Chances are, if you’ve been within a five-mile radius of a radio this summer, you’ve probably heard Foster the People‘s “Pumped Up Kicks,” their hazy, fuzzy track that has become an unexpected smash and a genuine contender for the Summer Jam of 2011 .
But have you really listened to the song — or, more specifically, its lyrics? In keeping with the grand tradition of such alt-hits like Eels’ “Novocaine for the Soul” and the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Today,” the track manages to hide a rather dark message beneath all the mirth.
” ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ is really about bullying, and the tragedy that bullying produces … if that kid retaliates in a nasty way; both sides end up being harmed,” Foster frontman Mark Foster told MTV News.
“All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you’d better run, better run, outrun my gun,” goes the chorus, in a deceptively cheery tone.
“I tend to do that with a lot of songs,” Foster said. “I like to tell a different type of story, lyrically, than what the music is expressing, because it brings another layer to the story itself. I wrote it a block away from the beach, and I was working at a music house — Mophonics, a place where I composed for ads and stuff — and I think that had some influence on the sound.”
And while Foster the People might be getting a kick out of the fact that their decidedly dark tune has become one of the year’s biggest tracks, they’re also blown away by its slow-burning success … because, really, they never thought “Kicks” would do everything that it has.
“I wrote the song like a year and half ago, and for it to still be circling around and become a summer song this year, I think it was definitely unexpected on our part,” Foster said. “We like the song, but we had no idea it would spread around the world the way that it has.”
Still, they’re taking full advantage of their newfound clout. Foster said he’s already working on the follow-up to their debut, Torches (which just came out in May), bringing a portable studio out on the road — and they’ve got big plans for another potential hit. Or, we should say, they had big plans … until Katy Perry went ahead and ruined them with her “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” video .
“Yeah, we really want to get Kenny G involved on a track, he would just slay it,” Foster sighed. “And I think we were all really bummed out, actually, when we found out that Katy Perry put him in her video, because we had been talking about that for a year — bringing Kenny G into the fold and writing something with him. But, that’s OK. Katy Perry had it first, we’ll have sloppy seconds.”
Is “Pumped Up Kicks” one of your favorite songs of the summer? Talk about it in the comments!