Should Ashley Download Pumped Up Kicks?

My 14-year-old daughter Ashley wants to download the popular song Pumped Up Kicks. Okay, you’ve heard me repeated tell you my two cents on plenty of music. This time let’s change it up. You tell me… should I let her download it?

The other day my wife and I were shoe shopping (Lori loves shoes… and I love Lori) and we heard the song come on in the store. Lori said, “I really like this song. I keep hearing it everywhere I go. It has a great sound!”

I laughed and agreed. “It is really catchy.” But then I asked her, “Do you know what it’s saying?”

She looked at me with an expression of, “Oh no… is this one of those bad songs too?”

Sometimes it’s not fun being the guy who’s always researching the content of the top music, TV shows and movies teenagers are watching. Especially with songs like this. At times I feel like a teenager and want to just say, “I don’t listen to the lyrics!”

Lori had never heard all the lyrics. She told me, “Isn’t this just about some kids with “pumped up kicks?”

I told her… “Keep listening.”

She tried for like 5 seconds and couldn’t make out the words.

I gave her a line or two:

Yeah, he found a six shooter gun.
In his dad’s closet hidden in a box of fun things, and I don’t even know what.
But he’s coming for you, yeah he’s coming for you.

[Chorus x2:]
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.

I did a little research on the song because parents have been asking me about the song’s meaning at my workshops lately. The song is basically about a kid who has had enough, he grabs a gun out of his dad’s closet and goes on a shooting rampage trying to shoot the kids with the “pumped up kicks” (really nice shoes, possibly the rich popular kids that bullied him).

Mark foster, the band’s front man, in a radio interview said “I was trying to get inside the head of an isolated, psychotic kid.” Foster claimed “the lyrics were written to bring awareness to the issue of gun violence amongst youth.”

I’m sure songs like this help “bring awareness” Mark. Thanks!

So soon enough Ashley asked me, “Dad, can I download Pumped up Kicks.”

Here’s where all my teaching has real world application in my life. Chapter Six of my parenting book is actually titled, “Dad, Can I Download This Song.” It’s something I hear in my house almost weekly.

In this case I asked Ashley, “Did you read the lyrics?”

“Yeah, I didn’t understand them.” Then she cut to the chase, as Ashley always does. “So can I have it?”

I tried to give her a little bit of information for her decision-making. “Well, the song is about a young man who has had enough and decided to gun down all the other kids that have possibly bullied him or think they’re better than him.” Then I did one of my favorite parenting moves. I returned the question to her. “So… do you think you should listen to that over and over again?

“But Dad, I’m not going to shoot everyone. I just like the song!”

So what do you think. Should Ashley be able to download Pumped Up Kicks?

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; Sex Matters; The Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket; and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers; Connect; and the 10-Minute Talks series. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
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26 Responses to Should Ashley Download Pumped Up Kicks?

  1. David says:

    The track’s vocal effects disguise the song’s lyrics (for what motivation, I’m not sure) and the song’s music video offers little insight as to the song’s meaning. But a quick read through the lyrics strongly hints at themes such as violence and revenge. Clearly, those are not very healthy/godly attributes for us to display. For those reasons, I’d say “no.”
    David

  2. jon d. forrest says:

    I watched the video and first of all, why does everything look so stinking cool in slow motion? you could videotape me picking my nose and play it back in slo-mo and be like, “that looks like so much fun. Can I join your slow motion world of nasal exploration?” (there’s you a name for a rock group btw. nasal exporation) I digress. and sorry Ashbo (my nickname for her even though we’ve not met) it’s a “no.”

