Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Pop Culture of Pure Pissed Off

This is, imo, a perfect pop song*. It's also subversive as hell. To paraphrase: "All you other kids with the pumped up kicks (better/harder/something you'd didn't WORK FOR), I'm armed (and sexy, ahem,) and I'm coming for you. Hope you run fast." (interp. mine) Now, why do we care?

Foster The People - Pumped Up Kicks from Foster The People on Vimeo. (This is on AUTOPLAY, which works just like an iPod- just press the icons [like STOP] w/ your cursor to control things!)(*so does D, to give credit where it's due. This whole post grew out of a conversation w/ resident musicologist and silent label owner DCT.)

Music has always had the ability to respond with lightning speed to changing times and attitudes. A quick survey of 20th C. music charts reads like a pop culture thermometer of cultural unrest and change. Let's just peek at the '60s: between '64, the bosom of the peace/love/hippie movement, to '70, after Altamont, when the Hell's Angel's beat the cr*p out of the hippies at a Stones concert, marking the end of an era:

1964
The Temptations, "My Girl"
The Beatles, "I Want To Hold Your Hand"

1970
The Temptations, "Ball of Confusion"
Beatles remnants George Harrison, "My Sweet Lord/ Isn't it a Pity"
and John Lennon, "Instant Karma/ We All Shine On"

(And just for fun, 1970's Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Run Through The Jungle")

So we move from sweet I-Love-You, Do-You-Love-Me songs to some WTF is going on, questioning God and the afterlife, and Vietnam tracks.

Fastforward to today, and our not-so-recent past:

Cee-Lo Green: 
2006, "Crazy;"
In the vein of The Temptation's "Ball of Confusion," "Crazy" has a lot of the same WTF feel, that just-before-the-market-crashed, we've-been-at-war-with-who-for-how-long-now, everything-feels-messed-up-but-I'm-having-a-hard-time-pointing-to-exactly-what, dizzy-sick-I'd-like-to-get-off-the-merry-go-round-right-now feeling. I was feeling it. So were a lot of us.

2010, "F*ck You."
Um, yeah. Short, sweet, and to the point. I remember hearing this for the first time and thinking, "Well, somebody had to say it. Took 'em long enough."

I guess my point is that I'm seeing more focused, more overt statements of pure pissed off leaking through popular culture. Newspapers, magazines, blogs, other forms of internet writing- they've (we've?) always been able to respond to the cultural pulse as fast or faster than music. But how entertaining is the news? I mean really. Since we're all friends, let's risk honesty. I get the New York Times in my inbox, and no way do I read it nearly as often as I've played the above song. Fiction, like music, entertains. And since the warp-drive ability of push-button publishing, we writers finally have the ability to respond as quickly as other entertainers. That, to me, is severely sexy. And powerful. Potentially. If we want to step up. If not, then fine. Just think of it as slightly edgier entertainment. I love "My Girl." In its way, it's a perfect song. But you just can't crank it like you can the Creedence, or even "Ball of Confusion," or even popsters like Cee-Lo.

Which brings me back around to Foster the People. Let me be clear: I think these lyrics are meant to entertain. (The fact that I even have to write that is kinda ridiculous.) And they do. Entertain, that is. But with an edge, for those with ears to hear. That is all.
Lyrics: 
Robert's got a quick hand
He'll look around the room, he won't tell you his plan
He's got a rolled cigarette
Hanging out of his mouth, he's a cowboy kid
He found a six-shooter gun
In his dad's closet with in a box of fun things
I don't even know what
But he's coming for you, yeah he's coming for you

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

Daddy works a long day
He'll be coming home late and he's coming home late
And he's bringing me a surprise
'Cause dinner's in the kitchen and it's packed in ice
I've waited for a long time
Yeah the slight of my hand is now a quick pull-trigger
I reason with my cigarette
And say, "your hair's on fire, you must've lost your wits, yeah"

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

Run run run run
Ru-ru-ru-run run run
Ru-ru-ru-run run run run
Ru-ru-ru-run run run ru-run run

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

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


Oh, and since I've spent an entire blog post analyzing them, buy their album & stuff here!

5 comments:

  1. Whoa. Never could understand those lyrics. Now that I'm reading them, I like that freaking song EVEN MORE.

    It kind of reminds me of Toadies lyrics. Remember the Toadies? "Behind the boathouse, I'll show you my dark secret...Do you wanna die? Do you wanna die?" Okay, enough with that. :)

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  2. That entire album is a gift to writers. I've been listening to "Houdini" on loop all week. :-)

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  3. @VJ- No, I don't know The Toadies. I will fix that right away!
    @Lacy- I'm so glad to know I'm not the only one to listen to songs on loops. I swear my neighbors hate my guts by now. But at least it's *good music* on loop (imo).

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  4. I love this song. We listen to it so much my 2-year-old knows the words. Don't judge. :) We're anti-censorship in the Benefiel mini-van.

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  5. I was literally just listening to this song. What a funny world.

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