old window/Down below the cars in the/City go rushing by/I sit here alone/And I wonder why”).

She decides to leave her apartment. It’s the weekend in the summer and people are walking to the stores, restrauants, and musuems within the city. The heat isn’t letting up but she doesn’t care. She wanders the city, looking for its energy and learning about the people in it.. She notices a group of young people talking and walking, going through certain rites of passage (first kiss, heartbreak, being gossiped about.) (“Friday night and everyone’s moving/I can fell the heat/But it’s shooting/Heading down/I search for the beat in this dirty town/Downtown the young ones are going/Downtown the young ones are growing”).

In the chorus, she declares that teenagers in the United States are living for the moment. (“We’re the kids in America/we’re the kids in America/Everybody live for the music-go-round”).

The music moves at a quicker pace as she walks into the seedier section of the city. Lights illuminate the sidewalks and streets. She runs into a guy she knows, who’s ready to go home. However, she’s having fun and isn’t going to leave anytime soon. She meets a cocky, daring guy who’s giving her some trouble. She stops him before he attempts to make another move on her, telling him they won’t mention what happened ever again. She explains, matter-of-factly that life can be harsh. She adds that naivete and honesty won’t earn someone recongnition or fame. Life is cutthroat and so is she. (“Bright lights the music gets faster/Look boy, don’t check on your watch/Not another glance/I’m not leaving now, honey not a chance/Hot-shot, give me no problems/Much later baby you’ll be saying never mind/You know life is cruel, life is never kind/Kind hearts don’t make a new story/Kind hearts don’t grab any glory”).

In the third verse, she beckons a guy to sit closer to her and she makes out with him. The intimacy is implied. Unlike the other verses, it’s not as descriptive to keep it PG-13. (“Come closer, honey that’s better/Got to get a brand new experience/Feeling right/Oh don’t try to stop baby/Hold me tight”).

It’s about six a.m. and she’s been out all night. She sees the sun slowly rising above the skyscrapers and other buildings. She prefers the city and thinks the suburbs are growing faster, leaving their distinctive feel behind which disappoints her. She declares there are going to be a lot of changes happening throughout the United States. (“Outside a new day is dawning/Outside sububia’s sprawling everywhere/I don’t want to go baby/New York to East California/There’s a new wave coming I warn you”). The use of new wave could be taken two ways: saying the genre of music is going to be a big trend or significant changes in people’s attitudes are going to be known.

At the end, “Kids In America” songwriter Ricky Wilde says he’s among of the new generation of teenagers growing up in the United States. (“We’re the kids/We’re the kids/We’re the kids in America”).

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