“1901” by Phoenix

Phoenix is a music group from France, and frontman Thomas Mars has stated that “1901” is “a song about Paris”. More specifically, the title represents a year, i.e. 1901 on the Western calendar, which as far as Phoenix is concerned was the golden age of the French capital and thus it can be deduced the country at large. 

But even with that foreknowledge in tow, the lyrics of this piece still aren’t that easy to understand. Yet obviously, the gimmick is that the addressee, which reads like a romantic interest though not specifically so, is actually a personification of Paris.

Mars also went on to explain that this track represents “a fantasy about Paris”. And if such is so, considering the ambiguity of the lyrics an in-depth deciphering would require the analyzer to be aware of what his current perception of the French capital entails. But considering that this is in fact a dance song, we can deduce that said fantasy is akin to an uplifting, carefree one. 

Furthermore, the lyrics are able to effectively relay that the vocalist’s ideal vision of Paris originated during its perceived heyday of the late 19th century. Moreover, said course which the city was set upon back in those days, even up until the dropping of this track, has never fully been realized in his eyes.

And it is songs like “1901” which reaffirm that music is in fact an audio medium, one in which a track can hit even if its lyrical content isn’t comprehensive in a generally understandable kind of way.

Lyrics to Phoenix's "1901"

Was “1901” a single release?

Yes. The song was launched in 2009 as the first single from the French band’s award winning album, “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix”.

Record label, V2 Records, released the album in May of 2009. Three singles, namely “1901”, “Lisztomania” and “Lasso” were released from “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix”.

Writing and Production

Members of Phoenix were assisted by Frederic Moulin in writing the song. The full list of writing credits are therefore as follows:

  • Thomas Pablo Croquet
  • Laurent Mazzalai
  • Christian Mazzalai
  • F. Moulin

Production credit goes to the band and Philippe Zdar. Zdar, a renowned sound engineer, music producer and musician was one half of the French duo, Cassius. He owned “Motorbass”, a recording studio in Paris. Sadly, Zdar died in June of 2019. Reports were, he accidentally fell from a window of a high building.

What Genre(s) of music is “1901”?

“1901” is a classic example of a synth-rock song.


Both “1901” and its album have won several awards. For example, the album took home the “Best Alternative Music Album” at the 52nd Annual Grammys. It was number 5 on Time’s 2009 top 10 albums. Rolling Stone also placed the album among its list of the “Top 25 albums of 2009”. The entire project has sold over 1,000,000 copies worldwide.

As for the song itself, it made it into Rolling Stone‘s list of the “Top 100 Songs of the 21st Century“.

The music magazine, Spin, ranked it No. 2 on its list of best songs for 2009. It was also included in Pitchfork’s ranking of the top 500 songs of the 2000s.

Chart Performance

On the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the song debuted at number 90 and peaked at the 84th position.

Covers of “1901”

French DJ, Petit Biscuit released his cover version of the song in 2011.

Another notable cover of the song is one released in 2018 by singer, Birdy, winner of live music competition, Open Mic UK.

Notable Appearances

Luxury car brand, Cadillac SRX and Sony’s home video game, PlayStation used the song in advertisement campaigns.

British comedy series, “Friday Night Dinner”, American drama series, “Melrose Place”, Kevin Williamson’s “The Vampire Diaries”, the cheerleading drama series, “Hellcats” and “Gossip Girl” all featured the song in some episodes.


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