Music and Censorship: A Debate!


I love radio. I do. I love to listen to the randomness, the DJ commentary and the ‘Drive at 5.” I frequently rock out at the traffic light to whatever song is on and have even been applauded by strangers in the crosswalk. A silent car is not for me. If I am in it, the radio is on and I am singing along OR I am chatting with a passenger. It’s just how I do it.

Tonight, on the drive home, the DJ’s on a local station posed a question: “Where do we draw the line with playing a popular song if it is glorifying a tragedy and could be influential to young kids?”

The song in question: “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster The People

The artist maintains that this song was written about an angst-y teenager and not based on true events. However, and many bloggers have already covered this–including the DJ’s I listen to, it bears an uncanny resemblance to the events of the mall shooting in Omaha, NE in which 19 year old Robert Hawkins shot and killed 9 people (including himself) and wounded 4 others. Previously he had left a suicide note at his home that stated that one day he would be famous because of all this.

Here are the lyrics to the song:

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
He’s a cowboy kid
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

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
x1

Daddy works a long day
He be coming home late, yeah, he’s coming home late
And he’s bringing me a surprise
Because dinner’s in the kitchen and it’s packed in ice
I’ve waited for a long time
Yeah, the slight of my hand is now a quick pull trigger
I reason with my cigarette
And say your hair’s on fire
You must have lost your wits, yeah

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
x1

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
x3

Is it catchy? Yes. But at what cost? True, some of the best music out there stems from controversial or troublesome subjects. We have anthems dedicated to war, death, mass-orgies etc… But is this going too far? Are we essentially immortalizing the murder of 9 people by glorifying it through a popular song?  I kinda think we are. The DJ’s went on to say that they had previously refused to play the song during their shift because they were personally offended by it and wanted to be sensitive to the fact that their time slot was from 3pm-7pm, prime “stuck in the car and listening to the radio” time for kids and teens.

Here is what the artist said:

Mark Foster recently explained in an interview what Pumped Up Kicks is about:
“Pumped Up Kicks’ is about a kid that basically is losing his mind and is plotting revenge. He’s an outcast. I feel like the youth in our culture are becoming more and more isolated. It’s kind of an epidemic. Instead of writing about victims and some tragedy, I wanted to get into the killer’s mind, like Truman Capote did in ‘In Cold Blood.’ I love to write about characters. That’s my style. I really like to get inside the heads of other people and try to walk in their shoes.”

What are your thoughts, blogging world? Should we exclude songs, such as these, from prime-time radio as they are perceived to encourage and glorify horrific events, such as murder? Or is censorship something to be avoided no matter the cost?

What is your interpretation of this song? Do you see it differently? Give me your thoughts, peeps!!!

Love and good old fashioned classic rock,

Bekah

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