Here’s a quarantine playlist for summer 2020
These songs will help you reflect on what matters most
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on theeaglecoronavirusproject.com, a separate website created by Eagle staff at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in spring 2020. Articles from that website have been migrated to The Eagle’s main site and backdated with the dates they were originally published in order to allow readers to access them more easily.
Many people associate summer with blaring rock and pop music from cars or house parties. Personally, I associate summer with 101.9 FM Cool 102, a rock radio station from Cape Cod. However, considering the unique nature of this summer, with the coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests, music is changing to perform necessary functions for relaxation, information and empowerment. To address the role of music under these unique and trying circumstances, I created a Spotify playlist of classic rock and pop songs that I associate with summer, combined with new releases from 2020. Each song captures the liveliness of summer, but also provides listeners with valuable moments of reflection. Here are 10 of the 21 songs available in the playlist:
1. “All of Me” by John Legend
John Legend’s biggest hit is about how romantic love can provide balance in life and how romantic partners often lift each other up during challenging times. In the lyrics, Legend reminds us that “The world is beating you down, I’m around through every mood,” of the comfort that others can provide. Legend’s message of supporting one another through love that is greater than ourselves resonates, especially in light of the pandemic and the current racial tensions.
2. “Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder
This song is a tribute to American composer Duke Ellington. It also references Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie, all of whom were influential artists and jazz icons. June is African-American Music Appreciation Month, and as the music industry addresses current events, it is important to recognize the work done by Black artists. The music industry can empower Black artists so that they can have the platform that white artists enjoy in greater numbers. In “Sir Duke,” Stevie Wonder recognizes Black artists who influenced him.
3. “Rain on Me” by Lady Gaga (ft. Ariana Grande)
This new release from Lady Gaga, which features Ariana Grande, has definitely been uplifting during these trying times. It is a dance pop track that fits the atmosphere of summer parties and could still be played at virtual get-togethers this summer. It was released on Lady Gaga’s latest album, Chromatica.
4. “Daisies” by Katy Perry
Katy Perry’s latest single, “Daisies,” could also suit virtual get-togethers, as it brings a sense of familiarity of a party atmosphere. It features both acoustic and electric instruments, which serve as the song’s pulse. “Daisies” is a song about resilience. For Katy Perry, that means continuing to pursue her dreams on her own terms, despite everything her critics say.
The melodic instrumentation, combined with Perry’s powerful voice, communicates rising above all the ups and downs of stardom, which many consider to be both rewarding and depressing at the same time. In the context of quarantine, there are also many ups and downs to social distancing that this song can help listeners grapple with.
5. “We Want Peace” by Emmanuel Jal
Emmanuel Jal, a former child soldier in what is now South Sudan turned hip-hop artist, sings about wanting world peace. Jal’s music is centered around his traumatic experience as a child soldier. On his website, Jal states his inspiration for writing music: “I share my story for social emotional learning through the arts, business and philanthropy. I offer experiences with music, healing, education and healthy living - so that together we can create positive, global awakening.” The music video features appearances from prominent figures such as Alicia Keys, Peter Gabriel, Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter and Sir Richard Branson.
6. “Hold On” by Ananya Birla
This electropop song combines both a fast tempo and a softer sound. Originally released in 2018 as a single, “Hold On” has a way of drawing listeners in. Ananya Birla’s soft but powerful voice adds a deeper meaning to the song. “Hold On” captures the message that through these difficult times, it is important to hold on to music, family and friends.
7. “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix
Originally written by Bob Dylan, “All Along the Watchtower” became a big hit for Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix captures the true meaning of this song with his expressive guitar part and delivery of the lyrics. “All Along the Watchtower” is about changing society. The first verse is a conversation between two characters, the Joker and the Thief. The Joker is dissatisfied with his place in society. In the third verse, the Thief sympathizes with the Joker. Even though many other artists, such as Dave Mason, have covered this song, Hendrix’s version is the most recognizable.
8. “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John
This is one of Elton John’s most popular songs. John is an openly gay vocalist, a pianist and an outspoken HIV/AIDS activist. Especially since June is Pride Month, it is important to recognize LGBTQ+ artists like Elton John, Freddie Mercury and many others. He wrote “Tiny Dancer” with his longtime songwriting partner and lyricist Bernie Taupin. “We came to California in the fall of 1970, and it seemed like sunshine just radiated from the populace,” Taupin said about the meaning of the song. “I guess I was trying to capture the spirit of that time.” We can all draw comfort from the sunshine of summer.
9. “Cruel Summer” by Taylor Swift
This song is about the feeling of a summer romance during a difficult period in Taylor Swift’s life. Swift explains that the song reflects her pain and desperation. “This song is one that I wrote about the feeling of a summer romance, and how often a summer romance can be layered with all these feelings of, like, pining away and sometimes even secrecy,” Swift said. During quarantine, when our sense of normality has been taken away, “Cruel Summer” allows us to reflect on these challenging times.
10. “Who You Lovin” by LÉON
Released in April, “Who You Lovin” is a reflection on the importance of loyalty and love. LÉON explained, “I recall feeling kind of frustrated over a certain situation when we wrote it and that the lyrics came out right away, pretty much.” LÉON’s reflective lyrics and soothing voice combined with a catchy pop beat makes “Who You Lovin” a must-listen.
Each song in this playlist brings a unique meaning, but all of the songs feature a moderate to fast tempo to energize listeners and capture the liveliness of summer. Overall, the playlist is nostalgic of past summer memories, which provides a sense of normality. Now, more than ever, music provides us with a sense of continuity in the midst of disruption and enables us to connect with each other in the struggles of social change.