Despite its bubbly, groovy tune, there is a dark meaning behind the lyrics of Foster The People's debut single "Pumped Up Kicks."
According to Song Facts, the name “pumped up kicks” refers to basketball shoes that had a tongue pump like Reebok and Nike shoes. They were popular in the early 1990s but were not cheap and thus, only the richer kids could afford them.
The premise of the song is that a fictional character named Robert wants to shoot the kids who wore these shoes. He is envious of these richer kids and wants to wreak havoc on them.
It has been criticized for glamorizing and promoting youth violence. Many called radio stations to voice their displeasure but singer Mark Foster, who wrote the song, says that he doesn't condone such violence and tries to bring awareness on this issue through his song.
There are different opinions on the song's meaning but according to Foster, the song is about a young boy who is feeling isolated and he reflects his thoughts in this way. The singer believes that the problem of gun violence among teenagers can be traced to isolation and lack of love and that his music is a great medium to discuss this issue with the children.
The lyrics of the song evoke a sense of horror and fear that makes it hard to listen to. However, many people still get swept up in the song's jovial beat and dance to it.