It’s a popular song that almost everyone has heard. That includes you. You may have even found yourself humming or singing along, blindly following along. But did you ever really pay attention to what this song with a feel-good beat and catchy sing-along chorus is actually depicting? Or even advocating?
“Pumped Up Kicks” was the song that got American indie pop band Foster the People a major record deal. The song has a delightfully islandish beat and the music video depicts the band playing the song frivolously. They are gyrating on stage and acting as if they are enjoying themselves. There are scenes of various recreational activities. In one scene, the band members are throwing a frisbee in the park and feeling footloose and fancy free. Meanwhile, the lyrics of the song depict a troubled young man who is considering going on a killing spree of gunfire. Consider the catchy, feel-good chorus:
“All the other kids with the pumped up kicks
You’d better run, better run, outrun my gun
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks
You’d better run, better run, faster than my bullets.”
Members of the band have weighed in on the matter, saying that they wanted to go inside the mind of an “isolated, psychotic kid.” Foster claims to have been bullied relentlessly in high school, and the bassist had a cousin who was a survivor of the infamous Columbine school shootings back in 1999.
What makes it more interesting is the way it is presented. For example, the Pearl Jam song Jeremy had a similar theme that was controversial, but the music was not upbeat and with a sing-along feel. This song has a catchy chorus and presents disturbing scenes with a casual indifference. It is theorized that the song’s opening line, which reads “Robert’s got a quick hand,” is a reference to Robert Hawkins, the person who committed the Westroads Malls shooting in Omaha, Nebraska. The band has denied any link, claiming the selection of the name Robert to be purely coincidental.
MTV obviously saw a problem with the song’s content. It removed the words bullet and gun from the song’s chorus when it was played on the network.
Common Sense Conspiracy isn’t trying to condemn the song, or any song like it. It is thought provoking and we encourage people to become more aware of situations like this. However, we find it interesting how many people are bobbing their heads and enjoying the song with no realization of what it is actually discussing.
A similar example is the Prince song “Seven.” The song had a great bass and dance beat and became an instant club hit. People all over the world writhed and enjoyed the extremely catchy sing-along chorus. However, how many realized that the song is actually a musical representation of the Book of Revelations from the Bible, set to catchy music. How many people that enjoyed the songs in nightclubs across the world would have been shocked to know that the chorus they were singing to was speaking of the end of the world and the second return of Jesus Christ? Kind of makes you want to put down your drink, doesn’t it? Or drink more. Depends on how you look at it.
There are dozens of songs like this that present real issues with music that does not match the mood of the lyrics. And it is a very crafty way for artists to try to send messages subliminally. It’s amazingly successful. Chances are, a huge segment of the population could sing along the choruses of Pearl Jam’s Jeremy, Prince’s Seven, and Foster the People’s Pumped Up Kicks and have never stopped for a second to ask what are they really singing? How many atheists have danced and writhed to a song about the second coming of Christ and the birth of a new age as seen by Christians? How many have bobbed their heads to a song about a kid embarking on a school shooting?
Kinda makes you want to stop and listen next time you hear a song, doesn’t it?
We cannot post the music video for “Pumped Up Kicks” here due to copyright restrictions, but you can view it and hear the song at this link.