I have a favorite new song. Given that I tend to prefer tunes and bands from the mid-eighties, when I was a college radio DJ, this is kind of a big deal.
The song is Pumped Up Kicks by the California band, Foster the People. On first (maybe even second or third) listen, Pumped Up Kicks seems like a happy song. There’s even whistling in it. Only it’s not a happy song. And I think that’s part of what I love.
“…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…”
The song is about the Erfurt massacre, a horrible school shooting that took place in Germany in 2002. Clearly not a pleasant or happy topic. But the song… makes me dance every time I hear it.
That’s kind of manipulative, no? Taking a cringeworthy topic and making it shake-your-butt appealing?
Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas employed a similar technique with the song Out of the Blue from his 2009 album, Phrazes For The Young.
“Somewhere along the way, my hopefulness turned to sadness
Somewhere along the way , my sadness turned to bitterness
Somewhere along the way, my bitterness turned to anger
Somewhere along the way, my anger turned to vengeance…”
As he sings about exacting revenge, I snap my fingers and smile brightly. And again, I am okay with being manipulated.
Can you think of any other songs that take horrible, or uncomfortable, subject matter and make it not only palatable, but extremely pleasant? Happy even?