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Foster The People – Pumped up Kicks

I have a friend that really seems to love this song, plays it for it’s bouncy beat. Listen to it, you can dance to it. It sounds fun, right?

Personally I like the song because of the offset between the dark lyrics and the bouncy sound.

I was singing the song in my friend’s car a year or two ago when it was on the pop stations. She stopped be-bopping to it and I think she was listening to me actually sing the lyrics. She was silent, said nothing and didn’t join in. I don’t know if it was the lyrics or if it was just that my singing was that shockingly bad.

In the Wikipedia article about the song the songwriter who not only wrote the song, sang it and played all the instruments in it explains his intentions of writing it.

The lyrics to “Pumped Up Kicks” are written from the perspective of a troubled and delusional youth with homicidal thoughts.[4] The lines in the chorus warn potential victims to “outrun my gun” and that they “better run, better run, faster than my bullet.” Foster said in a statement to CNN.com, “I wrote ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ when I began to read about the growing trend in teenage mental illness. 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.”[7] In writing the song, Foster wanted to “get inside the head of an isolated, psychotic kid”[4] and “bring awareness” to the issue of gun violence amongst youth, which he feels is an epidemic perpetuated by “lack of family, lack of love, and isolation.”[8][9] 

As well intentioned as Foster’s writing the song was, his hoping that parents and kids opening dialogues about youth mental illness and gun violence is a sad example but common of what people typically think of when they hear about mental illness. The focus is always on the vivid aspects and the flash and bang of when someone really has a serious mental blow out. The more common ways of experiencing mental illness, the silent suffering, the easy victimization, the scary confusion is rarely written about never mind focused on. I like the song but if I were to talk to my kids about adolescence and mental illness and use this song it would only be a vivid example of how stigma really distorts the facts of how dangerous mentally ill people/kids are and how it affects common people after a story hits the media.

It won’t make me stop listening to the song or not sing along. In the back of my head though I wonder is there really a “good” song that represents mental illness well?

Robert’s got a quick hand.
He’ll look around the room,
he wont 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, with the box of fun things.
I don’t even know what,
but he’s coming for you. Yeah, He’s coming for you!

All the other kids with the pumped up kicks,
You better run, better run, outrun my gun.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks,
You better run, better run, faster than my bullet.

All the other kids with the pumped up kicks,
You better run, better run, outrun my gun.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks,
You better run, better run, faster than my bullet.

Daddy works a long day.
He be coming home late, and he’s coming home late.
And he’s bringing me a surprise.
’cause dinner’s in the kitchen and it’s packed in ice

I’ve waited for a long time.
Yeah the sleight of my hand is now a quick-pull trigger.
I reason with my cigarette,
Then say, “Your hair’s on fire, you must have lost your wits, yeah?”

All the other kids with the pumped up kicks,
You better run, better run, outrun my gun.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks,
You better run, better run, faster than my bullet.

All the other kids with the pumped up kicks,
You better run, better run, outrun my gun.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks,
You better run, better run, faster than my bullet.

(Run, Run, Run, Run. Run, Run.
R-Run, Run, Run.
R-Run.
R-Run, Run, Run.
R-Run.
Run, Run.
Run, Run.
Run, Run, Run.)

All the other kids with the pumped up kicks,
You better run, better run, outrun my gun.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks,
You better run, better run, faster than my bullet.

All the other kids with the pumped up kicks,
You better run, better run, outrun my gun.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks,
You better run, better run, faster than my bullet.

All the other kids with the pumped up kicks,
You better run, better run, outrun my gun.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks,
You better run, better run, faster than my bullet.

All the other kids with the pumped up kicks,
You better run, better run, outrun my gun.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks,
You better run, better run, faster than my bullet.

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