Yes, I admit it. Until American Idol judge Harry Connick, Jr. “called out” one of this season’s contestants for not mirroring the gravitas of a recent pop song, I didn’t catch it. I had heard Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” on the radio and in snippets online and on television. I could even sing the chorus…or so I thought. “All the other kids with the lala kicks, you better run, run, run. Faster than me lala.”
Then, I watched the March 19th episode of American Idol, in which contestant Jessica Meuse did her version.
I agree with Connick’s assessment of her performance. In my “ever so much experience with musical performances” opinion, if she really wanted to take the song in another direction or play off the upbeat music (vs. the somber words), she should have really gone for it. A somewhat over the top happy performance would have been more in line with the original tension between the lyrics and music.
In case you hadn’t read about the history of this song, Mark Foster, the song’s writer and lead singer of the band Foster the People, is proud that his song has fostered conversations about guns and violence in schools. He wrote the song to leverage the power of his art to draw attention to issues of mental health and school violence.
In a December 21, 2012 interview with CNN that leads with a note about radio stations pulling the song in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook (high school) shooting, Foster shared the following:
I wrote ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ when I began to read about the growing trend in teenage mental illness. I wanted to understand the psychology behind it because it was foreign to me. It was terrifying how mental illness among youth had skyrocketed in the last decade. I was scared to see where the pattern was headed if we didn’t start changing the way we were bringing up the next generation.
I wrote that song three years ago. A lot has changed since then, and a lot has stayed the same.
This song was written as a way to create ongoing dialogue for an issue that was being talked about, but when it came to government intervention, was largely being ignored.
Now, this topic is finally at the forefront of major discussion and will hopefully lead to some big changes in policy that will prevent these acts of violence from happening in the future. That being said, I respect people’s decision to press pause. And if that becomes a catalyst for a bigger conversation that could lead to positive change moving forward, then I absolutely support it.
Well said and well written, Mark Foster.
- In 2011, more than 460,000 people were the victims of crime committed with a firearm.
- In 2011, 8 percent of all violent incidents (i.e., rape, sexual assault, robbery and aggravated assaults) were firearms crimes.
- Thirteen percent of children ages 8 to 15 had a diagnosable mental disorder within the previous year, including ADHD, mood disorders and major depression.
- Just over 20 percent of children, currently or at some point in their life, have had a seriously debilitating mental disorder.
- Many children with mental disorders are not diagnosed with such and do not receive mental health services.
Initially, firearms violence intervention and research focused on either reducing the demand for illegally obtained guns or reducing the supply. More than 20 years of intervention programs, however, have shown that a single approach is not likely to work. To reduce gun violence, a sustained program that addresses both demand and supply is needed. A successful intervention will have elements of federal-local law enforcement collaboration, community involvement, targeted intervention tactics and continuous program evaluation. National Institute of Justice
image credit: American Idol Top 10 Jessica Meuse, American Idol website