***** This is supposed to be a track review, but I just want to preface it with something I've been meaning to write for years, so here goes:
It'll probably get written into history that this song's ascent to #1 was purely off the back of a XXXX lager ad. Granted, plenty of ads have aided tracks in the charts prior and post this, but this is a rather staggering outlier that certainly calls for question since it makes little sense. The situation here is that a track which was already a multi-platinum selling hit, would go out of its way afterwards to sell a good 30-40,000 (if not more) copies more than was otherwise trended to do so...in just a few weeks! Oh but you say, history is littered with things like that; Babylon Zoo got extremely high sales in January in the UK bolstered through a Levi jeans ad, much like Shaggy & Stiltskin also benefitted. But those ads were memorable, they stood out.
Australia has a fine tradition of absurd and memorable beer ads, so the one that featured "Pumped Up Kicks" is just way out of its league. Well that and the fact that there was only about 10 seconds of the song in the ad. In actual fact, I'm pretty sure the ad was running a while before the song even got the boost, which leads me to hypothesize that there was far more to it than meets the eye.
My take on it, is that despite what I said, the ad WAS a very important factor in this #1 chase, and it certainly wouldn't have happened without it. But it was so close that there was more that worked just to the track's favour. It helps to survey the scene of the charts. For instance, over on iTunes, "Pumped Up Kicks" had left the top 10 back in late November. As it was one of the (intentional?) slow burning hits, it didn't just crash out in the same way a Jason Derulo or Marvin Priest single would, and coupled with the lack of releases around December, it basically hung around in the top 20. On the other hand, December is the highest selling period of the year, so even though as I noted, the ad was running in this time, it couldn't do much to get back into the top 10 as it was just too tight, and this was a time where the top 10 effect (ie songs getting substantial sales & exposure purely from being in the iTunes top 10) was at its most powerful, it just couldn't make the distance.
The track's opportunity came about by the very thing that would otherwise be a weakness or it, the Christmas sales. As it goes, Christmas is the very biggest day for music sales, thanks to all the people loading up on gift vouchers, new iPods, perhaps even new computers, y'know, all the usual stuff people seem to do on Christmas morning instead of just be with family :P In any case, for as long as I've followed it, I've observed obvious trends in the Christmas charts. In a trait that is seemingly exclusive to Australia, the main beneficiaries are teen pop & club house. If you're a new, rising hit, you're shit outta luck on that day, and then even if it's a monster hit from say Adele or Gotye, the (relative!) trend will still be negative. So all signs point to it being bad for "Pumped Up Kicks" then, but it actually faired reasonably well, just not getting into the top 10 because of course it was a day for Jason Derulo.
The reason this played to "Pumped Up Kicks"' advantage is that quite simply, it was selling much less than its competition at this point. After Boxing day, the Christmas chart effect starts to fade off, and so anything that got washed away before, provided it's still kicking around, will experience steady upwards momentum, it's part of why most of the most unusual hits happen around January. Sure enough, just a few days after Christmas, "Pumped Up Kicks" had struck its way back into the iTunes top 10 and was poised for dominance.
In addition to the instant chart jolt that happens on Christmas, the other important thing about it is that Christmas is the day that the most new music buyers enter the market for the first time, which is why it makes sense that a lot of the biggest hits of the year go back up, as they are the first songs that come to mind to the new buyer for what they like and want to listen to.
