Los Angeles indie poppers Foster The People are taking the world by storm with their hit single “Pumped Up Kicks.” The song is so breezy and hummable, in fact, that while you’re incessantly singing it in your head, you have no idea you’re actually singing about something pretty twisted and violent.
So, inspired by this vexing little pop gem, we’ve compiled a list of songs whose upbeat catchiness masks their deceptively depressing and weighty lyrics. Basically, these are the musical equivalent of that smile you don when alone with your girlfriend’s battle ax of a mother.
1. Foster the People–“Pumped Up Kicks”
Feels like: A hazy, late-summer cookout.
Is actually about: A kid who swiped his dad’s gun and is about to go on a shooting spree.
Dead giveaway: “All the other kids with the pumped up kicks, you’d better run, better run, faster than my bullet.”
2. Bruce Springsteen–“Glory Days”
Feels like: A college kegger.
Is actually about: Growing up leads only to wasted youth and bitching about growing up. It’s a “Peter Pan” ode soaked in stale beer and regret, basically.
Dead giveaway: “Well, time slips away and leaves you with nothing, mister, but boring stories of glory days.”
3. Cee Lo Green–“F*** You”
Feels like: A doo-wop romp at the roller rink.
Is actually about: When it comes to snaring one’s dream girl, size (of your wallet) matters.
Dead giveaway: You mean other than the title? Fine: “If I was richer, I’d still be with ya. Now ain’t that some s***?”
4. Iggy Pop–“Lust for Life”
Feels like: Austin Powers jaunting down the street with a horde of dancers in tow.
Is actually about: A hard-partying druggie.
Dead giveaway: “Yeah I’m through with sleeping on the sidewalk–no more beating my brains…with the liquor and drugs…well I am just a modern guy, of course I’ve had it in my ear before.”
Feels like: Skateboarding on a California boardwalk in the mid ’90s, preferably while wearing Jncos.
Is actually about: An underage prostitute pimped out by her dad.
Dead giveaway: “Annie’s 12 years old, in two more she’ll be a whore. Nobody ever told her it’s the wrong way. Don’t be afraid, with the quickness you’ll get laid, for your family get paid.”
Feels like: A Southern road trip on the Fourth of July.
Is actually about: How your government wants to chew you up and spit you out.
Dead giveaway: “And when the band plays ‘Hail to the Chief,’ oh, they point the cannon at you.”
7. The La’s–“There She Goes“
Feels like: A commercial for Summer’s Eve, thanks to the cover by Sixpence None The Richer.
Is actually about: Heroin. “She” is heroin, people.
Dead giveaway: “There she goes again, pulsing through my veins…no one else could heal my pain.”
8. Katy Perry–“E.T.”
Feels like: A super-dramatic dance party.
Is actually about: A girl so pathetic and lonely that she has given up on trying to find love on Earth, and thus yearns for an alien to abduct and then vigorously probe her.
Dead giveaway: “Fill me with your poison. Take me, ta-ta-take me. Wanna be a victim, ready for abduction. Boy, you’re an alien.”
Feels like: Something you’d hear at the high school dance in “Back To The Future.”
Is actually about: A guy takes his woman out on a date, and they are in a horrific car crash. He lives, she dies in his arms.
Dead giveaway: “I lifted her head, she looked at me and said, ‘Hold me darling, just a little while.’ I held her close, I kissed her our last kiss…I lost my love, my life that night.”
10. The Police–“Roxanne“
Feels like: The last surge of a late, drunken night.
Is actually about: Trying to convince a stubborn prostitute to stop being a such a GD stubborn prostitute.
Dead giveaway: “Roxanne, you don’t have to put on the red light, those days are over. You don’t have to sell your body to the night. Roxanne, you don’t have to wear that dress tonight, walk the streets for money.”
11. Jimmy Buffett–“Margaritaville“
Feels like: Wearing a Hawaiian shirt.
Is actually about: A burned-out beach bum floating through life like a dead fish, and he’s all too aware he’s floating through life like a dead fish.
Dead giveaway: “But there’s booze in the blender, and soon it will render that frozen concoction that helps me hang on…some people claim that there’s a woman to blame, but I know it’s my own damn fault.”
Which sneakily depressing songs did we miss?