Life staff writers share the art that encouraged them in 2020
As this hectic year comes to an end, The Eagle’s Life staffers reflect on what helped them smile, grow and learn despite challenges and changes to entertainment
The Life staff at The Eagle reports on art every day. Since the pandemic has forced our newsroom online, we have adapted to capture this moment in culture by writing stories about art as protest, about our fellow students in the Department of Performing Arts moving online and about students who have stayed grounded with music through this difficult semester. We’ve discovered that so many of us have turned to art in our darkest days this year, including American University’s student journalists. As December comes to an end, and 2021 lingers near, the Life staff is sharing what art we have consumed that has helped us cope, mourn and grow. Enjoy.
Stephanie Mirah, Arts and Entertainment editor
Emily Walsh, Class of ‘21, journalism/transcultural studies — This year, my favorite podcast to listen to was “Radiolab” produced by WNYC. Episodes are around 30 minutes to an hour long, and each one covers a different topic. I really loved the wide range discussed from episode to episode (everything from eels to eugenics), and the personal stories and great characters each episode introduces. “Radiolab” made my downtime seem more productive and engaging because I learned something new and different every time I listened.
Clare Mulroy, Class of ‘22, journalism — My favorite book that I read this year was “Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism,” edited by Daisy Hernández and Bushra Rehman. I started reading this collection of memoirs and narratives for my feminist, gender and sexuality theory class in the spring but decided to continue it on my own time throughout the summer. Each contributing author tells their story and challenges the exclusivity and whiteness of modern-day feminism. This book has taught me so much, and I cannot recommend it enough!
Zoe Bell, Class of ‘24, journalism — To pass time during quarantine, I picked up “The Plague” by Albert Camus, since the plot relates to what we’re experiencing now. “The Plague” was a difficult read (I had to look up definitions for over 180 different words!), but I got through it by rereading some sections. The most fascinating part was that entire passages directly reflected our current experiences living in a pandemic even though the novel takes place in northern Africa in the 1940s. There was one sentence describing how most people took the precautions seriously and stayed in quarantine, but others wanted to rebel and go out. I thought the parallels between our lives now and 80 years ago were eerily similar; history really does repeat itself.
Thomas Recchio, Class of ‘21, political science/justice/public administration — During quarantine, I read Debbie Harry’s memoir, “Face It.” It was a very interesting book where I learned a lot about Harry’s experiences from her childhood and her years with Blondie. She incorporates storytelling with pictures of fan art that were given to her over the years and photographs of her taken by many colorful people such as Andy Warhol. She paints an interesting picture of the 1970s music scene in New York City, where she started her music career. Harry also recounts her experience giving up her music career so that she could take care of her partner, Blondie guitarist Chris Stein, who was near death. Harry currently advocates for the environment and the LGBTQ+ community.
Sara Winick, Class of ‘24, journalism — This year, I’ve been listening over and over again to the song “Learn to Fly” by the Foo Fighters. Whether it’s the lyrics, the music itself or the nostalgia of hearing the same Foo Fighters whose music had such a large presence throughout my childhood, “Learn to Fly” uplifted and inspired me to keep going each and every day (even if it felt as though the days were only getting harder). One of my favorite lyrics within the song is “make my way back home when I learn to fly.” I’ve been “learning to fly” throughout these last few months. Between graduating high school, the coronavirus pandemic and starting college, I’ve been trying to find my place among everything. I hope that as this year closes out and a new year begins, we can all find a little piece of home to “learn to fly” too.
Annmarie Melsheimer, Class of ‘23, public relations/international studies — During quarantine, I got extremely inspired to cook. My main inspiration was a Netflix docuseries called “Salt Fat Acid Heat.” In this series, Samin Nosrat, a food columnist for The New York Times Magazine, shares her knowledge of the four main components that make food delicious. She travels all over the world to visit with specialists of salt, fat, acid and heat. I used Nosrat’s insight to cook for my family and even had themed dinners based on the creations I made. The show is beautifully shot and so inspiring. I recommend it to anyone interested in food!
