Often times, the radio graces us with music about heartbreak, or drugs, sex and the infallible rock&roll. Recently though, a song by Indie pop group ‘Foster the People” took a light hearted tune and gave it meaningful lyrics.
The song is basically describing a loner “cowboy kid” who is a disturbed kid on the verge of going on a killing spree considering he is a “quick hand.” The name Robert might be
a reference to the coward ‘Robert Ford‘ who was an outlaw, except in the case of the song, the kid is a social out law. Moreover, in explaining the kid’s breakdown, the narrator/singer claims “in a box full of fun things/ I don’t even know what” suggesting the loner kid has come upon drugs.
The chorus seems to talk about kids with “pumped up kicks” which is a direct reference to shoes that are very expensive or the latest and trendiest apparel. This is a suggestion that the kid is probably envious of the richer kids he is surrounded by, or it could be suggesting that he wishes to take revenge on the affluent kids who have bullied him.
The verse describing Robert’s father is probably the most moving as it shows a broken family relationship as dinner is always “packed in ice” and the father comes home late, promising surprises but never delivering.
Overall, this lyrically profound song is a message to most artists out there; quit it with the commercial rubbish. You can pack quality lyrics into quality tunes. Look back to Michael Jackson, Lupe Fiasco, the Tupac’s and the Bob Dylan’s, the same system can still work.
Secondly, this song is describing the situation of many children in the west and potentially all around the world. It indirectly talks about the failing gun laws, the failed parenting, and the failed education system. However, above all, it refers to the class divide that has plagued the world for far too long.
Music has always been a powerful medium, songs like “pumped up kicks” remind us of that much. It’s now the turn of artists, recording labels and radio stations to utilize the power of music to focus on more than just commercial aspects.