Kicking its way into the top 50 of the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart this week is Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks,” which soars 14 spots up the tally, rising 60-46.
The breezy “Pumped” is the first single from the Los Angeles band and the lead track from its StarTime/Columbia debut album “Torches.” While the summery tune from the trio (guitarist/singer Mark Foster, drummer Mark Pontius and bassist Cubbie Fink) has been percolating for more than a year with tastemakers and bloggers, it finally made its Billboard chart debut in January on the Rock Songs tally.
Since then, the single become a rock smash: it peaked at No. 3 on that list and is currently in its fourth non-consecutive week at No. 1 on the Alternative songs chart. Now, the tune is migrating over to adult top 40 and mainstream top 40 radio. This week, it rises 34-32 on the former list and could bow on the latter within a month.
It would seem the song’s unusual sound, which is both retro and contemporary, is winning over fans — no matter what kind of music they listen to (6 million views on YouTube and counting!).
Foster (the singer) commented to Billboard in May about the single’s wide appeal: “‘Pumped Up Kicks’ is one of those songs that blends something really familiar with something that’s very modern. It’s a song where you could lay on the couch and listen to it or you can get up and dance around the room to it.”
All of this multi-format radio love has enabled the song to debut this week at No. 74 on the all-encompassing Nielsen BDS-based Hot 100 Airplay chart, which includes data from more than 1,200 U.S. stations. In turn, that radio audience, plus the song’s downloads sales and streaming action, has helped the tune kick up the Hot 100.
The song’s fuzzy, dreamlike vocals from frontman Foster could have rubbed radio listeners the wrong way, yet, they actually helped make the song a success.
“The unique vocal sound on the verse was a little bit of an obstacle for some programmers — they thought it was a little weird, left of center,” says Pete Cosenza, Sr. VP Promotion/Adult Formats at Columbia Records. “But in most cases, after a few listens, they started to get it … eventually, the ‘unique’ sound actually works in the song’s favor because it is now ‘cool’.”
Echoing Cosenza, Kent Phillips, program director at Seattle’s adult top 40 station KPLZ and group PD for Fisher Radio, says, “There has always been a demand for quirky songs in the (adult top 40) format. ‘Say Hey’ by Michael Franti and Owl City (with ‘Fireflies’) last year are great examples — songs that wouldn’t naturally fit at first listen.” But, as Phillips points out, “Different can be good.”
Kid Kelly, VP of music programming at Sirius XM Satellite Radio agrees, calling “Pumped” a “standout song” that is succeeding with adult top 40 and pop radio because “it is so different from anything else being played in the format. It’s a style and type of sound missing from other pop outlets.”
The radio success of the single has helped translate into strong sales for both the song and the “Torches” album. This week “Pumped” crossed the 500,000 sales mark in U.S. downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan while “Torches” surpassed 100,000 copies sold.
The latter debuted at No. 8 on the Billboard 200 chart last month but fell out of the top 40 after four weeks. However, it has since staged a comeback. This week it makes its third straight weekly climb, moving back into the top 40 as it zips 46-31.