Coming of Age by Foster the People

Foster the People’s sophomore album, Supermodel, was released earlier this year with the leading single, Coming of Age. In the band’s now customary fashion, a memorable melody and breezy pop veneer dress a more personal and pensive message.

With a simple song and reflective lyrics, vocalist Mark Foster questions society’s values as he chronicles his recent coming of age. Though Foster has just turned 30 years old, he sings of a different coming of age than the puberty-stricken adolescent that may come to mind. This coming of age is a moment of clarity, which ironically has nothing at all to do with age. Rather, Foster takes us through a confession of past mistakes, lessons learned about relationships, and a realization of the man he needs to become.

He explains the song in an interview:

The song, to me, is kind of like a moment of clarity. It’s about the moment when you wake up and you look around you, and you realize that you’re somewhere where you didn’t realize you were… A lot of the ideas on this record are about exploring what the truth is, the idea of God, and the idea of beauty.

Mark Foster, Interview

Coming of Age comments on our society’s often-misplaced values, and is especially interesting when you look at the song through a spiritual lens.

Live Without Regrets, Really

You know I try to live without regrets
I’m always moving forward and not looking back
But I tend to leave a trail of death while I’m moving ahead
And so I’m stepping away
‘Cause I got nothing to say

Foster the People, Coming of Age

In the first stanza, Foster tells the story of his rise to fame… No regrets. Always moving forward. Not looking back. Foster did exactly what every one of us aspire to do. He had a dream, he chased the dream, he lived the dream. Everything went accordingly to plan. But fatefully, his no-regrets attitude led him only to regret.

When I said the trail of dead, you know, that’s how I am. I hyper-focus on my goals, and everything around me slips into a blur.

Mark Foster, Interview

Foster relentlessly pursued his vision, but at the end of the day, he looked back on the condition of his relationships and saw only “a trail of dead.” Why did that happen? Well, somewhere down the line, Foster’s motivation became more centered on himself than his relationships. The Bible describes this phenomenon in simple terms.

Check Yourself, Often

Are you concerned only about getting ahead? Then your life will be a mess.

James 3:16 NIRV

There you have it. It’s called selfish ambition. When our underlying motivation is to get ahead, we choose goals that only lead to regret. A real no-regret life is when we have a coming-of-age moment similar to what Mark Foster describes, where we check ourselves and reevaluate our goals, to make sure we are really striving to live without regrets.

Value Relationships, More Than Achievement

And when my fear pulls me out to sea
And the stars are hidden by my pride and my enemies
I seem to hurt the people that care the most

Foster the People, Coming of Age

In the second stanza, Foster explains how fear can lead us astray. Insecurity can be a dangerous motivator, especially in a achievement-oriented society. In America, we have a selfishness problem. The media tells us we need have perfect bodies, high-profile careers, and still enough free time to take great excursions and post pictures on Facebook. If we’re not careful, we start to believe the lie: our value as a person is equal to the value of our achievements. And then you’re sold. Once you’re living purely for achievement, your relationships pay the price.

Maybe the answer is in the song—we need a coming of age, where we come to an understanding of who we are and the importance of relationships. Maybe we need to check our motives and decide if if our goal are aligned with what we truly value, or want to value.

What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? 2 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. 3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure…
Come close to God, and God will come close to you. 

James 4:1-3,8

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