Foster the People: Pumped Up Kicks Meaning
Song Released: 2010
Pumped Up Kicks Lyrics
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
Yeah found a six-shooter gun
In his dad's closet hidden in a box of fun things, I don't...
Robert is an allusion to a mass murderer, but doesn’t refer to any specific Robert. The name is a metaphor for any kid about to explode with anger.
His dad is neglectful and probably violent and abusive (comes home late, frozen dinner, gun left at hand). Mom is not mentioned and probably gone – or dead.
Robert has disassociated himself from his peers and society in general. He’s the lone cowboy whistling as he rides along. As he tokes his “rolled cigarette” he notices the head of the joint is all fired up – just like his own mind. He realizes he has lost his reason.
The kids with the pumped up kicks are those whose lives are all together. He is extremely envious of them and has directed his anger toward his dad upon them.
They better run cause he’s got a gun.
The tone of the song juxtaposed against the dark lyrics mirrors what often occurs in this type of individual. Everything on the outside is fine, but within something is about to erupt.
anonymous Jun 17th, 2011 6:26am report
"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 his mouth"
--This plays out like a movie. This is what is currently happening. He's walking into the room, he has a "quick hand", he's getting ready to shoot people with a "cigarette" hanging out of his mouth. We'll get back to the "cigarette" in a moment.
[Flash back in Robert's minds eye]
He's a cowboy kid
Yeah, he found a six-shooter gun
In his dad's closet hidden in a box of fun things [He's home alone with nothing better to do but go through his father's stuff. Probably a social outcast at school and abused at home]
And I don't even know what [drug paraphernalia?]
But he's coming for you, yeah, he's coming for you
Daddy works a long day [It appears as his dad's days are long, but he probably gets off work and heads right to the bar, which would make a long day.]
He be coming home late, yeah, he's coming home late [again... from the bar]
And he's bringing me a surprise [A beating? Physical abuse?]
Because dinner's in the kitchen and it's packed in ice [More alcohol-- beer, liquor, etc.?]
I've waited for a long time [this has been building up over a long time and has finally reached a boiling point]
Yeah, the slight of my hand is now a quick pull trigger [he's practicing his quick draw while he waits?]
I reason with my cigarette [Back to the "cigarette". I believe that this is a joint that he found in his father's box with the gun. The "I don't know what..." stuff. Now he's high and trying to reason with the joint, justifying to himself what he is about to do]
And say your hair's on fire [The end of the lit joint burning]
You must have lost your wits, yeah [He's high. He's personified a joint, he MUST have lost his wits]
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks [I don't think "pumped up kicks" refers specifically to a particular kind of shoe, but popular shoe or even popular clothing warn by popular kids...]
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
[I think here he is lacing it with sarcasm saying, 'you better hope your shoes are fast enough to outrun the bullets in my gun']
anonymous May 27th, 2011 5:19pm report
"The song is about an outcast youth who doesn't wear the right clothes, doesn't say the right things and just doesn't fit in," Foster says. "It's really about the mental process of him going crazy. So it's a dark song with a really breezy melody."
anonymous Jul 8th, 7:20am report
I think it's about the Columbine shooting because most of the time when you see a music video for it made by someone other than the record company, it involves TV reenactments of the shooting. Also, the song came out after the actual shooting. And "a box of fun things" mus be referring to the supplies used in the attack (ammo, knives, extra guns, and the bombs that never went off). The name Robert was to avoid controversy, along with the fact there is only one shooter in the song. There's no doubt about it. The actions of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold in 1999 inspired one of Foster the People's most recognized songs.
anonymous Mar 20th, 2014 3:24pm report
I think this is about the Columbine shooting.
anonymous Sep 12th, 2013 9:30am report
It's actually inspired by Mark Foster's hearing about an American killed in Prague by anti-Americans on the same day as 911... Roberta, is a bohemian chick who is still in love with the American who was killed by the gang of young commie mafia...this gang was known for its pumped up kicks since the had killed other tourists from England, Ireland, Germany, etc. by getting their marks drunk in the Chapeau Rouge, drugging their drinks or just jumping them, kicking them after knocking them on ground & then surrounding the victim to be kicked violently by 6 or more gang members...John Carry an air force tourist was killed on 911 by that gang and Roberta is warning them she is going to avenge his death with her American "daddy's" six shooter...or was she in on it with the gang since she was pissed he might be cheating on her in that bar...they may have pumped up their kicks while on a drug fueled bender.
anonymous Dec 31st, 2012 12:25pm report
Killed his family because of abuse.
anonymous Dec 10th, 2012 12:41pm report
In the chorus, I get the sense that this song is about someone saying, "If you have nicer things than I do, I'll do whatever I have to do to get it, because I am entitled to what you've worked hard for, even though I haven't put in any work at all."
anonymous Nov 30th, 2012 11:07pm report
A lot of you are talking about shootings... Yes, that is the literal meaning, but there's a different meaning under the words.
The name Robert is simply a name. I don't think it has any meaning, maybe some reference to a character in the Bible (I'm not Christian, so I don't know...) The main character is clearly an abused teenager, abused by his father. Because of his scars from his beatings, he is thought to be really strange by his peers, and is probably bullied by them. He's practically a human ticking bomb, and has reached his fuse. He's out for revenge. He wants them, the kids who are considered "normal" to feel his pain.
anonymous Sep 22nd, 2012 9:13pm report
The song is about an every bullied kid's dream of revenge.
This particular boy is being bullied because of his red hair. The phrase "Your hair's on fire! You must have lost your wits!" is a usual bullies' insult towards red-haired children. Now he sarcastically returns it as he shoots them down. The line "I reason with my cigarette" may imply that, saying those words, he actually sets some bully's hair on fire instead, or before, shooting him.
"Pumped up kicks" means that bullies are strong, "pumped up", and so are their kicks. The specific use of this phrase in the line "kids with pumped up kicks" represents those kicks as bullies' weapons - opposed, and inferior, to his gun.
There are indications that this revenge may be taking place only in the boy's imagination, as he envisions himself romantically rather than realistically (cowboy kid with a quick hand and a rolled cigarette in his mouth), but on the other hand, pointing at the exact location where he found the gun may imply that the shit is happening for real.
anonymous Sep 10th, 2012 9:50am report
The dinner on ice thing I think is that the dad is coming home drunk as a surprise and is going to beat his son and to keep the swelling down he's going to put like a steak on it or a bag of frozen peas.
anonymous Aug 28th, 2012 8:03pm report
this song is about robert Butler Jr.who came to his school one day normally and he randommly fired shots in the main office. but he was a victim of bullying and i guess he shot the principals cuz he thought they were the ones who didnt teach the bullies anything good.but that morning he wrote on facebook a warning.
anonymous Aug 14th, 2012 8:28am report
Okay. So Robert is a kid. He gets bullied at school because he's the cowboy kid. One day he snaps and goes and gets his dads gun from his box of fun things. The chorus is him telling all the other kids with the pumped up kicks that they'd better run, better run, outrun his gun.
anonymous Jul 1st, 2012 7:10pm report
its about this lonely kid who is bullied and his parents dont love him, just buy him stuff to stay happy. he turns into a drug addict and goes on a shooting spree shooting kids.
anonymous Jun 22nd, 2012 6:13am report
The song goes from the perspective of a troubled teenager. The song also tries to bring awareness to violence in high schools and other public places. Mark Foster was bullied in highschool, and Cubbie Fink had a cousin who survived the Columbine High Massacre. It really bothered him since they were super close.
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