Is there anything more universal these days than the adolescent yearning to fit in? To be … cool?
Theoretically, the only kids who don’t experience that longing are those whose natural beauty, athleticism or self-evident awesomeness mean they never have to grapple with such mortal insecurities. And of course even they have more secret self-esteem struggles than they’d admit.
But for all those coming of age somewhere further down the popularity food chain, there’s inevitably a certain amount of lonely lingering outside the in group, wondering what it would be like to ooze that most ephemeral of social attributes: being cool.
That’s exactly what “Cool Kids” deals with. It’s the first big hit from the Los Angeles-based alt-pop quartet Echosmith, the latest YouTube group to make the jump from covering others’ hits to producing their own. The song initially made a small ripple on the charts when it was released last year. And after a long underground percolation, it’s reemerged and is climbing toward the upper echelons of hipness … metaphorically fitting for a song about wanting to fit in.
Two simple, evocative verses in this undeniably cool pop song (which stylistically echoes another song about angst and alienation, ” Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People) explore the pain of not being cool, one from a girl’s perspective, the other from a boy’s.
“She sees them walking in a straight line, that’s not really her style,” sings 17-year-old frontwoman Sydney Sierota (who’s backed by her three brothers, Noah, Jamie and Graham). “And they all got the same heartbeat, but hers is falling behind/Nothing in this world could ever bring them down/Yeah, they’re invincible, and she’s just in the background.”
Then: “He sees them talking with a big smile, but they haven’t got a clue/Yeah, they’re living the good life, can’t see what he’s going through.”
The chorus nails down the aching result: “I wish that I could be like the cool kids/’Cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in/I wish that I could be like the cool kids, like the cool kids.'”
Thankfully, Echosmith doesn’t leave things hanging there, subtly suggesting that the in crowd may not be the destination it appears to be. We hear, “They’re driving fast cars, but they don’t know where they’re going/In the fast lane, living life without knowing.” It’s a line that casts the refrain “I wish that I could be like the cool kids” into a bit of a doubtful, even sarcastic light. And that’s great, because it’s a perspective that needs a lot of reinforcement when we’re young, when everything inside feels magnetically pulled toward the promise of coolness as the omni-answer to everything about adolescent awkwardness.
Regarding the song’s message and her own journey toward self-acceptance, Sydney Sierota recently told USA Today, “It’s a conscious decision every day to accept yourself for who you are and who you aren’t. There are a lot of things I’ll never be. I’ll never be good at sports or dancing, things that I tried for eight years. I finally came back to music. I accepted the fact that I wasn’t really good at being anything else.”
So it seems like this is the kind of song that could, in a quiet way, if considered carefully, help other young listeners take their own modest steps in a similarly positive direction.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.