Photo Courtesy of South Brooklyn Post
The first time I listened to "Pumped Up Kicks" I heard a distinct similarity to Peter Bjorn & John's 2006 song "Young Folks". At first, I ignored the blatant borrowing Foster the People had done because I didn't think much of the song and figured it would just go away; I was dead wrong. The song has absolutely blown up and Foster the People's popularity has grown right along with it. After seeing Foster the People open for Cut Copy at Prospect Park this past Thursday and witnessing all the tweens dancing and singing along to "Pumped Up Kicks", I realize this song is here to stay and feel compelled to speak on the subject.
A lot of people on the internet have noted that the two songs sound alike but I'm going to go so far as to say "Pumped Up Kicks" is a straight up rip-off. Both songs open with just a drumbeat ("Young Folks" is so much better and complex but they're quite similar) which is then joined by a laid back bass line. The verses of both songs feature just the drumbeat and bass line accompanied by an emotionless, give-a-shit-less vocal delivery, layered with some electronic effects. The musical palette in the choruses of both songs becomes a bit more dense and vibrant as more instrumentation joins the fray. This continues for another verse and chorus and then the real kicker comes in the bridge; that fucking whistling. The whistling part from "Young Folks" that stayed in your head for days on end is straight up lifted and then thrown into the bridge of "Pumped Up Kicks".
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not calling Foster the People a fraud because they're actually a reasonably talented band capable of creating some infectious melodies ("Houdini" is a prime example). What I am saying is that "Pumped Up Kicks", which is responsible for a good portion of their success, crosses the line between homage and thievery.
The two songs are posted below so you can listen for yourself and form your own opinion.