    Wiki and I say no. this is what wiki says, “Contrasting with the dark lyrics of the song, the music, written before the lyrics, is upbeat, with a heavy bassline and a mixture of acoustic and electronic elements. Foster said, “It’s a ‘f*&^ you’ song to the hipsters in a way—but it’s a song the hipsters are going to want to dance to.”[1] Jeffery Berg of Frontier Psychiatrist said, “I was so engrossed with the cheery melody of its chorus that it took me a few listens to discover that the lyrics suggest dark, Columbine revenge”

    I think he achieved his goal. It makes me want to dance to the rythm of my own slaughter. This song brings “awareness” to teen violence in the same way Hef brings awareness to women’s rights. aka all the way to the bank.

    Besides, if David R. Smith says no, isn’t that enough. Yall are awesome.

  3. Greg says:

    Even if the song doesn’t cause Ashley to go out and gun down her classmates, why give money to a guy who glorifies doing so?

    The theme I always hear from my students is, “I don’t care about the lyrics. I just like the beat.” Well, we vote with our wallets, so the longer we continue to high five garbage-producing celebrities with our greenbacks, the longer we’ll continue to see garbage front and center in our culture.

    My vote is no. Sorry, Ashley.

  4. Michelle says:

    I am in the minority here. All I can think about it how much I love the song “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam. LOVED IT, and still love it. It’s similar, yes? I was a good Christian kid, and it didn’t cause me to go out and shoot up bullies. It actually caused me to talk to others about the song’s meaning and bullying. Does the song glorify God? Absolutely not, but most mainstream music doesn’t. I guess my feeling is that there are worse choices…I do have lines drawn for my kids when the song is filled with sex-laden implications, foul language, and gratuitous violence. So for MY kids, after a discussion about the lyrics and meaning of the song, I would be okay with downloading.

    • Michelle… thanks for you honesty. You won’t receive any criticism from me with your reply… just a thought. I too like to discuss movies, songs and various media with my kids. But watching/listening once to discuss are different than buying them and absorbing them over and over again. I think your idea of listening to the song and discussing it is great, but as for buying… something to think about anyway. Just a thought. Thanks again for your candid input.

  5. John Fearnow says:

    The movie “Courageous” just came out to theatres today. If any of you dads have not seen the movie, you need to. It shows how dads need to be courageous and be involved in their child’s lives, even when it is not what is popular in today’s culture. Take a stand and be courageous, Jonathon. Say no, and love on Ashley, like I know you do. She will see you as a true hero some day because of it. God bless you for all you do.

  6. Alan Terlep says:

    I suggest that the important thing isn’t *whether* you allow Ashley to download, or not download, the song…it’s *how* you express that to her. “It’s not godly” is a meaningless phrase–or it really means “I don’t like it and can’t explain why,” at least to the teens I know. And I think it’s important that you affirm Ashley when she tells you that she’s capable of resisting negative cultural influences. She’s resisting peer pressure and all sorts of media already, and she needs credit for that.

    I think “we vote with our wallets” is a good place to go with this. It’s not that she’s going to shoot people, but rather that she’s going to give money to someone who worked to make light of massacre. That’s been the approach I’ve taken. We allow a lot more media to our teenage daughter, but drew the line at “His Dark Materials.” I told her she could get it from the library, but that we weren’t giving money to a guy who was actively working to undermine everything we believe in and work for.

    Also, our church practices believer’s baptism and so we emphasized to our daughter that baptism would make her accountable to follow some external practices as part of her witness to Christ. She doesn’t have to go to church because she’s a kid and her parents make her; she has to go to church because she made a grown-up commitment. Same with media choices. If Ashley has been baptized or confirmed, that would be something to bring up. Especially in that context, “we vote with our wallets” argument is a very good one

    I’d say that “Jeremy” is not in the same category…yes it’s about a kid who shoots up his classroom, but the music is appropriate for a tragedy, and the narrator reflects that being a bystander to someone else’s suffering makes him part of the suffering. That’s a good message for Christians to remember. If it were 20 years ago, you could do a great sermon relating “Jeremy” to the Crucifixion. I don’t see “Pumped Up Kicks” providing the same material.

