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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

'Pumped Up Kicks' song is about shooting up a school



foster.jpgI've gotta say it took me far too long to catch on to what the catchy Pumped Up Kicks song is about. The perky ditty by L.A.-based trio Foster the People came out in spring and is peaking now. The band was just on Saturday Night Live this week, and impressed me with their musicianship. But those lyrics:

"All the other kids with the pumped up kicks," says the chorus, "you'd better run, better run, outrun my gun ... You'd better run, better run, faster than my bullet."

The writer says it's about a kid who is bullied, what's going on in his head. So the sing-songy chorus and the dark lyrics make it extra creepy. I'm not one to ban songs in my house, so I have made a point of discussing with my kids how disturbing I find this one.

Chicago Tribune writer Steve Johnson summed it up for me: He notes that popular music is full of murder songs, many of them classics like  when Johnny Cash "shot a man in Reno just to watch him die." But there are consequences to that. Cash's narrator is sitting in Folsom Prison. Johnson notes,  We don't know why he's planning to do what he does, only that the song's temporary narrator sees him as sort of glamorous.  If we bother to think beyond the song's 4 minutes and 16 seconds, we know that he will bring a lifetime of agony to people who have done nothing to deserve it. That just doesn't feel very pop.

--Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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[Last modified: Monday, October 10, 2011 12:24pm]


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