When life is “normal” I think our routines and interactions prompt our listening habits. For example, in the gym you might listen to a hip-hop playlist on Spotify. Studying at the library, maybe you put on classical music or “lo-fi beats.” But what happens when you don’t go anywhere? Or see anyone? What does music sound like when every day is the same?
Personally, I’ve gone through a few different phases.
- Denial. Not denial of the current situation of course but denial of its effect on me. Maybe a better title for this phase then would be “Escapism.” Regardless, my first week of social isolation was spent curating a dance playlist. I was determined to “stay positive!” and the tunes of Stevie Wonder, Kehlani, the Jonas Brothers and Taylor Swift definitely helped.
- Discovery. Finally I had all this time to listen to new albums. Whether I hadn’t gotten around to them in the bustle of my typical school week or they were a new release in quarantine, I filled the gap left by gym and studying music with music I hadn’t heard before. How sweet to soak in new songs undistracted, but how sad that they might always be tinged with the weirdness of the first time I heard them. This week was full of Conan Gray and Ingrid Andress’s debut albums, Dua Lipa’s sophomore effort, and 5 Seconds of Summer’s latest record.
- Deep Dive. More recently, I found myself looking up “2012 Country Music Hits” and latching on to Luke Bryan’s spring break-themed albums. I understand how that might be perceived as a cry for help, but don’t worry. This listening phase is all about nostalgia. It’s a second wave of escapism, high school edition. I had no idea three weeks ago that songs like “Suntan City” and “Spring Breakdown” would bring me so much comfort. But they do. Go figure.
- Darkness. As I’m writing this, I can sense the dawn of a new chapter in my quarantine music saga. Reality is setting in. Or, at least it’s getting harder to push away. The news is so overwhelming that I’ve been drawn toward music that feels small and warm and quiet. As I’m writing this, I’ve been listening to “Lonely Together” by Caitlyn Smith on repeat.
So what does music sound like when the world hits pause? As best as I can figure, it sounds like whatever keeps us sane in the moment. Rooted in place, time can start to feel numbing. But music is a way to change that — to boost your mood or switch your lens. What have you been listening to?
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