Feist wrote this with Sally Seltmann, an Australian singer who recorded at the time as New Buffalo. Sally told us the story: "I wrote the song '1234' after a good friend of mine told me she was leaving her husband. I was upset when she told me, and it made me start to think how all everyone wants in this world is to be loved, and that money can't buy you back the initial feelings you have when you first start falling in love with someone.
I wrote the song on a piano in the hallway of my house. During this time, I had been listening to Feist's album Let It Die. I thought my little song about lost love, and the hope to recapture what you once had, sounded too much like a Feist song for me to use for New Buffalo, so I shelved it. Then, in late 2005 I did a tour across Canada supporting Feist, and Broken Social Scene. After meeting Feist, I started to wonder whether she might like to do a cover of '1234,' but I was too shy to tell her about it. At the last Broken Social Scene show, I plucked up the courage to tell her that I had written a song which I thought she might like to use. We went onto the tour bus, and I recorded a simple version of the song into her laptop, with guitar and vocals.
To my surprise, she loved the song, and started playing it live. Her version was more upbeat and energetic than my original version, and she also added an unbelievably uplifting and catchy outro section. After she had been playing it live for a while she changed a few of the lyrics. I was happy with her doing this, as I loved the new lyrics she added, as they helped express the idea of longing for the love you once had with someone, as well as longing for that free spirit one has in their teenage years."
Sally asked Feist for her thoughts on the song, and Feist sent the following: "It's all true. Sally asked me if I'd like to hear a song she had written that she thought was meant for me to sing rather than her. I recorded her singing it on the bus into my laptop and found it charming, sweet and something she was absolutely meant to sing herself. It was very slow and delicate and I actually wish the world could hear that nucleus version she left living in my laptop. The song is all there, just a younger version, shy and careful and pure. It was a few months later that I found it again and began to play around with it myself, some different lyrics dropped the anchor in more deeply for me to be able to sing it from my two feet. And gradually while playing it live it sped up and extended itself like a living organism. It was one of my favorite songs to play live from the start and was always one I felt belonged on whatever album I was going to be making next." (Many thanks to Sally Seltmann and Feist for the story. Learn more about Sally at sallyseltmann.com. Feist's website is http://www.listentofeist.com.)
Feist's album The Reminder was released on May 1, 2007, and this song was accompanied by a clever video shot in one take where Feist dances in a warehouse with a large group of colorfully dressed people. It wasn't Feist's first attempt at group choreography - when she was 12, she was one of 1,000 dancers who took part in the opening ceremony of the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.
On September 5, 2007, Apple started using the video in ads for its latest iPod, which brought the song a surge in popularity. Before the iPod commercial, the song appeared in an Australian commercial for Ebay.
Suggestion credit: Bertrand - Paris, France
On November 3, 2007, Feist performed this on Saturday Night Live. She had three banjo players with her on stage for the performance.
The Reminder won the 2007 Shortlist Award, a prize given every year for an album released in the US that has yet to sell 500,000 copies. Feist was the first Canadian and the second woman (after Cat Power) to win.
Feist spoke to BBC News about the impact that lending this song to the iPod Nano advertising campaign had on her career: "I felt a definite shift (after the advert came out), it seemed to pique a lot of curiosity which luckily led back to an album and video I believe in. It just shows you the power of that kind of thing, as opposed to some preconceived marketing ploy. I was a little naïve as to the impact it would have because I really didn't have any idea it would be like that. But it did me nothing but favors because I've continued doing what I do, but with so many new open ears from so many more people than there were before." She then admitted she had originally been about having her music on the advert: "Once it came out and the response happened that's when a little bit of apprehension kicked in. I thought, in a way it's my worst nightmare to have people at the concert twiddling their thumbs waiting for the one song they recognize. But any of those fears were quickly assuaged when I realized that would only happen if I stopped dead in my tracks and didn't do another things in my life."
At the 2008 Canadian Juno Awards, this won the single of the year. Feist also won album of the year and pop album of the year for The Reminder plus both the artist and songwriter of the year awards.
In 2008, Feist performed this on Sesame Street as "Counting To 4." Her scene was shot in a similar style to the video, but it was set on a street and featured monsters instead of humans. Opening lyrics: "1-2-3-4, monsters walking cross the floor. I love counting, counting to the number 4."
This earned four Grammy Award nominations: Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, Best Short Form Music Video, Best New Artist and Best Pop Vocal Album.
Kenny Loggins covered this for his 2009 album, All Join In.
Camille from Toronto, OhOne of the most visually incredible videos ever, all in one take, no splicing or editing, captivating; words don't do it justice. One of the few videos I have on my ipod. The simplicity of the lyrics and tune enhance the magical appeal to the nth degree.
Sara from Silver Spring, MdKenny Loggins covered this for his recent children's album and does it as a duet with his daugther Hana and changed the lyrics so it could be more about a man comforting his daughter
Alma from Laredo, TxAwesome music and lyrics. I just wish we had more access to music like hers in local markets without having to resort to satellite radio.
Ikeylius from Austin, TxThis song is good, but Feist is far more talent and has so many more catchy melodic songs than this one song can convey. Don't go to one of her concerts only knowing this one song.
Kami from New York City, NyI lovve this song. It is so good. I love the music video too.
Madalyn from Greensburg, Payou know its a good song when you listen to it for days
Bianca Sanchez from Alburquerque, NmThis song is freaking great I heard it on the commercil for the new iPod-wich i have-and I loved it my sis found that the band is caled Feist.
Alejandra from Quito, South AmericaGREAT SONG!!! it seems so simple yet so great!!
Don from B G, KyComedienne Nicole Parker does a funny music video parody of the song "1234" on MAD-TV. It is about the way Apple keeps coming out with a new better versions of the iPod after she buys one.
Camille from Toronto, OhAlmost haunting in its simplicity. Takes you back to a more innocent time in life. The video almost cannot be described in words, it is perfectly executed in the one take, no edits at all, awesome. This is one of the few videos I purchased from itunes. Love the song, love the video.
Logan from Troy, MtThis is actually a really awesome song. I had no idea there was such sadness behind it. I guess it's upbeat sound, and the fact I hum it all the time that I just miss the words and their meaning.
But still, I think this song is awesome, and the video is just eye popping.