The Problem With... Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks"


When I visited the East Coast a few years back. I heard an interesting phrase pop up over and over again in conversation: "I see you!" No, it wasn't any of that Na'vi, love-and-understanding crap. 

"I see you," in this case, means "I see through you and your ulterior motive."  


Since its release all the way back last year, Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks" has steadily crept up the charts this summer. That's not altogether surprising. The track sounds like the band made it to butter up listeners with evocative trends. 

It's like they walked up to a slot machine of various trends, pulled a lever, and somehow came up with "sneaker-motivated violence" as the subject for their catchy, whistle-and-clap pop that resembles a Peter, Bjorn & John song. 

Frontman Mark Foster has a couple of ad jingles in his portfolio, so he knows how to charm audiences with a hook and evocative theme. It's worked through this summer, but I "see" Foster. To me, the dissonance between the upbeat instruments and dark subject suggests the writers of this track are more apathetic than creative. 

The lyrics sound similarly cluttered. Take this line the second verse: "And they say your hair's on fire / You must have lost your wits" I'd let the line slide if Phoenix or Bjork wrote them, since English is not their first language. But, y'know, Foster the People are American, so I can't. 

And, as such, I can't get behind "Pumped Up Kicks," which sounds more like a calculated jingle than a track. If this catches on, we're probably gonna hear pop songs in the near future that allude to once-popular gadgets like Razor scooters or Heelys roller-skate shoes. 

All I know is that I'd hate to be remembered for writing the "shoes" song. This guy knows what I'm talking about.

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Shahryar Rizvi
Contact: Shahryar Rizvi