School shootings are at an all-time high in the United States with a steady increase annually. Two songs tell a story of this tragic event that we witness far too often, hitting close to home. Youth of a Nation by P.O.D and Pumped Up Kicks by Foster the People use their fame as a platform to shed light on this issue. It is a sensitive topic, among many others, in the 21st century. It is televised and debated but we have yet to try and find a solution as everyone is quick to take offense instead of focusing on finding a solution. Our children’s lives are at risk and a plan on preventing these massacres needs to be reached. These songs give perspective on this issue and were inspired by a tragedy that we all feel effected by, directly or indirectly. The lyrics are moving and encourages rage, sadness and the reality that these occurrences happen way to often to our children in schools across the country. It is bold in the approach and gives a point of view that may differ from our own. If it does not make you feel sympathetic at the very least it creates awareness that this is a problem that is only growing by the year.
Youth of a Nation” by P.O.D., abbreviated for Payable on Death referring to Jesus Christ dying on the cross for the sins of the world. The song came out in 2001 on the album Satellite. The very diverse group, P.O.D is a Christian metal band from San Diego but also air their music on secular radio stations. The song was nominated for a Grammy in 2003, many of their songs have a message for someone to relate to with a subtle hint of religious reference. This song gives three stories of adolescent tragedy in American culture. A line from the song that is powerful is “instead of taking the test I took two to the chest… (Sonny Sandoval).” As they were recording for their album “Satellite,” two blocks away the Santana High School shooting was unfolding. Shocked of the horrific news they created this song to being awareness to these tragedies. Toward the end there is a group of young people singing the chorus, “We are, we are, the youth of a nation…” a literal visual of young people in our communities that can be victims. The music video shows four young people taking a road trip in an old car. There are yearbook pictures of all of the victims of the school shootings displayed where the band is playing for effect.
Foster the People’s song “Pumped Up Kicks” was released in 2010 on the album Torches. They are an indie pop group and received a Grammy nomination for this song. Mark Foster, who wrote the song, wanted to bring awareness to the growing teenage mental illness issue. It is from the perspective of a troubled youth with homicidal thoughts. The bassist Cubbie Fink had a cousin who was a survivor of the Columbine High School massacre. It hit close to home and this was the platform to speak about this growing epidemic. The song was considered controversial and banned from being played on some radio stations. In the beginning of the music video it shows a kid talking to his friend and looking out from the cafeteria into the quad. There is a person in a bulletproof vest approaching and he notices he is shooting a gun. He gets down on the floor and pulls his friend down with him. When the gunshots are heard the other kids hit the floor, scream and run in panic and terror. Kids are being shot and the students in the cafeteria run for cover some try to escape out of an exit. The fear in these teenagers’ eyes as they hide under the tables is heart wrenching. Chaos ensures and everyone scrambles as the chorus line from the song plays, “better run, better run, faster than my bullet (Mark Foster).”
With these tragedies happening so often in society it makes the listener think about those effected in the schools. There was Columbine 4/20/99, Santana High School 3/5/2001, and Granite Hills High School 3/22/2001 (Thompson 214). According to CNN, in 2018 there have been at least 80 incidents of gunfire on school grounds. The numbers have increased every year starting from 1997. The US has had 57 times as many school shootings as the other major industrialized nations combined:
288 since 2009 in US vs. Canada-2 as of May 21, 2018
Japan, Italy and UK-0
The parameters we followed in this count are –
- Shooting must involve at least one person being shot (not including the shooter)
- Shooting must occur on school grounds
- We included gang violence, fights and domestic violence (but our count is NOT limited to those categories)
- We included grades Kindergarten through college/university level as well as vocational schools
- We included accidental discharge of a firearm as long as the first two parameters are met (Mirtha Dorastorg, et al).
Trying to find a solution to this tragedy may begin with new and stricter gun laws. Republicans feel stricter gun laws are not the answer. The survivors of these tragedies rally and are now getting involved in politics enforce new laws to possibly reduce the amount of school shootings. Active shooter drills are being created at schools so students know what to do in the event that their school is under fire. Are these acts a result of bullying or possibly a factor that is racially motivated? Are people evil or a victim of propaganda against any protected group which results in their act? Since these answers vary in case by case and we cannot change the mentality of every citizen, we need to create laws for everyone to abide by or suffer the consequences.
Bullet proof gear, clothes, backpacks, hammers supplied for escape through a window and door jams, to prevent entry by a shooter, have been made by different companies as a fail safe or precaution to prevent further massacre if any occurrence arises. Bullet proof blankets on classroom doors and flashlights that shoot pepper spray have been suggested. Any and all of these could be useful but the cost ranges from hundreds of dollars to thousands per unit. With school budgets barely covering mandatory expenses, there is no room in the budget to purchase these items for every classroom. Training and arming teachers with guns has also been discussed as a possible solution and being offered in some places (Rajan 861). After effects for any child who is witness to these crimes are more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, suffer from depression, anxiety and PTSD and do poorly in school.
Firearms are the second leading cause of death for American children and teens. Awareness is first priority so people can stand up and show our state and government that we want action and new laws created. That is why I can appreciate both songs and the artists who performed them. They are both powerful in their own way and disturbing at the same time. To open our eyes to the real issue at hand and who is at risk is the goal in which both bands succeed. People don’t always want to see the ugly truth but at some point, it will affect us all in some way. We need to find a solution before we are personally faced with the tragic ending of a loved one. If you have never heard either of these songs look them up and listen to the lyrics. P.O.D. has a basic idea being portrayed in the video that doesn’t speak to the tragedy being referenced. They may have been going for an interpretive video but it still seems undeveloped and uninteresting. Foster the People had an awesome beginning that grabs your attention but falls short toward the middle of the video. Of course, they cannot reenact an entire tragedy without traumatizing the audience. The message is clear even if you aren’t a fan of the instrumentals. I would highly recommend both song and I give them both a four out of five-star rating for the delivery of the music and three out of five-stars for the music videos and the lackluster execution.
Foster the People https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MFt08wEUOQ
Music video, YouTube.com Foster the People Pumped Up Kicks
CNN’s Donastorg, Mirtha, Caldwell, Travis, Walker, Christina, Samira, Jafari and Grise, Kate collaborated on this research. May 2018.
Duplechain, Rosalind, and Robert Morris. “School Violence: Reported School Shootings and Making Schools Safer.” Education, vol. 135, no. 2, Winter 2014, pp. 145-150.
“Gun Violence in America.” Aug. 2018. https://everytownresearch.org/gunfire-in-school/
Rajan, Sonali, and Charles C. Branas. “Aiming Schoolteachers: What Do We Know? Where Do We Go From Here?” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 108, no. 7, July 2018 pp. 860-862.
Thompson, C. “Our Killing Schools.” Society, vol. 51, no. 3, June 2014, pp. 210-220.
Vuori, Miika, et al. “Fear of Crime in Local Communities after School Shootings.” Journal of Scandanavian Studies in Criminology & Crime Prevention, vol. 14, no. 2, Dec. 2013, pp. 154-171.