Thinking Out Loud

September 24, 2011

Pumped Up Kicks: Celebrating Violence

Filed under: music — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:04 pm

"'d better run, better run; outrun my gun..."

About a month ago I was watching the NBC Nightly News and heard Brian Williams say that each summer there is a song that somehow defines that summer, and that this year, that song was Pumped Up Kicks by the band Foster The People. With 22.7 million hits on this music video, Williams may have been partially right, though a search of “top songs of summer 2011” will produce a variety of results.

I listed to the song a few times. It’s a likeable tune with an infectious chorus and a danceable rhythm. But something about the song didn’t make sense. That’s because Pumped Up Kids is a happy upbeat song about a guy who finds a gun in his father’s closet and goes on a shooting spree.

However, I couldn’t help but have a musical or lyrical deja vu when listening.  An upbeat song that seems to glorify or celebrate violence.  Where had I heard that before?  Then it occurred to me.

The U.S. National Anthem.

Maybe I’ve been hanging around with too many Anabaptists, but I believe to other non-Americans, the lyrics to The Star Spangled Banner stand out — and not necessarily in a good way — among the national songs of the world. 

Which means that realistically, while other scenarios are not impossible, generally speaking only America could have produced a song like Pumped Up Kicks.  Great song.  Sad lyrics.



  1. The national anthem is a song of the difficult time of us becoming a country and fighting against another country. It is a far reach to try and use that as an analogy to “Pumped up Kicks”, which glorifies some misunderstood teen gunning down his peers (or in the case of the Westroads Mall shooting, randomly killing people). You could more easily relate it to gangsta rap, but even those songs have a cause, and it’s not to randomly kill people and then kill yourself like some coward.

    Comment by Jim — September 30, 2011 @ 6:38 pm

    • Granted. But why is U.S. entertainment (music, movies, television, books) so replete with violence?

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — September 30, 2011 @ 8:18 pm

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