Song Analysis- "Pumped Up Kicks"

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Contently Deranged Travelers

I analyze the meaning of the song based on my own interpretation and opinion, and it's effect it had on me as a listener.

SONG: "Pumped Up Kicks" 

BAND: Foster The People


By now, I think a lot of people have looked up the lyrics to this song out of curiosity or because they were shocked by the lyrics. It's a catchy tune and was very popular a few years ago, it was played a lot in the summer time. The first time you listen to it you may not notice, but eventually you here the lines, "You better run, faster than my bullet" and "outrun my gun" and you can't help but think, well what is this song really about? Does it have a good or bad message? It definetely sounds like a party song and you can dance to it, but once you know the lyrics, you don't really want to. 

I actually like the song, when I first heard it, I liked the sound even though it was played way too much on the radio. I looked up the lyrics and found out the meaning- I still liked it. Some people don't like the song, they get mad and say things like, "it's too violent" and that it promotes killing people. Well, if they think that, I believe they have completely missed the point. Yes, this song suggests killing, but it's also about a troubled kid, and because most of the song is in his point of view, you are suppose to put yourself in his shoes, and consider his feelings- why he did what he did. It's deeper then gun violence.

This is the only song I know by the band, and I don't know what the band is like apart from this specific song, but I still respect them for releasing a song that had the potential of being recieved negatively for political reasons. It had risky lyrics, which can be interpereted in different ways. Well, who cares about being politically correct, songs are supposed to tell stories.

I liked how the song was dark. It was deep and pyschological, it really does tell a story and I don't think that's bad at all. The song should make you question things- it puts you in the shoes of a disturbed person and I think that's neat. I felt for Robert.

Lyrics With my Commentary in italics:

Robert's got a quick hand.
He'll look around the room,
he won’t tell you his plan. (he’s a quiet kid, no one suspects what he is going to do)
He's got a rolled cigarette
hanging out his mouth.
He's a cowboy kid. (It's possible Robert is a country kid, but this could also represent him feeling tough- a tough kid, maybe a rebel)

Yeah, He found a six-shooter gun
in his dad's closet, with a box of fun things.
I don't even know what

(he snuck into his dad’s closet and found a gun among other weapons and odd things, who knows what else he found)

But he's coming for you. Yeah, He's coming for you;

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.

(These lines are said from Robert’s point of view, he is fed up with all of his troubles- he is finally going through with his plan. He is coming for the popular kids, the ones that can afford nice things, for example, pumped up kicks. Given the lyrics so far we can assume Robert is a troubled kid, he feels like an outcast or he is bullied, maybe all three. All of the kids that threaten him, or that he doesn’t like- he is coming for them, he’s going to shoot them all and is mocking them by telling them to run faster than his bullet, he wants them to feel hopeless like he has)


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.

(This can be interpreted in a number of ways, maybe his dad works all day- he could be a busy business man who doesn’t have time for Robert OR “daddy works a long day” could be a sarcastic remark, maybe his dad doesn’t work at all- he has become a drunk, or abusive. “he’s bringing me a surprise” if his dad is a business man, he may be actually bringing him a present of some sorts to  make up for his absence, although this seems unlikely. I can’t help but think the surprise isn’t a good thing- a bad surprise, some sort of physical abuse. “Dinner is in the kitchen and it’s packed in ice”- Maybe dinner is just the beer, which is kept in a cooler or the freezer OR dinner is freezer food, like t.v.dinners. This suggests it’s just him and his dad living together with no family meals, they have become poor and just eat processed food and drink beer. So, we can infer, home life is not the best.)


I've waited for a long time

(Whatever he is going through, it's been going on for a while, he's had to wait for a way out, for an opportunity, maybe he's been waiting to get revenge,)

Yeah the slight of my hand is now a quick-pull trigger.

