The song “Year of the Young” by Smith & Thell was not made as a part of any album, but rather as a single ode to those the band had lost. The band has publicly stated, “Last year, we and those close to us lost several young friends and loved ones due to tragic circumstances. Our private lives were hit by one sadness after another.” This happened at the same time their music was gaining popularity and their careers started taking off. They were experiencing success after success, but at the same time losing those they loved. As the band was preparing to celebrate the new year, they felt they needed to write a song to mark the end of 2019, or as they called it, “The year where we got all we ever wanted, but felt we lost all that we ever had.”
The theme of this extremely poignant song is that a person is kept alive after death by those they leave behind; they are kept alive by those who remember them, perceive their spirit in the world, and honor their beliefs. This song speaks to every person who has ever lost a loved one, telling them that just because that person is dead, does not mean they are truly gone. The words of the song itself greatly enhance the power of this message.
Oh, this was the year of the young.
This is the title line of the song, and it ends every chorus with a bang. It is a powerfully written line, every one-syllable word fitting together, with alliteration connecting the words even further. However, the true power of the line comes from the meaning of the title phrase. The song is about the loss of not just loved ones, but of young loved ones, of people who have barely lived. The phrasing of “year of the young”, rather than “year of the dead”, not only indicates that the people the band lost were in their youth, but serves as a way to commemorate their youth, so that they would never be forgotten. To me, it seems similar to the Chinese naming of each year after an animal, such as the “Year of the Dragon”, in that the band is marking the year for all time and giving it meaning.
I’m the trees, I’m the birds
I’m the soft stars that shine at night
These lines have a lot going on. The use of first person in the context of the song refers to the person who died, making them the temporary speaker. In these lines, this person is telling those they left behind to look for them in nature, to keep them alive by seeing them as a part of the world. This fits with the message of the song by implying a form of reincarnation; it says that the dead come back to life in their loved ones’ perception of the world.
I won’t remember you died
I will remember you lived
In these lines, the speaker is speaking to those they lost. It implies selective memory, but in a deeper sense refers to what the speaker is choosing to focus on. The interesting thing about these lines is they say that the fact someone has died is not really important. It fits with the message of the song because it relates remembrance to life, and that memory is what keeps a person alive, even after they have died.