  7. …Seriously…? Controversy over a song…from my dad?? Hahaha!! Ok n1 😛

    And lets see if we can get serious after this hilarious article!

    Every man MUST have the chance to check everything out for himself. Parents are there to help the kids after doing the mistake, not forseeing it and preventing it from happen – such thing is impossible! So your role – and mark my words – is strictly consultative. Of course she has every right to download the song, listen to it 24/7 and enjoy a great beat, music, lyrics you name it. How many people have been tortured for lancing a new style, or for writing something incredibly “unethical” (back to their times), but they are like gods atm..?

    Do not let her download it. Tell her what to do all the time. The first day she will get her own money in her hands, she will have all the fun she didn’t get the chance to have when she was supposed to! And trust me…it will be hardcore!

    Peace,
    P Kintis.

    • Wow… interesting reply. Unfortunately, I can’t agree in totality. You make a good point that some day she will be 18 and she’ll be able to listen to whatever she wants. But now she just turned 14, and I’m still thinking with her through these choices. I give her a lot of freedom (more each year) so that she’ll be used to thinking about the content of media and practicing discernment (which is why I asked her, “What do you think?”) But sorry… I’m not just giving up and saying, “It’s your choice.” or even further… “It’s your right.” Sorry. The research is pretty clear what happens when parents just give up and say “Do what you want.” There needs to be fair boundaries and plenty of conversations.

      • Greg says:

        I hear ya, Jonathan. We have enough parents who don’t want to parent as it is. Kids have parents so they can help them grow up and become adults themselves.

        Take P Kintis’ argument to its logical conclusion and you end up saying the same thing (“It’s your choice/right”) to kids of all ages (baby on up). But I’m sure P Kintis wouldn’t say a 4 year-old should have the “right” to do whatever he/she wants. My guess is P Kintis is himself/herself a teenager who doesn’t quite have the parenting perspective yet (no offense, P Kintis – just trying to figure your comments out).

        • Really sorry for not being able to get back to you sooner but was on a business trip @ Sweden (nice country btw :P)!

          None taken Greg :). Actually I am about 26 years old, not a parent yet, but have learned a lot over the years from mine. And I have to mark that I was not an easy kid growing up!! The first example I can remember, is my parents saying not to put my hand in a socket, when I was about 3… What happened…? By the time I got the chance, that hand was in the socket… But I was only 3 then… Getting older, I was asking for things that I was not supposed or shouldn’t have. For example, does Ashley own a cell phone? Because I remember my father giving me permission to do anything that wouldn’t harm me immediately (download music, surf the internet by myself, watch whatever I want on tv), but he didn’t buy me a cell phone, even if I was nagging about it 24/7, not until I turned 17. His opinion was that it harms my brain… It probably does, but I got it when he thought it was important and I couldn’t live without it (out by myself, getting in to taxis etc).

          My point is that every human being (let’s keep babies out of this for a while), is a person. Every person CAN form his own personality and SHOULD. Parents are here for guidance…

          First let her download the song, then ask “What’s your opinion now that you have the song? Was it worth it?”. And if you get a yes it’s great, don’t try to change her mind. Figure out some ways to do it without her knowing. Take her to an opera or a church concert next time, so she can get to learn that there is something better…

          Ty for your time 🙂

  8. Ephraim says:

    hmmmm this is a good situation where a song could be used for great discussions with students and her friends. However, in my past experience with songs that were of this nature (not explicit or sex/drug content), she needs to be very careful in choosing what music to listen to…because in my experience music can definitely affect ones mood and attitude. This can be one of those songs..so maybe it should be filed under a playlist called discussion starters.

    I can’t really say one way or the other cause i’m not a parent. but loving discussion about is the way to go which ever way ya go!