I reason with my cigarette

(meanwhile, he is deteriating mentally. Before he goes through with it, he reasons with his cigarette- the actual cigarette could represent a lot of things- perhaps his conscience as a whole. When he’s reasoning with his cigarette, he is reasoning with himself, his thoughts, inner demons, his addictions and struggles)

They say, "Your hair's on fire, you must have lost your wits"

(his conscience is telling him he’s crazy, he’s lost it, and this makes him even more angry because he can’t help it, this is the last straw. )


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.(repeated)

(Also, just wanted to point out, maybe he's also mocking them because of their shoes- even though their wearing their expensive kicks, they can't outrun him, he's in control now)

(Run, Run, Run, Run. Run, Run.
R-Run, Run, Run.)

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. (repeated) 


As I'm writing this, I just had a thought: Maybe he's just imagining all of this, just a fantasy of his maybe? As he's smoking his ciagrette he wonders what it would be like to kill the bullies off. 

Anyways, if you've noticed, the song doesn't really have that many lyrics, and most of them are just repeated over and over. It gives you just enough so that you are forced to infer the rest- it makes you think. What is the message? Who is Robert? Why did he do it...Did he really kill all those kids? Or is he still struggling , stuck inside his head, his thoughts driving him mad?




Submitted: March 17, 2016

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Add Your Comments:



Hey Unmasked, You have the canny ability to walk in shoes of others. You don't make the reader see your view only, but invite the many possible outcomes. I love your abilities to see into people and the questions WHY. Keep exploring minds and keep writing. :)

Thu, March 17th, 2016 7:55am


That's nice of you to say, thank you so much :)

Thu, March 17th, 2016 10:25am

Chris Green

Although I never ever hear these type of songs I am told they exist and it seems that your deconstruction of this one is spot on, unmasked delusions

Thu, March 17th, 2016 8:13am


Glad you Liked my take, nice to hear from you. :)

Thu, March 17th, 2016 10:25am

Keke Serene

I've heard this song too! Thought it was extremely catchy as well.Almost too catchy actually haha. I don't listen to it anymore, because of the meaning. But gah! I've the song stuck in my head from just reading the lyrics, lol! Well, there does that. But I haven't listened to it in a while bc many people have died for me to consider liking a song that talks about killing people, imho. I'm not saying it's a bad song, unrealistic, or liberal. Heck! I'm pretty liberal myself. You shouldn't not like a song becusee you think it promotes violence- first of all! If you believe that a song can make people go and kill other people, then you're looking at one tiny minuscule factor- not the bigger picture. People who think that that don't want to invest in more social or mental resources- like guidance counsellors. At my school of 2,000 there are only 3 guidance counsellors...! Crazy, right. And then I feel like, now that I think about it, that the catchiness of a song is for a reason- maybe to show how prevalent social inequality is, or abuse- or, and this works too- school schooling. Last year, in the US, there were more mass shootings than actual days of the year. If that's not pathetic from a "developed" country, then I don't know what is. Otherwise, nice interpretation, well done :)?

Thu, March 17th, 2016 2:36pm


I know I got the song stuck in my head by just reading the lyrics too. And I had to read it over and over because I was analyzing it.ha. Well I'm not liberal, there's a couple liberal things I agree with but other then that nope. Like, gun control, that's what I was hinting at when I wrote this. I like the saying, guns don't kill people, people kill people. Meaning,even if they took our guns away people would still kill people, because that's what we do. I don't agree with gun control and think the government wants to control us not protect us. And about the mass shootings, i believe a lot of them are fake or staged, mainly the Sandy Hook one. Faked to push their gun agenda, but thats a topic for another time. There are troubled kids out there that need help though, so many of them go ignored and unnoticed and that could cause them to do violent things. Sorry, got a little off topic, but I agree with what you said, they are not looking at the big picture.

Thu, March 17th, 2016 10:21am

Chris Cross

Thank you so much for this well 'executed' demonstration which was very instructive, informative and useful to me. When you listen to the song some points are obvious but others are not that clear, and you did a good job explaining the different possible meanings of the lyrics. I'm looking forward to reading your next song analysis with great expectation. Chris.

Fri, March 18th, 2016 3:33pm


Really? Well that's unexpected an great to hear,. I reallt

Fri, March 18th, 2016 10:26am

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