By this point "Pumped Up Kicks" had been on display on the XXXX ad for a while, but it wasn't just that. Heck, the ABC had done a lot of suspiciously concurrent activity that lines up all good for the track's favour. At the start of December, triple j ran a quick Facebook poll on people's favourite Like A Version covers. Even though the nature of such polls means that the results are obvious to anyone who well, voted in them, it was announced in a significant manner on the radio on the 9th of December. The popular choice was unsurprisingly (well, in context that is, I still find it quite odd) Owl Eyes' rendition of you guessed it, Foster The People's "Pumped Up Kicks". Not only was that version track 1 on the compilation that had just been put out, but it was also prominently featured in all the promotional material on radio & tv in that time. This rapid fire exposure is also probably what helped that cover place so highly in the Hottest 100 poll a month later. In any case, I'm sure it's not a coincidence that "Pumped Up Kicks"' rapid ascent coincides with the voting period for that poll, which was right near the peak of its popularity that year, and also featured lots of Foster The People songs that weren't "Pumped Up Kicks" getting lots of votes. Considering how many people vote in that, it's fair to say that A LOT of people had "Pumped Up Kicks" being impossible to ignore that summer. It also speaks volumes that the Like A Version compilation was the most consistent sellers of the series, and it rebounded up the chart in both the week of the poll announcement, and the week that "Pumped Up Kicks" soared up to the top 2 on the ARIA Charts.
But back to iTunes, "Pumped Up Kicks" had just hit the top 10, and it would be hard for it to have been in a better position as it is. The top 10 effect was well, in effect, so it was able to get a handy boost after that, and it also goes back to what I had said two paragraphs ago about the new buyer effect. "Pumped Up Kicks" was a past hit of course, but this would have been the first time that a lot of people had seen it in the iTunes top 10, and given how familiar they would be with it this time around, it was easy for it to climb even more.
Then there's the matter again of its competition. At this point, the top of the chart had grown rather stale. LMFAO's "Sexy And I Know It" had been hovering in and around the top spot for a good 3 months (helped of course by the equally prominent #1 effect) but by that point it was more of a placeholder, since it had returned after the much less longevity bound "Good Night" had all but run its course. But still there was nothing to knock LMFAO off the perch. Apart from Mastin, its closest competitors were the equally old "Paradise" by Coldplay, and the equally repugnant "Hangover" by Taio Cruz. But those tracks would never have the traction to do it. Coldplay sell far too many albums to be able to go all the way to #1 on the charts, and "Paradise", though their highest selling single now, just wasn't the sort of track to do it. "Hangover" on the other hand, had its time of glory on Christmas and was not remotely culturally significant to go all the way (though it has bafflingly sold over 300,000 copies by now).
By nature of the charts, there has to be a #1 single each week. It doesn't matter if it's a super high seller or not, there will be one. So considering the timing of when it happened, it's quite probable that "Pumped Up Kicks" was barely increasing in sales at all, but just sitting by as all of its competitors ran out of steam one by one. The timing of this was all rather convenient too for it, as in addition to the top 10 effect, there are slight effects for each position a track rises from there, and as I recall, the top 10 at that time were rather evenly spread out, so "Pumped Up Kicks" rode a kind of momentum wave, hitting each spot one at a time and gaining just enough momentum to hit the next spot and so on. The result of this is that it only took merely half a week after hitting the top 10 for "Pumped Up Kicks" to go all the way to #1.
Once that had happened, it was mostly sealed. "Sexy And I Know It", having more than surpassed its expected lifetime at the top of the charts, no longer had any way to keep up the momentum, and the same trick that worked to "Pumped Up Kicks" advantage on the way up, played against "Sexy And I Know It", which would quickly leave the iTunes top 10 in less than 2 weeks after losing the top spot, and to this day it has never returned to it.
"Pumped Up Kicks" which had previously struck luck with the slow December charts, again was with fortune on slow January charts. The lack of new hits boiling under meant that it could just casually sit at the top for just long enough before Flo Rida would ruin the charts in a way only he knows how to do. "Pumped Up Kicks" of course then quickly descended the same way "Sexy And I Know It" had a week earlier. It had of course run out of new ways to extend its momentum.
So yeah, you can say that XXXX Lager is what got this track to #1 in Australia, but I think if not for the ABC, Brooke Addamo and some really lucky circumstances with numbers and timing, I'm certain it just would not have happened.