  9. Tracey says:

    Ok, no one followed my train of thought, so here goes. I think listening to songs witha catchy tune and not what it is saying is the same thing as voting for a candiate just because he looks good or has good hair. On the outside, that guy looks great, but what about what he stands for? Do you know? Do you care? So, if we let our kids have questionalbe music just because it’s catchy, then we are setting them up to view life in total that way. Looks good, sounds good, must be good. This example can carry over in so many areas. So I say, don’t let Ashley download the song. It sounds like you have clear boundries about what is ok in your family, so stick to it. I agree with P. Kintis above, that once she has her independence and ability to make these decisons herself, she may listen to, or whatever, the wrong thing. THAT is when you pray that your parenting has hit the mark and she understands the consequences of those actions, and learns from the mistake. Also, there is alot of music that is “on the fence” so to speak. Stick to your guns with the hardcore stuff, and maybe she will understand why that song is so bad, in comparison. Love your insight Jonathan. Thanks.

  10. Shawna Kirsch says:

    Unique sound. The music industry are no idiots, that’s for sure. They produce some great sounding stuff. We’re reading through your new parenting book now. Very insightful. And remember WE, as parents, have the greatest influence…IF we use it. Discussion is key. I laugh at the artist saying he’s bringing light to this subject. The song doesn’t give a story line at all to follow. It just hits a subject that I’m sure the Columbine parents don’t find as ‘awareness’. In the first verse, I see the intent of the artist’s heart because he just had to throw in the line about finding the ‘box of fun things’. None the less, these are the conversations we must have. And I’m sure those happen more often in your house Jonathon, which causes our teens to want to roll their eyes knowing a lecture on how the ‘words in the song’ are crucial. As youth Pastors, trust me we get it too. But eventually, we know those conversations won’t fall on deaf ears.
    Our answer would be NO on the download. We’re picky in our house too. And I’ll accept the rolling of the eyes to keep those words from ringing in my daughters’ ears, which eventually does affect her spirit.
    Thanks for asking. If we’re ‘knowing what our kids are listening to’, those discussions will be the constant go around and maybe even battle. But a battle worth fighting for.

  11. Tracey says:

    Ok, I hope you read this. YESTERDAY, that is October 4, my 15 year old gets in the car, plugs in her itouch and begins to play PUMPED UP KICKS! I had never heard this until I read your column. I asked if that was the song, she said yes, it’s her favorite band (ha, never heard them in the car before) I asked her if she knew what the lyrics were and she said no so I told her and she changed the song, but I got the usual, “I’m a teenager and this is what I do,” and we had a fight, as usual, over her choice, I got blamed for letting her older sister get away with all this stuff, but not her, BLAH BLAH BLAH! We also had a discussion about Teen Mom. UGH! She thinks it is the best thing to watch and see what NOT to do. I hope I can block MTV and some other stations on my TV because this is getting out of hand, I’m a single mom (and a youth worker) who cares about this stuff, and her dad doesn’t police this at all.

    • Keep up the good work Tracey. Thanks for sharing.

    • Alex says:

      So sad.
      So your daughter tells you she wants to watch a show that is prompting in her a sense of awareness and you’re looking to block the channel it runs on?
      Pathetic.
      How is your child going to know how the world rolls if you’re too busy sheltering her from it to educate her yourself?
      If you’re not gonna give your daughter something more that nags and don’ts then at least let her figure it out by herself.
      Fact: My father’s family is very catholic and my two uncles were very reticent to allow their daughters to talk about thinks like safe sex and teenage pregnancy awareness. They both have a kid now, one of them is 20 and the other is 16, neither finished a career and one of them is a single mother (A real one, which mean no dad whatsoever, not just divorced).
      My father and my mother are much more open minded, they actually talked to us about it themselves. I have three sisters, two of them have already graduated from college, one is a very succesful computer engineer and the other is a lawyer, neither of them have kids, despite being in very long relationships, they win good money and have their own houses. My little sister is going on to high school right now, excellent grades. Needless to say, she doesn’t have a child either.

