Peter Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks” is the most indie rock indie rock song of all time. They’ve got all the checklist items covered: odd band name, maudlin lyrics about youth, catchy hook, sleepy melody, whistling, and twee lady guest vocalist. When advertisers try to market to “hipsters,” they are thinking of this song and the people who like this song. This song smells like Williamsburg.
Which is precisely why it became such a big hit, hitting in 2006 at a time when Brooklyn-flavored indie rock was starting to get a lot of mainstream attention as the Next Big Thing or The Music Of Our TImes. In the way that “Anarchy in the UK” was a representative of all punk, or “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was all of grunge, “Young Folks” is the larger world’s introduction to hipsters and their native song.
The band is so associated with hipsters that the big network media machine knew enough to use one of Peter Bjorn and John’s songs as the theme song/incidental music for a show about hipsters, albeit one that comes a little too late and rings a little too false for actual young people (although a decent sitcom in its own right). 2 Broke Girls, set in Brooklyn and starring hipster indie dream girl Kat Dennings, uses Peter Bjorn and John’s “Second Chance” for all of its music.
2 Broke Girls is the biggest new hit of the fall season. “Second Chance” is PBJ’s most visible work since “Young Folks,” and is almost as catchy. Everything has been set in place for this to be the new “I’ll Be There For You,” and Peter Bjorn and John to be the new Rembrandts. But it didn’t happen. This song didn’t even chart anywhere, not even on the alternative rock chart. But it’s cool. It’s always cool with these people. And you can’t count on a second chance, which is something I heard in a song once.