Phantom Songs: Technotronic – “Pump Up The Jam”

Phantom Songs is an ongoing series of musical pieces that you can’t quite put your finger on. You have most definitely heard the song before, but are most likely not able to pinpoint who made it, when it was released, and/or what the song is really about. All of the artist’s history and biography was either stolen from wikipedia or made up entirely.

You could see the ’90s coming from a mile away. It was a multi-colored cumulus cloud in the distance, slowly raining upon America. Our immense fear of communism finally subsided, leaving us with a void in need of filling. Everything was changing: clothing was getting looser, TV was getting more raunchy and Rodney Dangerfield was deemed no longer funny. It was also around this time that we started accepting whatever garbage the Europeans wanted to send our way. Suddenly, music took on a whole new meaning. Instead of suggesting that things be done, now as music listeners, things were demanded of us.

Enter Technotronic, a Belgian musical project [not a group, but a project. We aint talking bout no group. Not a group. We talking ’bout project] curated by Jo Bogaert. Although his personal history is vague, one would assume that he did just fine making electronic covers of Rush songs and writing jingles for assorted beers and malt liquors. All of them had his own personal touch, but none of them fully reached his target audience. He felt that his sound was just too fresh for the simple-minded miscreants of Belgium. In order to actually make it, he would have to tap into the ultra-consumeristic culture of America. To get them under his thumb, he had to first get into their minds.

He spent what felt like an eternity crafting a beat. It had to be innocent enough to be tolerable to the passing ear, but visceral enough to put the attentive listener into a trance. Naturally, he knew he couldn’t do it alone. He joined forces with the Congolese-Belgian hip-hopper, Ya Kid K [yet it is still unknown if the name should be pronounced as “your kid, k”, “yeah, kid k” or “your kid, okay?”]. Immediately inspired by the hypnotizing beat and being a firm believer in Jo’s brainwashing intentions, she wrote the lyrics to the song. They figured this would be their first of many hits, so essentially they were just trying to plug into the brain of the American adolescent and make them do simple maneuvers. From there on out, they can convince them to do more complicated things for their benefit. What those complicated things were, we may never know. This is because of the factor they did not anticipate: Just because something is in english, does not mean that it will make any sense. Let’s take a listen:

Pump up the jam
Pump it up
While your feet are stompin’

Okay, Kid K, who are you talking to? Are you talking to us or are you talking to Jo? Perhaps there is some static going through your headphones and you can’t properly hear the jam? That’s probably it. Nowadays, it is quite normal for a rapper to give demands to the mixer before starting up the song. But why would she want Jo to stomp his feet while pumping it up? One would assume that it would interfere with the beat and could possibly be picked up on the recording. Then again, that may be the answer to how the bass became so haze-inducing. Either way, if I personally were trying to pump up the jam or volume or whatever, I would rather have my feet be stationary, so that the pumping could be smooth and consistent. Maybe Jo just operates better that way.

And then the jam is pumpin’
Look at here, the crowd is jumpin’

Yes! We have progress!

Pump it up a little more
Get the party going on the dance floor
Seek us, that’s where the party’s at
And you’ll find out if you’re too bad

Okay, apparently she’s still not satisfied. Although the crowd is jumpin’, they aren’t jumpin’ hard enough. Jo needs to get the party going and he needs to do it ASAP. But first, in order to start the party, Jo has to FIND the party. She calls out to him from a faraway distance. “This is the party and if you don’t suck, then this party will get better”. I don’t understand who originally started the party. Was there a DJ at first that ended up leaving on a booty call, so now Kid K [who is obviously the party commander] scopes out Jo and demands that he joins and supports her party? But no, that can’t be right. She was already commanding him to pump it up from the get-go, so he must’ve originally been with the party, stomping away and all that nonsense. Perhaps, after the second line, she starts talking to someone else? A prospective dancer, maybe? What could this all mean?

I don’t want a place to stay
Get your booty on the floor tonight
Make my day

Okay, so she’s definitely talking to a new member of the party. He wants to take her home, but of course, she isn’t having it. She’s all about the party, not the afterparty. She just wants these fools to dance and to do so without thinking about why they are doing it. Also, the last two lines don’t make any sense at all. How can you set the scene at night in one line, then have it be day on the next? Perhaps the memory of booties being on the floor will make the day after better for her. This is probably all she lives for. After all, she is a dance commander. It’s not like she has a desk job when the party isn’t happening. Her livelihood relies on the booty-shaking abilities of her co-partiers [i.e. you]. This is where things get complicated. Before we go any further, let’s humor ourselves with a top 5 list of alternative meanings:

5) If you’re stuck in a traffic jam, you may be running out of gas. You need to pump up while you’re in the jam. The song is basically a ballad about someone who desperately needs gasoline.
4) It’s about a factory that manufactures jam. Wait, no it’s not.
3) Someone is inconsolably depressed at the club, but she is reluctant to leave. She hopes that suddenly a fella will come to sweep her off her feet. But for now, all she can do is beg for it to happen.
2) “Well, its a request by a young gentleman to the ladies / DJ / entire club to inflate the jams to a greater degree so that his day can be made. It’s pretty straightforward. He’s not tryin to get in anyone’s pants, hes not tryin to get rich and famous, its not all about him, theres no bottles poppin, no livin large, no rockstar life… its from an age of simplicity in hip hop music, where all anyone really needed to have a good night was for their jams to be pumped.” – Joey Z
1) It’s about someone that had to call in a plumber. The toilet is all jammed and she needs him to pump it up. He needs to get his ass on that floor and and start pumping. It would really make her day if it could get fixed in a timely manner.

Okay, so those explanations are bullshit. It just HAS to be a brainwashing mechanism devised by scheming Europeans. Let’s just take a look at the music video.

We can look at this as some innocent by-product of the “Green Screen Explosion”. Terrible advancements in technology helped pave the way for lazy music video producers to easily make a product look “state of the art”. Its true meaning, however, can be much more insidious. The singer in the video is actually a stand-in. She’s a model that goes by the name of Felly Kilingi. One might think that this was because Kid K had a sense of stagefright and would rather not be seen in public. However, her attitude conveys an immense cockiness. So the inclusion of Felly had to be Jo’s decision. This was done in attempt to further his master plan of mind control. You have a beautiful woman shaking her stuff around in front of pulsating graphics and suddenly, the viewer’s noggin has turned to play-doh. You need to pump up the jam, or else the day of this gorgeous woman will not be made. This was the key element to Technotronic’s success. Clubbers all across America could not help to pump up said jams and dance as intensely as possible, in hopes that some woman will materialize and be satisfied with what is going on. It was brainwashing in its simplest form, as it peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified Platinum by the end of the year.

With the world’s youth at his fingertips, Technotronic was unable to develop any effective followups. In late 1989, “Pump Up The Jam: The Album” was released to ho-hum sales and reviews. Then of course, his ruse was up when it was revealed that the singer was actually Kid K and not the model. Technotronic struggled to do anything after that, releasing a remix album in 1991 and then a greatest hits album two years after, as if it were actually necessary. But the project to control our minds was not a complete failure. It actually paved the way for a whole genre of music that told us what to do. Throughout the ’90s, emcees demanded that we do vague things like “the tootsie roll”, “move it”, “ride the train”, “put hands on hips and dip”, “jump, jump” and “jump around”. Unfortunately, Jo received no credit for this. In fact, if you do a google search for “pump up the jam lyrics”, one of the top links claims that the song was made by Salt N Peppa.

I suppose that basically defines the music of that era. It was nothing but catchy beats that people remember but can’t recall who made it or what the song was actually about. That’s why we call them “Phantom Songs”.


Originally posted 1/26/12