“Pumped Up Kicks” joins our countdown in the #2 spot despite being initially released as a single in 2010. The song was later released on the album Torches in 2011 so it is eligible for our countdown. Think of the countdown as the MLB Rookie of the Year award. “Pumped Up Kicks” did not play enough games to destroy its rookie eligibility. It, though, is certainly not a rookie song, but rather a deep glance at school shootings set to a contrasting fluffy melody. The song (and excuse my French) is a classic example of a mindf*ck.
Mark Foster (vocals, keyboards, piano, synthesizers, guitar, programming, percussion), Mark Pontius (drums and extra percussion), and Cubbie Fink (bass and backing vocals)
Foster, at the time, was using his multifarious musical talents writing commercial jingles at Mophonics in Log Angeles. Since he initially believed he was writing a demo he recorded all parts of the song and the song ended up going out just like that. So, pretty much, the song is an extended, very productive, morbid jingle. Another contradiction, yes. The song actually does pick up on some noticeable jingle elements, especially at the end where the song finishes off with a light Noah and the Whale whistle. A real hipster whistle.
So why is this contradictory song written by a jingle writer from Los Angeles so insanely good. Take a listen. Is it because of its lyric, its insatiable catchiness, its muffled vocal? I think the song’s popularity and goodness comes from a mixture of all of these elements, and, its absolute cleverness (or as Foster proclaimed – a “f*ck you to hispters).
The song is about a boy who finds his father’s gun and has thoughts of going on a murderous rampage (probably at school). Unfortunately, such a comment is not absurd, but rather a stark reality in our world today. Columbine-like rampages do not happen often, but they happen, and it is downright frightening to think that such a thing could/does occur. The lyrics strongest point is the chorus where Foster and the band sing:
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.