Study Guide

1234 Lyrics

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One, two, three, four

Quick Thought

Feist created a pop gem in the style of a nursery rhyme.

Deep Thought

Nursery rhymes are easy for children to learn because they're so catchy, but a lot of times they're full of a lot of nonsense. Take "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe," for example. How does it get from a shoe to "nine, ten, a big fat hen"? It doesn't really matter: rhyme and rhythm are what's important. Kids aren't really learning about shoes or hens, but they're learning to read, or to count.

In Feist's song, the numbers might just be there to rhyme with "love you more," but the lyrics as a whole do have a larger context and meaning. She and co-writer Sally Seltmann, who used to write and perform under the name New Buffalo, simply took inspiration from those counting-out nursery rhymes, and used that basis to craft a catchy pop gem. Because of its nursery rhyme-style lyrics, Feist performed the song on Sesame Street, but she had to really change up the lyrics for the show. On Sesame Street, she sings:

One, two, three, four
Monsters walking 'cross the floor
I love counting
Counting to the number four

Aside from its content meant for an older audience, the original version would have had some other problems—like how it skips right from "5, 6," to "9 or 10."

Sleepless long nights
That is what my youth was for
Old teenage hopes are alive at your door

Quick Thought

An older speaker is looking back on her youth and feeling like a teenager again.

Deep Thought

Have you ever stayed up all night thinking about somebody special? Somehow it can be both painful and pleasurable, both exciting and frustrating at the same time. But why is love so great if you lose so much sleep over it? The band Wilco once summed up a similarly confusing feeling in the song "We're Just Friends." Jeff Tweedy sings, "If love's so easy, why is it hard?"

Though these weird, contradictory feelings are what Feist calls teenage hopes, the fact that those hopes are "old" shows us that the speaker isn't a teenager any longer. She's older, and life is probably a little more complicated than it was in high school. Those confusing feelings of love and hope that she remembers from her youth have once again been awakened inside her. That may be good or may be bad; as we mentioned above, it's probably both.

Oh, you're changing your heart
Oh, you know who you are

Quick Thought

Feist seems to be calling out her fickle love interest for giving her mixed signals.

Deep Thought

Sometimes you just want to know outright whether somebody likes you. That's the kind of sentiment Feist seems to be expressing here. It's like she's saying, one minute you love me back, and the next you don't. What's the deal?

We can't say for sure whether Feist has a specific person in mind from her own life, or whether she's just speaking to her listeners here, calling out all the people who play these kinds of games.

Sweet heart, bitter heart
Now I can't tell you apart
Cozy and cold

Quick Thought

This is what Feist means when she sings, "You're changing your heart."

Deep Thought

This love interest goes back and forth from nice to mean so often that the speaker is starting to have trouble distinguishing between the two. One minute he's a sweetheart, the next a "bitter heart." Maybe it's this very change-up that's keeping her awake at night, making her feel the confusion and heartache that reminds her of when she was a teenager. It's possible that she's a little bit embarrassed about that. Worrying about things like this is what Feist says her youth was for—not her adult life.

But do you think that these feelings really disappear with age? Or is the speaker of the song in denial, refusing to admit that she's vulnerable? And vulnerable to what, exactly? Well, heartbreak, we suppose. It's not life or death, but it can still hurt.

Put the horse before the cart

Quick Thought

Usually we hear about somebody "putting the cart before the horse" (which, by the way, is not that great of an idea).

Deep Thought

"Put the cart before the horse" is a well-known idiom that means, essentially, to do things in the wrong order. This phrase is also similar to the idiom "don't count your chickens before they hatch," meaning, don't plan for something that's not yet a sure thing.

When Feist reverses this in "1234", she's saying, let's do things in the right order. Let's let the horse lead the cart, the way it should be. Or maybe she's warning herself not to get too attached when she's not even sure if this person likes her back.

Money can't buy you back the love that you had then

Quick Thought

But money will buy you a new iPod Nano.

Deep Thought

"1234" and its music video appeared memorably in a TV commercial for the iPod. Check out our Meaning tab for a lot more on that.

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