The lyrics to "Pumped Up Kicks" are written from the perspective of a troubled and delusional youth with homicidal thoughts. The lines in the chorus warn potential victims to "outrun my gun" and that they...
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

[Repeat Chorus]

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

[Chorus x2]

[Chorus x3]

Lyrics submitted by evenabird, edited by kitty17moo, indierox, Paymaan, MycroftJr

Pumped Up Kicks song meanings
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  • +88
    General Commentits about a disturbed kid going on a killing spree (no shit).

    1st verse: he is just about to start shooting, and is hanging around with a shifty look and a revolver and no one suspects a thing. and the cowboy stuff means he's having fun with the idea of how cool it will be (probably to hae that power). cowboys are also lone figures which is important. but the line "and i dont even know what" any ideas? also the fact that hes called "Robert", is that name significant?

    Chorus: pumped up kicks are probably like Nike airs and stuff, which probably means all the trendy popular kids, and hes going to shoot them. by telling them to run (even if not literaly) he is playing with them and enjoying this, because you cant run faster than bullets.

    second verse: it says "daddy works a long day" which i think has an ironic innocense in assuming hes working that whole time. i think whats actually happening when dad's coming home late and bringing a surprise is he's coming home late drunk and beating him. dinner on ice is neglection. dinner reference + "ive been waiting a long time" suggests that he is at the dinnertable waiting for his dad to walk in. on top of that i think it also means he has been waiting along time for the opportunity of revenge. now reasoning with the cigarette is entertaining himself while he waits. the cigarette is probably acting as his concience he personifies it but also dismisses its opinion "And say your hair's on fire, you must have lost your wits"

    if you think i got it right let me know and if anyone can help me with that first verse a bit that would be nice

    lyricaljoyon August 21, 2010   Link
  • +17
    General CommentWell... not to drag everyone a little deeper... but...
    The top layer analysis is relatively straightforward...

    The real interesting thing is that the first stanza is written in THIRD person... He's singing about _Robert_ coming for you... analysis as above...

    The second stanza is written in FIRST person... "I've waited for a long time.
    Yeah the slight of my hand is now a quick pull trigger,"

    You could conclude that this song is really about teenage copycat killers and identifying with the psychosis that leads kids to do these types of acts.
    craezyhorseon December 17, 2010   Link
  • +11
    General CommentProbably already said, but I'll give a stanza-by-stanza inderpretation.

    "Robert's got a quick hand."

    I'm sure Robert is an allusion. Research gives three possibilities (that I've been able to find after a broad search, at least): Robert Steinhäuser, Robert A. Hawkins, and (most recently) Robert Butler Jr. "Robert" is ready to shoot at any point. Cowboy reference (quick draw).

    "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."

    He's probably cocky, feels powerful. Cowboys are loners who do things to feel mighty. They're also quick to resort to gunfights. The cigarette only emphasizes the idea of being a "badass." Cigarette is also another cowboy reference

    "Yeah he found a six shooter gun.
    In his dads closet hidden in a box of fun things, and I don't even know what."

    At this point, I think the allusion (Robert) is now solely referring to Robert Steinhäuser; Robert S. brought a glock to his school. The terminology of "six shooter gun" is typically limited to revolvers, a gun popular in Western movies. They were popular because they were small, easily hidden. Glocks are standard for police-officers, so it's viable that it could be found in a father's closet. "Fun things" in so ambiguous no one could ever get direct meaning from it, but I'd assume he found other police-like items (tazer, perhaps?). But, then again, for all we know it's just a bunch of bondage equipment.

    "But he's coming for you, yeah he's coming for you."

    It's meditated and he's resolute. There's clearly a lot of though going into this. I've read a lot of cockiness into the statement, too.

    "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."

    "pumped up kicks" would refer to some sort of trendy shoe. Considering it's an article of clothing that kids wear, I assume they're popular. I can't decide on "other's" meaning–it's either "everyone else with the kicks" is going to get shot, or it's making a distinction: ONLY the kids (the popular, perhaps rich childen) will be fired upon. The repetition of run really emphasizes the insanity of the guy. The terminology is devilishly coy, too. He's trying to cause a panic–there's more to it than just shooting the kids, he WANTS them to flee; "Robert" wants to hunt. Chilling.