So what do I think of this track? I like it quite a bit. This wasn't always the case though as I greatly despised it when I first heard it back in 2010. It was only after the aforementioned Like A Version that I started to gain an appreciation for the track (knowing the lyrics helped I suppose), and I started to find lots of things to dig about it. For instance the bassline has a constant creeping up effect that keeps me engaged through the whole verses, and the song doesn't cut out any of the now classic Foster quirkiness, the bridge from around 2:33 onwards just seems so weird to be part of a hit single. Even though Mark Foster started as a jingle writer, it all just seems like such an unintended fluke. Granted it's not my favourite Foster The People track, but it's still not getting old at all for me. Last edited: 04.09.2014 09:26
**** ▒ Vreemde maar leuke plaat uit de zomer van 2010 door "Foster The People", een indie rock band uit Los Angeles !!! Het trio bestaat uit: "Mark Foster, Mark Pontius & Cubbie Fink" !!! Ruim 4 sterren ☺!!!
****** Was ist das denn? Eine echte Perle, erinnert ein wenig an Empire of The Sun, aber mit einer sehr eigenen Note. @ !Xabbu: Was heißt hier "Falsch umgesetzt", der Song funktioiniert genauso sehr gut!
****** Lief in den Ferien öfters am Radio, so etwas wie die Hymne unserer Ferien. Speziell, besonders, wenn man das Teil leise hört, klingt es fast schon 60's-mässig. Ich las ja am Anfang immer "Pumped up Kids"... Last edited: 13.12.2011 16:22
**** Eine weitere, auf Retro gemachte Nummer, aber eine recht gute. Die Melodie im Refrain trifft ins Schwarze. Das Einzige, was mich hier wirklich stört, ist die verzerrte Stimme in den Versen. Klare 4*.
*** Wenn der Refrain nicht so gut wäre, höchstens eine 3. Edit: Nein, das nervt inzwischen schon zu sehr, als daß es mir weiterhin eine 5 wert ist, guter Refrain hin oder her und der Rest ist sowieso (leider) Müll. Last edited: 17.01.2012 03:49
** Völlig debiler Schlagzeugbeat (gehts noch furztrockener?), der Gesang wurde dafür umso mehr mit Effekten "übertüncht", die Melodie gerade mal im Chorus einigermassen erträglich, wenn dieses völlig einfallslose Nachgepfeiffe nicht da ist. All das, und auf jeden Fall nicht zu kommerziell klingen, sich Indie (ich könnte k...., wenn ich nur schon dieses Wort lese) nennen und dann einen Vertrag bei Columbia Records unterzeichnen – typisch für dieses Genre.
****** It's so hard to review a big hit such as this and fairly compare it to the non-hits off the same album. I find I have the same issue with Night Visions. Once it's a hit, it's hard to judge it objectively against the others having that knowledge in the back of your head, at least for me anyway. Anyway, I feel that this gets a lot of unfair criticism, both from 'pop-lovers' and 'indie-lovers'. It really is a lot less (potentially) annoying than a lot of 'indie' tracks, and it's not that different from the formula of pop hits at all. Anyway, I'll repeat myself here and say while it's amazing, it's only amazing for a hit, as I really do think there are probably 2, possibly 3 tracks on the album that are better. The muffled vocal throughout the verses contrasting with the clarity in the vocal sets the story of the song straight, it leaves the listener with no doubts as to the meaning (tho I think that's an old trick in the book) . It works for me and adds to the drama of the whole story. I loved the bridge at the time but now it's a bit 'wtf'y, and after I've heard it so many times a bit grating if I be honest. The rest of the song still shines though, but probably not as much as if I hadn't heard so much, I will never know. Also I actually quite liken this going #1 to Stolen Dance if they had got there, both would have made for an amazing fairytale but unfortunately only one of them is able to tell it.
****** Geniales, vielschichtes Werk und sicher eines der wirkmächtigsten Lieder des aktuellen Jahrzehnts. Den Kontrast zwischen der sonnigen musikalischen Gestaltung und dem durchdachten Text über Komformitätsdruck und Mobbing erachte ich als äusserst gelungen. Ein eindrücklicher Beweis dafür, was Popmusik auch in jüngerer Zeit zu leisten imstande ist.