Overplayed songs are terrible. Honestly, to hear the same Nickelback song for the two-billionth time (in the same day) is more than just extreme – it’s suffocating. Those same few awful songs get such insane exposure while worthwhile artists are pushed aside. If anything demonstrates the terrible state of the modern music industry, I feel that the overplayed song is it.
But I have a weakness. Sometimes, on very rare occasions, the overplayed song really is the best song on the radio. Potentially due to an astronomical fluke, amazing tunes like “3 A.M.” by Matchbox Twenty, and “Hey Ya” by Outkast somehow manage to take the radio by storm. And now, we can step back and be thankful that we got to experience one of the best songs of last year over and over – “1234” by Feist.
Read as a sequence of numbers (“One, two, three, four”), the song begins with a light voice and a strumming guitar. Yet the song quickly changes form, filling out with banjo, strings and a strong backing chorus. The rhythm is decidedly enjoyable and you can’t help but tap your feet along.
There is a great sense of joy felt within the music and each portion of the song carries on a great sense of wonder. The whole thing adds up to a great closing section, as soaring brass join a piano and multiple vocalists. Then, as if to remind us of the real star, Feist breaks through, singing in her distinctive, gorgeous voice.
Yet there is so much more to the song than fun instrumentals and a strong voice. Hidden beneath the sweet exterior is a true depth that isn’t normally found in the overplayed pop song. Seemingly confessional lyrics drive the real content of the song. Feist sings of loves lost through lies, noting, “Sweetheart, bitter heart/Now I can’t tell you apart.”
Indeed, Feist further reminisces as she explains that someone (perhaps even the singer) is “Too scared to own up to one little lie.” Then as the counting continues, a particular realization is brought as Feist sighs, “Money can’t buy you back the love that you had then.” Stated in a particularly quiet section of the song, it is this line that reveals some of the more powerful undercurrents. With this sense of loss, a new meaning is construed.
After a careful listen, the song is no longer the bouncy, happy pop song it began as. Instead, we hear a tortured lover in Feist, crying out, wishing that lies wouldn’t have happened. Now the powerful voice becomes one singing out in sorrow, not out of victory or joy.
Everything is right with this song – it offers an emotional depth that further enhances the musical experience over time. “1234” is really a great effort on any scale – an excellent length, a careful instrumental performance, and phenomenal vocals. This is the sort of deep song that is normally seen deep within an album and discussed in record reviews.
Yet we are lucky – the song is a perfect single that, against all odds, serves as an amazing overplayed song. We can only hope that other artists of such caliber can receive as much attention as Feist.