    "Daddy works a long day.
    He be coming home late, yeah he's coming home late.
    And he's bringing me a surprise."

    I don't trust the wording. The phrasing doesn't depict "Daddy" well. Is he working? We have no evidence, but he's probably abusive. I'd argue the "surprise" is a fist, after "coming home late" from the bar.

    'Cause dinner's in the kitchen and it's packed in ice.
    I've waited for a long time.

    I have two ideas for the first line. My first thought is that it's booze covered in ice. My other thought is maybe he'll have to eat an icepack after the beating? My boyfriend says it's a reference to a boy who killed his parents and packed her into the freezer, but I can't find anything on google to verify such a thing existed. Though, regardless of the connotation, anything "packed with ice" doesn't sound like a particularly good dinner. At this point there's also a shift, which bothers me. Broadly, I'd argue that someone's been inspired by "Robert." If I were to write a thesis, I'd say that "Robert's" deliberate spectacle in his shooting (attempting to incite fear) is catching on among other deranged teenagers. Heh. I have this image of this kid just grinning from ear to ear as he's waiting. Cowboy reference.

    "Yeah the slight of my hand is now a quick pull trigger,"

    He's ready to shoot in an instant. Another cowboy reference.

    "I reason with my cigarette,
    And say your hair's on fire, you must have lost your wits, yeah."

    Probably chewing on his cigarette, moving it around while he's deciding whether to go through with it (liken to what people do with pencils when looking at a problem). He retorts to his doubts that the head of the cigarette (the unfiltered part you light) is on fire, so what does it know?
    Koriismon February 13, 2011   Link
  • +11
    Song MeaningMark 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."
    ledzeploveron March 23, 2011   Link
  • +7
    My InterpretationThe song is about gun violence (youth) and the lack of parental support and love that they feel causes some of it. The bassist had a cousin that survived Columbine so it could very well be about that shooting or just student on student violence in general.
    airlineguy12on September 09, 2012   Link
  • +5
    Song MeaningI think the "six shooter" gun is hardly a reference to a toy or an imaginary handgun, but rather a literal reference to the type of gun that might be found in a parent's closet box hidden away from a child's reach (however ineffectively in this instance--and likely many others in reality). Any revolver is a six shooter! A .357 magnum is a six shooter or six gun, as is a 38 special. These are very real, and very common handguns, though the more common (at least on television and in films) Glock or Beretta 9mm are probably what spring to mind when one imagines a handgun.
    As for the box of fun, sounds like porn, gun, ammo, maybe even some drugs and/or paraphernalia.
    I, too, agree with the summation of neglect. I also agree with the assessment that pumped up kicks could be taken to mean highly sought sneakers, which represent the cool kids.
    I think that the two points that I question are that perhaps the cigarette might be a joint (hand rolled, and exactly the type of thing a latchkey kid could develop proficiency in manufacturing). And the final issue I see at work is the psychological state created by combination of the neglect and/or abuse suffered at home at the hands of his father, and the likely ostracism experienced at school enacted by the pumped up kicks-wearing cool kids and/or jocks. This perfect storm of lacking a functional primary support system, immediate and regular access to lethal means, potential substance abuse, and repeated provocation via bullying or ostracizing behaviors at school could create a dissociative split or state of pre-psychotic decompensation wherein he begins to view himself in unrealistic terms to protect himself (i.e. The lone gunman or cowboy out to enact justice). This impending psychotic break could also explain his conversing with the cigarette.
    Thus, a school shooter is born, and artfully presented in a groovy tune to make us bob our heads, AND think...imagine that! GO, FOSTER THE PEOPLE!! Well played!!
    GoPSYCHyourselfon February 04, 2011   Link
  • +5
    My InterpretationOh goodness.. It's about how people would bully Robert until he hit his breaking point, went and got a gun, and started a school shooting. People are focusing on "kicks" in the wrong sense... maybe it's not universal, but where I'm from, Kicks is another word for shoes, and shoes are very often used as a status symbol.. ratty shoes often mean you're poor, whereas the newest Osiris brand shoes often mean you have a high social status. "All the other kids and their pumped up kicks better run better run, outrun my gun" means that they better use their super awesome status-symbol shoes that are completely impractical to run, or they're going to get shot.
    Azusangaon March 12, 2013   Link
  • +4
    General CommentIt is amazing how the victims are portrayed as the "bad guys," while alternatively we are positioned to accept the shooter and his decisions. This is really playing with my mind, because I feel as though "all the other kids" deserved it - though it would be so unnatural to watch a news reel of this event, and feel as though the killing was justified.

