Leslie Feist has been playing music all her life. Born in Nova Scotia, Canada, in 1976, she began with an all-girl punk band called Placebo (not the British band of the same name). It won a battle of the bands, and ended up getting to play the same festival as punk band The Ramones. Talk about a quick start.
But wait, you say—the Leslie Feist you're thinking of doesn't sound like she was in a punk band. Are we even talking about the same person?
Well, at one point, Feist strained her vocal chords so badly that she was forced to stop singing for six months straight. During that time, Feist the punk singer picked up a guitar and became Feist the subtle and sweet singer/songwriter that we recognize today. Her raw talent and beautiful singing voice got her invitations to join other Canadian bands like By Divine Right and Broken Social Scene, but it was her solo efforts that propelled her to the spotlight and the top of the Billboard charts.
"1234" is part of the story that got her there. Once it showed up in an iPod Nano commercial, all of a sudden the indie singer/songwriter became a huge mainstream pop sensation. Read on to find out more.
About the Song
Renaud Letang, Ben Mink, Jason "Gonzalez" Charles Beck, Leslie Feist Feist (Acoustic Guitar, Vocals, Banjo, Drums), Gonzales (Piano, Vibraphone, Backup Vocals), Town Hall (Backup Vocals, Percussion), Ben Mink (Guitar, Strings), Julian Brown (Bass, Melodica, Percussion, Backup Vocals), Jesse Baird (Drums, Percussion, Backup Vocals), Bryden Baird (Flugelhorn, Trumpet, Percussion, Backup Vocals)
Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
"1, 2, 3, 4, tell me that you love me more"—Feist isn't the only artist who has taken inspiration from nursery rhymes or children's verses in order to get at a more mature idea.
The fifth section of T.S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men" begins with a modified nursery rhyme modeled on "Here we go 'round the mulberry bush." Instead of a mulberry bush, though, the kids circle a prickly pear cactus, and they do this while waiting for the end of the world (okay, that got dark pretty fast). Eliot uses the model of a playful nursery rhyme in order to manifest a hymn for the apocalypse, which ends with the repetition of the phrase, "this is the way the world ends."
If that's not dark enough for you, there's also Sylvia Plath, who makes use of the same technique by endowing her poem "Daddy" with a rhythmic playfulness and consistency of rhyme that likens it to a nursery rhyme.
Fortunately, Feist doesn't use the nursery rhyme format to talk about death and despair the way Eliot and Plath do. Instead, "1234" deals with teenage love and nostalgia for the experiences that shape who you are, even the heartbreak and the sleepless nights.
On the Charts
The album The Reminder was featured on Billboard's European Top 100 Albums and Top Internet Albums lists. It also reached #16 on the Billboard 200, and #2 on Top Canadian Albums.
The song "1234" had a lot of success as the album's single, reaching #2 on Hot Canadian Digital Singles, #4 on Hot Digital Songs, and #10 on Pop 100. It also reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 list.
"1234" was nominated for Grammy Awards for both Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Best Short Form Music Video, and contributed to Feist's nominations for Best New Artist and Best Pop Vocal Album.
Many magazines and publications listed "1234" on their Best Songs of 2007 lists, such as Rolling Stone and Amazon.com.
The music video for "1234," directed by Patrick Daughters via The Directors Bureau, also received widespread acclaim.