when my musical fix gave me PUMPED UP KICKS
when my musical fix gave me PUMPED UP KICKS
by Norman Warwick
I just thought it was a wonderful song. An incredible instrumental hook, superb production values and infectious rhythm had me firmly labelling it as a pop song. As that pop song slowly faded from the charts, though, I had come to realise that, similar to I Don´t Like Mondays, perhaps, the song was a wolf in sheep´s clothing. I still love the song but now hold a very different perspective.
I was reminded of all this in an excellent article, published in American Songwriter, and written by Catherine Walthal (left).
Catherine is actually an Assistant Editor at American Songwriter. As a ´word nerd with a degree from the University of the South: Sewanee´, Catherine feels at home supporting the media company´s print and digital publications. Behind the sces she routinely jams out to the music, featured in the stories, that she helps bring to life. All in all this Assistant Editor loves to creatively support creative. Catherine recommends that our readers check out the latest edition of the American Songwriter.
That allows me the opportunity to reiterate here that when Sidetracks & Detours editorialises and forwards such articles from Amercan Songwriter magazine, or from Paste on-line, we always acknowledge the source and re-state that we are suggesting that our readers look for these sources, too
American Songwriter is a magazine, or an organisation is probably a better word, that serves as a network and advisory service for aspirant songwriters whilst also publishing interviews with established singer-writers and regularly examining famous songs for their ´real meaning´.
´Mark Foster (right) was a jingle writer´,. said Catherine Walthall in her opening remarks.
´He wrote commercially for brands like Honey Bunches Of Oats and Verizon. But Foster had bigger dreams for himself, and he knew that he had a lot to tell the world. So, he enlisted drummer Mark Pontius and friend/bassist Cubbie Fink to help him bring his songs to life. Together as Foster & The People, which evolved into Foster the People, the musicians released their debut song “Pumped Up Kicks” on September 14, 2010.
“Pumped Up Kicks” holds a darker meaning behind its alt-pop dance sound. Foster wrote the track from the point of view of a deeply troubled youth named Robert, who’s named only once at the beginning of the song.
Robert’s got a quick hand
He’ll look around the room, but won’t tell you his plan
Yeah, he found a six-shooter gun
In his dad’s closet, and with a box of fun things
I don’t even know what
But he’s coming for you, yeah, he’s coming for you
After finding his father’s gun, Robert imagines others running from him as he wields the weapon. You better run, better run, outrun my gun. This scene never unfolds, though. Robert only imagines and toys with the idea of all the other kids running from him. It’s a horror of the mind.
“I wrote ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ when I began to read about the growing trend in teenage mental illness,” Foster told CNN Entertainment in a 2012 interview. “I wanted to understand the psychology behind it because it was foreign to me. It was terrifying how mental illness among youth had skyrocketed in the last decade. I was scared to see where the pattern was headed if we didn’t start changing the way we were bringing up the next generation.”
If you’ve heard this song once or twice, you would’ve heard the chorus that warns: All the other kids with the pumped up kicks / You better run, better run, outrun my gun. What are pumped-up kicks, exactly?
Foster is likely referring to the ’80s and ’90s somewhat popular shoe, the Reebok Pump basketball shoe. When wearing the shoe, you had the option of physically pumping up the sneaker to inflate a better fit. In 1991, this sneaker peaked in popularity when Dee Brown of the Boston Celtics won the Slam Dunk Contest in the shoes.
The Reebok Pump was also pretty expensive at the time, initially selling for $170. This price point likely caused jealousy among kids because not everyone could afford them. Hence why the troubled Robert targeted the kids with the pumped up kicks—he wasn’t like them. He didn’t have the shoes.
Initially, Foster the People (left) used this song’s virality as a platform to speak out about gun violence. But now, Foster is having second thoughts.
“So it’s something that I’m really wrestling with, but I’m leaning towards retiring it [‘Pumped Up Kicks’] because it’s just too painful,” Foster told Billboard. “Where we’re at now, compared to where we were 10 years ago, is just horrific.
“Because shootings have continued to happen, and I feel like there are so many people that have been touched, either personally or by proxy, by a mass shooting in this country—and that song has become almost a trigger of something painful they might have experienced. And that’s not why I make music. At some points, I do make music to bring awareness to something, but I make music to connect with people, and I feel like the awareness that that song brought and the conversation that that song brought, that’s been fulfilled. We’re still talking about it 10 years later. It still gets brought up,” he said.
It is important that Catherine reminds us of all this. The song is worthy of its inclusion in any list of great pop songs but Catherine reminds us that Pumped Up Kicks is all that and more.
Of course, mine is not the first generation to respond to a serious or sad song as if it were a perfectly ephemeral three and half minute pop song. Surely I wasn´t the only one singing along tunelessly to Ebony Eyes by the Everly Brothers (right), not having listened to the verses and still blissfully unaware of the tragic death the song actually spoke of.