    This song can have a serious impact on the audience, not just because its a twisted sort of character, but because the twisted can really get inside your head.
    dee102112on March 15, 2011   Link
  • +4
    General CommentDont'cha just love reading everyone's comments? This song's meaning is basically controversial. (Unless you watch the FTP interviews!!) I posted on here about three times already, but I wanna post a fourth time.
    Ok, so wanna know what Pumped Up Kicks is really about?? (Got this info from watching FTP interviews --That what I always do in my spare time)
    Ok, so Mark said that he heard more and more on the news about kids doing something violent, like bringing guns and other weapons to school - And he said it bothered him. He didn't get how, and WHY, kids (preferably ages 12-17) would ever even think considering doing something violent. So, he wanted to "get inside the head of a kid who was going insane". Mark was tryig to think of what would cause a kid to act that way, whether it being bullying, isolation, etc. He was trying to write from the perspective of that kid.

    In one interview, he said, "There are two sides to a tragedy. One being the victim, of course... One being the side of the shooter [killer]..."

    So, all in all, the song is describing what's going on in a kid's life that makes him think violent thoughts. For example, in the second verse, "Daddy works a long day, he be comin, home late, he's comin' home late"... I think that part is trying to say that his dad works a lot, is hardly ever home... Leaving the kid with no one to talk to. I bet all he needs is closure, but he's basically fending for himself. And obviously, he's taunting the victims... "Better run, better run, outrun my gun!"

    I honestly don't get why some people say this is a bad song. Clearly, it's not trying to influence you in ANY way, shape or form. It's written as a story.
    Ok, if ya don't get that, think of it like this: You're reading a story. A murder mystery, to be exact. Someone dies mysteriously, police are trying to find the killer. Would you say that the author of that book is trying to influence murder?? I doubt it.

    So yeah... That being said, I LOVE Pumped Up Kicks!! It's my most favorite song. EVER :D
    HEYItsEurekaon March 15, 2012   Link
  • +4
    My InterpretationI always have a vivid vision of what's going on in this song whenever I listen to it. When it says, "Daddy works a long day, He be coming home late, yeah, he's coming home late, And he's bringing me a surprise" the "surprise" part seems more sarcastic, like his dad is abusive, and the surprise is being abused. And then, after, "Because dinner's in the kitchen and it's packed in ice" also shows a bad home life. Possibly that his parents aren't around much.

    Having a bad home life makes the rest of the song make sense. I've heard time and time again that this song is about a school shooting, which is obvious in the lyrics. If the kid in the song has a bad home life, where his parents aren't around much, it makes getting the gun from his dad's closet easier, and being able to take it to school easier. It also shows that he is lonely, and probably unstable, which shows the drive behind his actions.

    The music in the song is very contradicting to the lyrics. But it highlights the craziness someone has to go through before shooting up a school. Whenever I listen to this song, I always picture a boy with a twisted smile on his face, possibly happy with his actions because he's gone insane. The insanity part shows with "And say your hair's on fire, You must have lost your wits"

    I agree with charmedone89 about him telling kids to "outrun his gun" because he knows they can't outrun a bullet. But I don't think he was the bully, as much as the bullied.
    potatoskion November 19, 2012   Link

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