The finalists, all between the ages of 11 and 15, square off in head-to-head singing matchups, judged by singer-songwriter Gavin DeGraw and RCA executive Lindsey Cook. One kid moves on, one goes home. The first episode with Kylerok, taped in Los Angeles in October, debuts online on Wednesday. He would not tell me what happened. The semifinals are next week, and the final episode is Jan. 30.
Lambdin is the second of three children of John and Cheryl Lambdin, and is in the eighth grade at Smarts Mill Middle School. When we spoke the other day, he was about to go into his rehearsal for “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” in which he is Mr. Wonka, of course.
Here at the State of NoVa, we first saw Kylerok in 2011, when he wowed the New York tennis crowd at the U.S. Open. But he’s been impressing people since he was four years old, when he and his older brother were walking around Kings Dominion and came across a talent competition. Lambdin sang “America the Beautiful” and won, defeating a bunch of teenagers, though a four-year-old singing pretty much anything is going to be cuter than pretty much anything you can name.
Lambdin realized he loved performing publicly, and at nine he played the 9:30 Club with a group of young music students, where he busted out Chicago’s “Hard to Say I’m Sorry.”
Wait, wha? Turns out Kylerok is a classic rock fan, courtesy of his Dad. His favorite groups are Journey, Styx and Heart, and he had seen Heart’s recent performance of “Stairway to Heaven” on the broadcast of the Kennedy Center Honors’ tribute to Led Zeppelin. Asked for Journey songs he might perform, he listed “Don’t Stop Believin” and “Faithfully.” Tearjerkers all.
For his 90-second audition tape, though, Lambdin submitted a video of himself doing “What Makes You Beautiful” by the British boy band One Direction. The tape went to the folks behind Kidz Bop, which if you don’t know is a regular, large-selling compilation of Top 40 hits sung by kids, but with sanitized lyrics. So if Katy Perry sings about having a three-way next Friday, the Kidz Bop version will change it to having three ice creams or something.
So Kidz Bop launched the Kidz Star USA Talent Search, which is not for a spot in the always anonymous Kidz Bop band itself, but for a record contract. The journey to the top is being shown in a seven-episode web series on Vevo, a music video site. The first two episodes were posted last week, and two of the eight contestants are already done. Will Kylerok advance? You’ll have to watch Lambdin duel with Jayna Brown from Laurel on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Lambdin knows he will inevitably be compared to a certain Canadian teen star. “Some people called me Junior Bieber,” he said. But Lambdin has plans to stay in school — Tuscarora High School next, then he is hoping for Brigham Young University for college.
Beyond that, “I just really would love to be a star and make a difference,” he said. “I love when I see smiles on people in the crowd. My fans keep me going.” He said he would like to use his fame to help battle homelessness, and he has performed in a homeless benefit already.
And here he is doing “Don’t Stop Believin,” released roughly 20 years before Kylerok was born: