Is Foo Fighters' The Pretender a secret protest song?

21 August 2022, 20:00

Foo Fighters - The Pretender

Radio X

By Radio X

It's one of Dave Grohl and co's most memorable anthems, but is it about US politics or just a universal song of defiance?

Foo Fighters' released their Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace album in September 2007.

The band's sixth studio album saw them work with producer Gil Norton for the second time to deliver singles such as The Pretender, Let It Die and Long Road to Ruin.

The first single on the record and the first to be released from Dave Grohl and co, The Pretender, is clearly an anthem of defiance, but just who and what is it about?

Is The Pretender political and about President George W. Bush's administration or is it merely about standing up for yourself in any situation?

We delve into the history behind the track here...

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Dave Grohl sings in Foo Fighters' Pretenders video
Dave Grohl sings in Foo Fighters' Pretenders video. Picture: YouTube/Foo Fighters

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The Pretender was released on August 21st 2007, as the first single from the album.

With a punchy title and even punchier lyrics to boot, the stomping fast-paced track hints at being deceived by a higher power, or at the very least, someone who doesn't have your best interests at heart.

"Keep you in the dark
You know they all pretend"

By the time the song crashes into it's chorus, Dave Grohl asks asks a series of questions such as: "What if I say I'm not like the others?" and "What if I say I will never surrender?"

Is Foo Fighters' Pretender a secret protest song?

Despite the visceral imagery and the combat-like language, it's never fully clear who or what Dave Grohl is referring to.

However, speaking to Radio X back in 2007, the rocker is quoted as saying: "That's the thing with lyrics, you never want to give away specifics, because it's nice for people to have their own idea or interpretation of the song. But, you know, everyone's been fucked over before and I think a lot of people feel fucked over right now and they're not getting what they were promised, and so something to do with that."

Despite Grohl not wishing to reveal the target of his vitriol, he did allude to "a lot of people" being deceived and disenfranchised. So could the time of the song's release could provide some clues to what inspired it.

US President George W. Bush sits at his desk in the Oval Office of the White House on 13 September 2007
US President George W. Bush sits at his desk in the Oval Office of the White House on 13 September 2007. Picture: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

2001-2009 saw George W. Bush served as the President of the United States from During his tenure, the politician led the War in Afghanistan, followed by the War in Iraq. The US has entered into the longest post-World War II recession and by 2007 Bush's once high approval numbers had declined.

Was this the pretender Grohl was referring to? Were the "others" and "souls" he refers to those marching into war?

Despite its potentially heavy themes Grohl has admitted there was a much more innocent inspiration for the song: Sesame Street.

The rocker has previously shown himself to be a huge fan of the show and their One of These Things ditty does sound very similar to Grohl's chorus.

Sesame Street: One of These Things

We may never know what exactly Dave Grohl was thinking about when he wrote this track, but it is clear that he wanted the single to be as universal as possible

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