Playlist: COVID-19 in music, one year later
Reflecting on the sound of quarantine and moving forward
The one-year mark of the coronavirus pandemic has passed, signifying the anniversary of the shutdown of colleges and universities in the United States and the rest of the world. Though it was a period filled with uncertainty and loss, it was also one consisting of creativity and growth. Whether you’re nostalgically scrolling through “early quarantine aesthetic” TikToks or ready to move forward, The Eagle has created a Spotify playlist to satisfy the desire to renew good vibes.
Each song was either written and recorded during the coronavirus pandemic or touches on personal traits that one has had to strengthen during the pandemic. Here is a glimpse into the “One Year Later” playlist:
“willow” - Taylor Swift
This song is the opening track of Taylor Swift’s newest album, “evermore,” a continuation of Swift’s new folk-oriented musical style that she developed during the pandemic. “Willow” is no different. Swift dominated the mid-quarantine music scene with not one, but two album releases in July and December. It has allowed fans to see yet another side of Swift musically and to see how she was being creative during quarantine. “Willow” has very personal lyrics and uses metaphors relating to Swift’s personal life. It was one of Swift’s most popular songs that she released during the pandemic, having reached No. 1 on the Billboard 100 charts. Upon the release of “willow,” Swift had both the album “evermore” and the song, “willow,” debut at No.1 on the charts at the same time. The music video for “willow” was similar to another music video that Swift made for “cardigan,” which was also wildly popular. Lyrics such as “Life was a willow, and it bent right to your wind / they count me out time and time again” are autobiographical and metaphorical for Swift.
“Supalonely” - BENEE ft. Gus Dapperton
This song dominated the “for you page” during March and April after TikTok user @zoifishh created a dance to the pop song. The dance went viral, and the song peaked at No. 39 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song’s chorus details a failed relationship, with relatable lyrics about loneliness that balance the song’s catchy and upbeat tune. Whether you’ve totally forgotten about “Supalonely” or still can’t get it out of your head, it’s a staple song in any quarantine playlist.
“Stuck with U” - Ariana Grande & Justin Bieber
Pop singers Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber released “Stuck with U” on May 8, teaming up to release a quarantine-inspired song about being stuck at home with your significant other. Lyrics like “There’s nowhere we need to be, no, no, no / I’ma get to know you better / Kinda hope we’re here forever” touch upon cherishing the quiet moments in lockdown to be with those you live with. According to the video’s description, Grande and Bieber raised nearly $42,000 for First Responders Children’s Foundation with their music video, which included clips of couples and families dancing in their living rooms. Both artists appear in the video with their significant others and dogs — this song is an uplifting note amid the uncertainty of the pandemic.
“Say So” - Doja Cat
Though “Say So” was released at the end of 2019, the song grew in popularity during early 2021 because of a TikTok dance created by @yoddellinghaley. The song appeared on Doja Cat’s “Hot Pink” album, and peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in May. The song is reminiscent of early quarantine days on the popular app, and Doja Cat — who owes much of her popularity to her viral songs on TikTok — expressed her gratitude for the dance during her 2021 Grammy performance.
“Feeling Good” - Nina Simone
“Feeling Good” is about enjoying new beginnings. It addresses the desire not to mourn anymore, coupled with the imagery of a new tomorrow on the rise. The repetitive lyrics, “It’s a new dawn / it’s a new day / it’s a new life for me / and I’m feeling good” communicate a message of joy, new beginnings, and happiness. John Legend performed “Feeling Good” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
“Let There Be Love” - Ananya Birla
“Let There Be Love,” released in July, looks at the divisions that exist in the world. It delivers a message calling for unity. Lyrics such as “One day we’ll have it all / one smile across the world / everybody’s capable of that selfless love” call for people to come together.
“Sweeter” - Leon Bridges ft. Terrace Martin
Halfway through the year, the world was gripped with Black Lives Matter protests and a nationwide racial reckoning. Leon Bridges released “Sweeter” in response to the murder of George Floyd, expressing his feelings as a Black man in America. In a statement, Bridges said “I am George Floyd, my brothers are George Floyd, and my sisters are George Floyd. I cannot and will not be silent any longer.” The song received widespread praise last year, especially with a reckoning of the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on communities of color. Bridges performed it at the first ever virtual Democratic National Convention. The issue of systemic racism is still pressing, one year later while COVID-19 continues to exacerbate existing inequalities.
“Small Town” - John Mellencamp
This song tells the story of growing up in a small town. During the pandemic, small towns experienced more normalcy than most other places - even with restrictions in place. College students fled back to their “small towns” and childhood homes after being sent home from college. In fact, small towns have had broader appeal during the pandemic for everybody, not just college students, as a place to quarantine and avoid the spread of the coronavirus.
“Lean on Me” - Bill Withers
“Lean on Me” is a song about solidarity, which was evident during nationwide protests for racial equality and early-pandemic solidarity as the country went into lockdown. Lyrics such as “please swallow your pride / if I have things you need to borrow / for no one can fill you those of your needs that you won’t let show” call for solidarity and to throw away individual egos.
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” - Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” has a message of overcoming obstacles. The pandemic presented numerous obstacles both for college students and the rest of the world. The lyrics “If you need me, call me, No matter where you are / No matter how far / Don't worry, baby / Just call my name / I'll be there in a hurry / You don't have to worry” communicate a willingness to do anything for someone regardless of any obstacles there may be.
Clare Mulroy contributed to the reporting of this story.