  12. peter says:

    at least its better than a lot of other top songs today. do you honestly believe that listening to this song will make your daughter go on a shooting rampage? if so, then in my opinion, your ignorant. its a great song so my answer is why not?

    • Well… I guess that’s the logic I should use then. “As long as it’s better than some of the other songs.” Thanks.

      • Alex says:

        Let me tell you all a story mister.
        When I was a little kid my parents never denied me of a song with violent lyrics (Way more violent than Pumped Up Kicks) or a tv show with sexual implications (Something one can see in EVERYTHING, from Spongebob to Queer As Folk).
        And I grew to be a fairly normal man. You wanna know my only difference from most people I know?
        I have a much wider, and wiser, judgment.
        My parents didn’t allow those things on me because they were neglecting, they did so because they were confident on the way their raised me, they knew a song or a tv show wasn’t going to challenge my values.
        And the day I had the age to go out, have sex, try drugs, drink myself stupid and in general do all sorts of idiotic things teenagers do, I didn’t.
        I’ve never had a cigarette in my mouth, I’ve only drank cider or wine in very moderated amounts in Christmas, I’ve never used drugs despite having many friends that do so on a very constant basis, I’ve never even tried to skateboard my way through a handrail. And I proudly admit I lost my virginity only a year ago, to the person I’m in a very loving relationship with now.
        And my parents never gave me a talking to, a curfew, a nag, a detention or a punishment. I know they didn’t neglect me because they did call me when I was running late or went out without telling them, but they never said “You’re grounded, mister!”. They were confident in my education, my moral sense and my ability to decide as an individual.
        So when you deny your daughter from experiencing things like this you’re basically either telling her that she’s too stupid to discern between fiction and reality, good and bad; or that you’re not confident on the way you have raised her.
        If you think you’ve done a good job as a parent you can’t possibly feel your work shaken by a song.
        Rebellious and bratty children are not product of liberal environments like most people your age like to believe, it is oppressive systems that generate such behaviors.

  13. Amy Stankus says:

    Another minority opinion here: I like the song a lot, and I don’t think it glorifies shooting people; I think it just tells a story in which a boy *does* shoot people. It’s clear in the story that the boy involved has kind of lost his mind. It didn’t seem glorious at all to me. I feel sorry for him every time I hear the song. I wouldn’t have a problem with a teenager listening to it. I would just make sure we discussed the lyrics and what kind of mind they’re describing.

  14. Sean says:

    I like the song.It’s on my I-tunes list. Then again, I’m not a parent. Going from my personal experience listening to the song, I believe the song does try to bring awareness to the issues of gun violence. And to tell the truth, I fall into the category of one who will listen to the music but not really care about the lyrics at all. However with this song, I did listen, and was intrigued with the subject the song tries to express. I do not think the song tries to glorify violence or persaude others to take a gun and go on a shooting spree. Instead it talks about a harsh truth, that bullying or the like can cause such violent actions. When it comes down to it, what do you believe? Do you believe the song is trying to encourage violence or trying to bring awareness? If Ashley can decide which, and undestand fully what the song is trying to say, then yeah let her listen to it. I highly doubt she’ll go into a hypnotic trance after listening to a dozen times.

    As for the song being TRASH? You have to be careful when you say somethings trash just because it has a message that isn’t one you think young people should hear.I guess everyone has their opinions. Being an atheist, and also being a pop culture fanatic, I can easly give the example of the old pulp stories of old. Like Robert E. Howards CONAN THE CIMMERIAN tales. Tales which were violent, had lots of naked women, and pretty much told stories with the idea that the barbarian ways were better than the civilized. In other words not Christian tales, but I can guarantee that Christians read them just the same and loved them just as much as I do. Not to mention that I think Wierd Tales target audience was kids, and that was in the 30’s and 40’s. I guess what I’m trying to say is be careful what you call trash, becasue another mans’ trash is another’s treasure. 🙂