I Don´t Like Monday´s (left, by The Boomtown Rats) never was just a pop song bemoaning the fact that weekend has gone and workdays are here, but in fact was a quite forensic exploration of a multi-killing madness.
American Song-writer constantly reminds generations, who might be familiar with a record only because they see it in Best Of Lists compiled by dinosaurs like me, or hear it occasionally on a golden oldies show on the radio, that some songs can step outside that context, and actually have great deal to question,…. and often answer.
There is, perhaps, and interesting postscipt to this story. The barfs and restaurants here on Lanzarote are always keen to aim their playlists at Englñish speaking tourists, and it is true that the staff here at Sidetracks And Detours spend a lot of time in those bar, working on our lap-tops . We alwsys find ourseleves singing along to half-forgotten favourites being played through the speakers. These are rarely the original recordings, because theire is a supplier of music that sells to the restaurants lots cds of great songs recorded,, usually in a gentler fashion, recorded by various musicians making a crust by taking on such work. Just occasionally it all goes wrong, and a track we have long treasured as a song with something to shout a protest about becomes an apologetic whisper, However, there is a version of Pumped Up Kicks that we hear a lot of. It has retained the incredible production values of the original whilst slightly slowing the tempo and adding sdome glorious under´stated harmonies. Isn´t there a saying that ýou can´t keep a good song down?¨ Well, if there isn´t there should be.
And that has set me thinking about how I might be able to generate a series identifying some of these artists who almost anonymously provide the soundtrack to The Sidetracks and Detours of Lanzarote. They deserve the recognition.
The prime sources for this article was found on Songfacts on-line, another another excellent on-line site. Check out these Songfacts on-line magazines for scores of similar thought-provoking work. Similarly, another prime source was published in American Songwriter magazine and written by the excellent Catherine Walthal.
In our occasional re-postings Sidetracks And Detours are confident that we are not only sharing with our readers excellent articles written by experts but that we are also pointing to informed and informative sites readers will re-visit time and again. Of course, we feel sure our readers will also return to our daily not-for-profit blog knowing that we seek to provide core original material whilst sometimes spotlighting the best pieces from elsewhere, as we engage with new genres and practitioners along all the sidetracks & detours we take.
This article was collated by Norman Warwick, a weekly columnist with Lanzarote Information and owner and editor of this daily blog at Sidetracks And Detours.
Norman has also been a long serving broadcaster, co-presenting the weekly all across the arts programme on Crescent Community Radio for many years with Steve Bewick, and his own show on Sherwood Community Radio. He has been a regular guest on BBC Radio Manchester, BBC Radio Lancashire, BBC Radio Merseyside and BBC Radio Four.
As a published author and poet Norman was a founder member of Lendanear Music, with Colin Lever and Just Poets with Pam McKee, Touchstones Creative Writing Group (for which he was creative writing facilitator for a number of years) with Val Chadwick and all across the arts with Robin Parker.
From Monday to Friday, you will find a daily post here at Sidetracks And Detours and, should you be looking for good reading, over the weekend you can visit our massive but easy to navigate archives of over 500 articles.
The purpose of this daily not-for-profit blog is to deliver news, previews, interviews and reviews from all across the arts to die-hard fans and non- traditional audiences around the world. We are therefore always delighted to receive your own articles here at Sidetracks And Detours. So if you have a favourite artist, event, or venue that you would like to tell us more about just drop a Word document attachment to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a couple of appropriate photographs in a zip folder if you wish. Being a not-for-profit organisation we unfortunately cannot pay you but we will always fully attribute any pieces we publish. You therefore might also. like to include a brief autobiography and photograph of yourself in your submission.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Sidetracks And Detours is seeking to join the synergy of organisations that support the arts of whatever genre. We are therefore grateful to all those share information to reach as wide and diverse an audience as possible.
correspondents Michael Higgins
Gary Heywood Everett
Aj The Dj Hendry
Hot Biscuits Jazz Radio www.fc-radio.co.uk
Jazz In Reading https://www.jazzinreading.com
Ribble Valley Jazz & Blues https://rvjazzandblues.co.uk
Rob Adams Music That´s Going Places
Lanzarote Information https://lanzaroteinformation.co.uk
all across the arts www.allacrossthearts.co.uk
Rochdale Music Society rochdalemusicsociety.org
Agenda Cultura Lanzarote
Larry Yaskiel – writer
The Lanzarote Art Gallery https://lanzaroteartgallery.com
groundup music HOME | GroundUP Music
Joni Mitchell newsletter
paste mail ins
sheku kanneh mason newsletter
Leave a ReplyWant to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!