Peter Bjorn and John are a group from Stockholm. They’ve been around since 1999, but “Young Folks” takes them into one-hit wonder territory. If you’re going to have a single hit, though, you could do worse than this one. This song is a fun little number because it’s got virtually everything you’d want from an indie pop song: whistling! Cute guitar! Bright, bubbly drumming! Some kind of maracas in the background! And to top it all off, we’ve got a slightly nasal Swedish accent that somehow makes the song even more charming.
“Young Folks” was featured in the 2007 pilot for Gossip Girl, which likely helped launch it even further into the mainstream. The lyrics are fitting for the series: “If I told you things I did before/Told you how I used to be/Would you go along with someone like me?” I’m a music blogger, not a TV blogger, but I will say that, like many people, that show is where I first heard the song.
The most prominent part of the song, of course, is the whistling. Back then, whistling wasn’t a fairly popular “instrument” in music. It had had its heyday with songs like “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” or even “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard.” After “Young Folks,” it seemed like you heard it everywhere in indie pop: see “Pumped Up Kicks,” by Foster the People; “Pumpin Blood,” by NONONO; “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. It actually got kind of annoying. But I guess that’s the thing with starting, or reviving, a trend. At first it’s cool and unique, then when everyone else jumps on the bandwagon, you don’t like it anymore. (Spoken like a true hipster!)
I really enjoyed relistening to this song because I haven’t heard it in years. As soon as I heard those drums, they hit me right in the nostalgia. If the YouTube comments are anything to go by, the song has that effect on others, too. Take a listen and take yourself back in time: