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Pumped Up Kicks: Foster the People, Drew Carey, and the reason 'Cleveland Rocks'

Foster The People, an indie electronic pop band formed in Los Angeles, has taken the music world by storm with their intoxicatingly catchy hit 'Pumped Up Kicks'.

Foster The People, an indie electronic pop band formed in Los Angeles, has taken the music world by storm with their intoxicatingly catchy hit 'Pumped Up Kicks'.

Pumped Up Kicks by Foster the People

Pumped Up Kicks

Foster the People may just be a indie-pop/electronic-folk band (something of that sort) formed in 2009, but the mesmerizing hook that has sent them skyrocketing to the peak of the Alternative charts feels like it has been stuck in my head since 1997. Now, you may be skeptical, but the groundwork for the almost-too-catchy chorus of 'Pumped Up Kicks' (video on right) had been laid out long before FTP's time. I'm sure they had no intention of doing so, but Foster the People have resurrected a certain melody which I always found delightful. Actually, to be precise, the melody that defines the song and even overpowers the sometimes dark lyrics with its sonorous euphoria, first began its one-way path into people's brains in 1979........... technically speaking that is.

The Drew Carey Show

In that year, when Ian Hunter penned the line "All the little chicks with the crimson lips go Cleveland rocks! Cleveland Rocks!" it was difficult to recognize the real beauty of the words over his guitar-heavy style. And it would be almost two decades before the Presidents of the United States covered the song and brought the lyrics back to national attention.

Now don't be upset if you have yet to realize where mostly everybody outside of Cleveland probably heard this line first, because they hid it in the one place nobody would ever look: The Drew Carey Show. Not that I have anything against our (second) favorite 'The Price is Right' host -I actually loved the Drew Carey Show- but with a guy as funny-looking as Drew Carey on the screen, who was listening to the music? (see the video below @1:28)

The "All the little chicks" line was actually the only verse Carey really lip-synchs in the intro song to the show, which is appropriate because no other verse displays such a literary finesse. Those few seconds of Drew Carey shaking his head in front of the camera on top of that pick-up truck rooted themselves so strongly in my brain just because that rhythmic hook was a stroke of poetic genius. I swear, every time I see Drew Carey on television, I can faintly hear that melody in the back of my head.

Now what does this have to do with Pumped Up Kicks? The lyrics, genre, instrumentals, and just about everything else are completely different from Mr. Hunter's ode to Cleveland. But, if you listen to the two back-to-back, the similarities are stunning. "All the other kids with the pumped up kicks better run, better run" is sung smoothly and gently, luring the listeners into a dream-like state when coupled with the brilliantly simple beat. But with half an effort, one can tell that, although the words are different, the sounds and the melodies are one and the same.

In fact, when I first heard 'Pumped Up Kicks' a few months ago, my initial reaction was that I was hearing Drew Carey's theme song again. But then I heard the hipsterriffic bassline, which was written before the lyrics and complements the vocals perfectly, and I was utterly impressed. Then after a few listens more, I was able to decipher the dark and homicidal lyrics and then I was truly blown away by Foster the People's ability to conceal such depressing words under an impenetrably upbeat sound. With musical skill such as this, it should not come as a surprise that this band that was virtually unknown six months ago, has found its first single featured on the big screen already in Friends With Benefits starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis, a film which does well to capture the same free-spirited and unorthodox energy.

I guess the lesson we can learn from Foster the People is that the true beauty of language can overshadow the darkest of tones. And besides, this melody even made Drew Carey look talented for a few seconds every week, which is more than you can say for Whose Line is it Anyway?


I found a @fosterthepeople tweet from June 14th when I was searching "Foster the People Drew Carey" in Google while trying to get to this page and it was pretty dead on I think. 

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"Just played my hometown Cleveland so I gotta ask this. What's the best thing about Cleveland? TheRockHall, great lakes brewing, Drew Carey?"


amanda on May 01, 2012:

thank you thought i was going mental! feeling like i heard itbefore.

Wahoomilko on March 01, 2012:

I'm originally from Cleveland and loved the Drew Carey Show so the POTUSOA cover of Cleveland Rocks is pretty much my anthem, so when Pumped Up Kicks became the song all of my friends listened to, I always had to tell them it was ripping off Cleveland Rocks, this post has given me vindication. Thank you

mrs.allnut on November 10, 2011:

I've been telling people that Pumped Up Kicks uses exactly the same structure as Cleveland Rocks! Thanks for the validation that I'm not crazy.

James on September 13, 2011:

I am so glad that I found this. Very first thing I thought when I heard the song. I cover the FTP song at bars and sometimes throw in the Drew Carey lyrics just for S&G's

Schrambino (author) from Jersey on August 22, 2011:

Thank you. I actually found a tweet today that Foster the People tweeter a few weeks back that said Cleveland is one of their hometowns and mentioned Drew Carey and the R&R Hall of Fame. I guess I was onto something!

Alexa on August 16, 2011:

So glad I found this post. I had the exact same experience. I thought I was hearing an oldie or a remix of it while out at a bar rather than a relatively new hit. Until finding this, I was still convinced it was some kind of mash up or remix, because I couldn't find the original song. I just knew it was in a Drew Carey intro. Thanks for solving the mystery. And also, validating me. I think we both have superb ears and probably perfect pitch :P

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