This song about being filled with such typical college feelings as naivety, idealism, nostalgia, happiness and sadness was originally part of MGMT's debut release, a 2005 EP "Time to Pretend." Cantora Records, who released the EP, was set up by a group of NYU students specifically to showcase the New York band's songs.
This song started out as a joke. "We used to think about how to make the most stereotypical pop song and that's one of the ones we did," band member Andrew VanWyngaeden told Q magazine. "You can break it down. That repeating progression has been used in a gajillion pop songs."
MGMT member Ben Goldwasser told The Independent November 21, 2008 that this song, "was a result of us being 19 years old, in this fantasy college world, which is a little bit like childhood because you don't have much responsibility."
This was first song that Goldwasser and VanWyngaeden ever wrote together on arriving at Wesleyan University. They arrived there in 2001 and graduated in 2005.
A USC student named Jon Salmon made a video for this song
as a class project that he posted online in January 2008. It racked up millions of views, and when MGMT made an official video with their director Ray Tintori, they invited Salmon and the two actors who appeared in his fan video to appear in it. The three of them round out the space-age band playing in the forest with a dog nearby.
MGMT threatened to sue French President Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP party after it used this song at its national congress in January 2009 without permission and also in online videos. Faced with the threat of a lawsuit, the UMP agreed to pay a financial compensation to the band. MGMT announced the settlement on their website saying: "We did not want to be 'typical Americans' and sue, despite the amazing monetary benefit and chinchilla coats and Navigators it would bring, instead we are using the settlement fee the UMP presented and donating it to artists' rights organizations."
VanWyngarden told Mojo May 2010 that Goldwasser "wrote the music for 'Kids' when he was 19, drunk in his dorm room. Then I wrote the lyrics on my 20th birthday, the night that we were gonna play it to people for the first time. I know that they're vaguely inspired by David Byrne's nostalgic lyrics, but it doesn't make any sense."
He added: "I remember that I was thinking about musicians as having this big voice, and what are they gonna do with it? I was thinking we'd get everybody to realize that we're all little kids at some point - people that are evil and doing hideous stuff right now, like George Bush or whoever, they were once little innocent beings. Something simple like that. I'm glad that people like it. It's a catchy song."
This slacker anthem was named as the best track of 2008 by the journalists of the New Musical Express.
The video stars an 18-month-old toddler named Zachary who sees monsters everywhere he goes. His easily distracted mother is played by the avant-garde musician Joanna Newsom.
Many parents were freaked out seeing the visibly distressed child. The scenes where he is with the creatures are not computer-generated, but his mother was nearby at all times. He was acclimated to the monsters early on so they weren't so scary.