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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

New Foster the People album criticizes consumerism

Published: March 21, 2014
Section: Arts, Etc.

Foster the People, an American indie pop band, came out with their new album “Supermodel” on March 18. Their new songs seem to capture a sort of alternative style. Listening closer to the lyrics actually demonstrates, however, that the music isn’t as relaxing as it should be. As he looked back at some of the songs, lead singer Mark Foster said, “Wow, I must have been really angry when I wrote that!”

The biggest themes in this album are consumerism and the dark side of capitalism, as most of the songs seem to criticize society on these issues. With the lyrics of the songs containing words such as “war,” “blood” and “surrender,” it seems as though the band views capitalism as a certain “game” full of “debt,” “fear” and “enemies” that they must avoid as they try to move forward. The title of their most popular song, “Coming of Age,” suggests just this, and Foster claims that the song is “like a kind of a confession. It’s kind of like that moment of clarity after getting off a tour and looking around for the first time peripherally, and seeing … the people that were close to me in my life that I’d hurt along the way, in my hyper-focus of trying to survive the tidal wave that came at me and my band.”

The struggle that Foster the People try to voice is their contempt towards the expression that “you can do whatever you want as long as you set your mind to it.” They refute this in the song “Ask Yourself” with the ironic question, “Who says dreamers always get what they want?”, essentially calling the American Dream a lie. So many people try to live up to it that in the end they are disappointed because no matter how hard they try, there will always be competition and trickery, leading them to lose their sense of pride, hopes and dreams. The band is most likely reflecting upon its own experiences, as the members work endlessly to try to fulfill their expectations of becoming rich, famous and successful, but end up dismayed by falling short after all their tedious efforts, with debt still an issue even though they are a widely recognized band.

The cover art of “Supermodel” also displays the sadness that revolves around this theme. With an original, artistic portrayal of a woman with her head down, alone and standing on top of gold, we can see tears falling down her face, which are expressed as phrases that criticize capitalism such as “working-class hero.” The fact that she stands on top of money symbolizes that she dreams of reaching the top of the economic ladder but can’t, represented by her handcuffed hands that conveys the oppression of the economic system. We can tell that this success is her fantasy because of the ridiculously exaggerated hands that are trying to reach out to the woman with cameras, videotapes and notepads, waiting for autographs. All these hands symbolize the fans, anxiously awaiting for the band to come greet them.

Foster the People, however, might feel as though they cannot face the crowd because they feel as if they have disappointed them with a new album that does meet the standards of what their fans expect. These high expectations also lead the band to feel restrained and stressed. They may feel as though the harder they try, the more frustrated they become after not achieving the success that they deserve.

The songs contain popular influences such as the psychedelic high-itched voices akin to Passion Pit, the same sounds as Vampire Weekend and a similar style to that of U2, which causes some people to criticize the album for following so closely along the same lines of these bands, overly resembling the typical mainstream songs. But it has become very difficult for indie bands to find innovative melodies that don’t sound too harmonic (to the point where it just sounds like a classic pop song) or so dissonant and new that everything clashes and falls apart (to the point where the music breaks down so much that it is not a song anymore). Foster the People’s newest album captures the dark mood of the band members as they struggle for success.