Pumped Up Kicks & Mixed Messages

If you listen to the radio a lot or go shopping at the mall (or other places that pump in music), chances are you’ve heard Foster the People’s song “Pumped Up Kicks” and started tapping your foot along.  It’s a catchy, upbeat song that sticks in your head after hearing it.  What most people don’t realize is that Foster the People have written gritty lyrics for such an upbeat song to purposely send a mixed message.  Take a look at these lyrics:

Robert’s got a quick hand.
He’ll look around the room, he won’t tell you his plan.
He’s got a rolled cigarette, hanging out his mouth he’s a cowboy kid.
Yeah, he found a six shooter gun.
In his dad’s closet hidden in a box of fun things, and I don’t even know what.
But he’s coming for you, yeah he’s coming for you.

[Chorus x2:]
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 bullet.

Mark Foster, the band’s lead singer who wrote the song, says that he wrote the song to raise awareness of gun violence.  He tried to envision himself as an “isolated, psychotic kid” who was seeking revenge against the people with “pumped up kicks” (people with money).  Check out the Wikipedia article on Pumped Up Kicks, it’s really interesting.

There are a lot of kids out there who feel like the “isolated, psychotic kid” in this song.  No one listens or genuinely cares for them.  Mom and Dad aren’t really home much, and when they are they still aren’t really “present.”  Friends are few and it seems like they simply don’t belong anywhere or with anyone.

So I’m left with a few questions:

  • Do you think “Pumped Up Kicks” does a good job raising awareness of gun violence?
  • How much should the message (lyrics) and the form (music) match one another?  What do you think the band is getting at by making the message and form say opposite things?
  • Who do you know who might fit the bill for the loner in this song?  How could you show that person Christ’s love in simple, consistent, practical ways?  Who is God calling you to “see” and care for?

5 thoughts on “Pumped Up Kicks & Mixed Messages

  1. denise wheeler October 20, 2011 / 10:47 am

    I think the kids who listen to and like this song are just too young to remember the terrible tragedy at Columbine. I can’t enjoy a song when every time I hear it, I can only think of the terror those poor kids must’ve felt. Don’t see how ANYONE would want to write a song that even comes close to glorifying this type of violence. I would feel like every cent I made off of it was blood money. They should donate all money made off of it to an antiviolence campaign

  2. Maribel November 15, 2011 / 11:35 am

    I’m gonna take this from spiritual point of view as well. When he sang “He’s coming for you, yeah he’s coming for you”, reminds me of Revelation 12 verse 9. Think about it.

    Shooter:Satan
    Kids with Pump up Kicks:Demons and drug use
    Bullet:Evil

    I think the message is really about God telling humanity to outrun the devil and his angels.

  3. Maribel November 15, 2011 / 11:41 am

    Messed up about the Kids with Pump up Kicks. Wasn’t paying much attention. It’s not demons and drug use, it’s man with sins in his heart.

  4. Alicia January 19, 2012 / 11:28 am

    I never took to the song, but I have coworkers who enjoyed it. One day during lunch we decided to look up the lyrics as we were unable to determine what was being said. My coworkers and I were horrified! I don’t think the song raised awareness as they perhaps hoped it would. To an average teen who probably won’t engage in much critical thinking regarding this song, it seems to instead glorify the actions of a troubled teen. The lyrics are a complete contradiction to the music, which seems a bit laid back, maybe even festive. People speak out against music that glorifies killing police officers and other negative things. What about music that appears to glorify our youth as killers and th killing of or children.

  5. svita June 19, 2012 / 11:46 am

    This songs rather then bringing attention to gun violence makes it looks cool….this song makes Robert a cool cowboy kid…..I think Mark Foster is not being absolutely truthful when he says he wants to bring attention to gun violence.

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