Mary Kett, Class of ‘20, CLEG — Something that got me through this crazy year was one of my all-time favorite albums, “Nothing Happens” by Wallows. Listening to this album brings me nostalgia and comfort, as it makes me recall some of my most memorable pre-pandemic times last summer. Most of Wallows’ music is upbeat and lighthearted, immediately putting me in a good mood, which is something I desperately needed throughout 2020. Whether I needed to shuffle this album while studying or going on a drive, or when I needed a small dose of light and comforting songs, “Nothing Happens” was one of the main pieces of media I kept on repeat.
Kelly McDonnell, Class of ‘21, journalism — I’ve been clinging to Harry Styles’ sophomore album “Fine Line” this year. It just received three Grammy nominations, and they’re definitely deserved. This album tells such a story of growth, overcoming heartache and discovering yourself with people who love you. Orchestral backing tracks, symphonic melodies (provided by Styles himself in resonant falsetto and rumbling baritones) and pastiche lyrics that reference artists like Stevie Nicks and Charles Bukowski create an upbeat and reflective album. Off the album’s title track, the one message that has consistently resonated with me this year: “We’ll be alright.”
Grace George, Class of ‘21, journalism/religion — This year, Andrew Bird’s 2019 album “My Finest Work Yet” has been my go-to. The album is a beautiful, cohesive collection of songs in which Bird’s expertly spun lyrics contain a depth of frustration over political divisiveness and apathy. The music is calming yet profound with peaceful melodies played across strings that shift to the rattling sounds of drums and bass. When I think of this album, I think less of the individual songs and more about the chilling feeling some of its moments leave me with. I listen to this album when I’m showering, doing homework, relaxing, driving, working on a puzzle, going for a walk, etc. It has seen me through pretty much all of 2020.
Isabella Goodman, Class of ‘22, journalism/art history — The piece of media that’s gotten me through the pandemic so far has been Phoebe Bridgers’ sophomore album, “Punisher.” It’s really beautiful and sad and clever, so it kind of encompasses all of the emotions that quarantine has brought up. Though a lot of Bridgers’ songs fall firmly into the “sad girl indie” camp, the production on this album and some of the more up-tempo songs prove that she’s able to experiment with her style. It’s a no-skip album, and while I have a new favorite every week, “Garden Song,” “Kyoto” and “I Know the End” are definitely standout hits.
Lizzy Tarallo, Class of ‘20, journalism/education studies — With all of the stress I’ve felt due to the pandemic, all I want to do at the end of the day is curl up with a good Netflix show that will make me smile. During the peak of the first shutdown, I finished “Gilmore Girls” and its sequel series. I started the show at some point in 2019, and I finally had the time to make it through the whole series. It’s just a really pleasant, low-key, low-stress show that has helped me through this year. I already can’t wait to watch it again!
Stephanie Mirah, Class of ‘21, journalism/creative writing — When this topic was posed to me, my head went to Quinn XCII’s “Right Where You Should Be.” During spring 2020, I studied abroad in Denmark and lived with a host family about 40 minutes outside of Copenhagen via public transit. As I sat on the bus, the train and walked 11 minutes to my classroom, I would listen to this song. It felt personalized for me. I was an Atlantic Ocean away from my comfort zone, but the universe thought I was right where I should be. Then, March came, and the pandemic sent me home and disrupted so many lives in unfortunate and unpleasant ways. All this to say, I wasn’t sure if “Right Where You Should Be” was the right art piece for this year because of its irony. Then, my Spotify Wrapped came out, and it was my top song of the year, and I knew that it was.
Cecilia Markley, Class of ‘21, journalism — A piece of art that really defined my year was Kesha’s newest album, “High Road,” which also ended up being my most played album on Spotify. Kesha is my favorite musical artist, and her journey these past few years has been inspiring to me. I think this album combines the best aspects of her 2017 album “Rainbow”— where she dives deep into the spiritual and emotional undertaking she endured during her five-year hiatus from the industry — with the fun, party songs we came to know her for with her two earlier albums. “High Road” is great because it has songs for every mood, and no matter how I’m feeling, there is something on this album I can listen to.