Songwriters who have captured the essence of the pandemic
As we approach a year of lockdown, many of us have been stewing alone with our feelings for some time, including several great songwriters. Here, we look a few standout compositions from 2020 that encapsulate what the past year of pandemic life has been like.
Guest post by Sammy Hakim of Soundfly’s Flypaper
Quarantine has given us all a little too much time to sit around and think about our feelings. Well, lucky for us, we’re not alone. It seems like a lot of great songwriters have felt the same way too.
We’ve been tracking songs released in 2020 that respond directly to what we’ve all been living through for a year now, and there have been a few wonderful standouts. Here are a handful of our favorite songs that captured this past year perfectly.
Avenue Beat – “F2020”
Perhaps the most famous quarantine song of them all, Avenue Beat’s “F2020” took Tik Tok by storm earlier this lockdown. This track features witty lyrics like “December 31st I grabbed a beer, threw it up said 2020 is my year,” and “Yo my cat died, and a global pandemic took over my life, and I put out some new music nobody liked, so then I got really sad and bored at the same time.” It’s obvious that Avenue Beat has felt all the same feels that we’ve being going through too. And they’re right: F2020!
Plus, check out the lyric video where they take you through a look at their COVID-19 experiences.
Justin Bieber & Ariana Grande – “Stuck With U”
Bieber and Grande joined forces to release this happier take on the quarantine, earlier this year — before it started to drag on endlessly. With verses sung individually that cover a ton of familiar and emotional themes, the two mega-stars joined together to sing the iconic chorus: “So lock the door, baby throw out the key, can’t fight this no more, it’s just you and me and there’s nothing I, nothing I, I can do. I’m stuck with you, stuck with you, stuck with you.”
That feels pretty accurate to the current situation doesn’t it?
Todrick Hall – “Mask, Gloves, Soap, Scrubs”
Stocked full of clever lyrics and iconic lines this incredible remix of Todrick Hall’s “Nails, Hair, Hips Heels” had us all feeling some key lockdown vibes. With too many iconic lines to count — every single one of which referencing stuff that we’ve all experienced like Tiger King, Febreze, and way too much GrubHub — and a fun socially distanced video to dance along to, we’ll just leave you with his memorable chorus:
“I don’t go to work (work),
I don’t leave, I stay (stay),
I don’t care I eat, eat, eat, and sleep all day (okay),
And then I watch TV (yup),
That’s just the tea, hunty (yes ma’am),
Until they set us free (free),
Then I’mma let you see,
Whatchu gonna let them see?
My mask, gloves, soap, scrubs,
Mask, gloves, soap, scrubs.”
Luke Combs – “Six Feet Apart”
Throughout the pandemic, the term “six feet apart” has become a global go-to. Luke Combs capitalizes on that in his beautiful lyric about the world today, and how the resolution will come in the world tomorrow. This intimate yet epic song is a beautiful message of hope that we all need to hear right now.
“I miss my mom, I miss my dad,
I miss the road, I miss my band,
Givin’ hugs and shakin’ hands,
It’s a mystery, I suppose,
Just how long this thing goes,
But there’ll be crowds and there’ll be shows,
And there will be a light after dark,
Someday when we aren’t six feet apart.”
Bon Jovi & Jennifer Nettles – “Do What You Can”
“When you can’t do what you do, You do what you can.”
It’s become impossible to do the things we’d become accustomed to doing in our day to day life. With that old life seemingly coming to an end, this song’s iconic tag line is a little reminder that we must keep on doing what we can even amongst the uncertainties of today. Things like wear a mask, stay home, and stay safe, we just need to push through. And I mean c’mon, it’s Bon Jovi. Of course it was going to be great.
“Tonight they’re shutting down the borders,
And they boarded up the schools,
Small towns are rolling up their sidewalks,
One last paycheck coming through,
I know you’re feeling kind of nervous,
We’re all a little bit confused,
Nothing’s the same, this ain’t a game,
We gotta make it through.”
Dolly Parton – “When Life Is Good Again”
A classic from a classic, Dolly Parton’s “When Life Is Good Again” is a heartfelt and warm nudge to begin making amends. The song’s music video features Dolly by herself in a dark room, playing tape of past adventures — and life before the pandemic — and simply reflecting. Life will go on, and it’s okay to reflect on our past lives. We’re allowed.
“We’ve been brought to our knees,
We’ve been so ill at ease,
There are no guarantees,
But you know life goes on,
This too shall pass away,
Bring new and different days,
We need to change our ways,
And right our wrongs,
Let’s open up our hearts,
And let the whole world in,
Let’s try to make amends,
When life is good again.”
Bon Iver – “PDLIF”
“PDLIF” (which stands for “Please Don’t Live in Fear”) is yet another beautiful reminder that even though the future may seem unclear right now, we have an open mind to the new tomorrow. This song by Bon Iver urges us to not be taken prisoner by the situation, and to remember the new tomorrow might be more beautiful than we ever could have imagined.
“We can’t see from here right now,
Send it off from here,
And free your mind.”
OneRepublic – “Better Days”
OneRepublic hit us with this amazing reminder that, just around the corner, there are “Better Days” to come. It’s just the daily dose of hope that we needed with memorable melodies that will keep us singing along, and a hopeful video once again reminding us that even though life is hard right now, there will be brighter moments ahead.
“Oh, I know that there’ll be better days,
Oh, that sunshine ’bout to come my way,
May we never ever shed another tear for today,
‘Cause oh, I know that there’ll be better days.”
Alexander 23 – “IDK You Yet”
Though this song is applicable both pre-and post-quarantine, Alexander 23 really captured the loneliness of these times beautifully. “How can you miss someone you’ve never met? ‘Cause I need you now but I don’t know you yet” is such a beautiful sentiment and it hits so incredibly deep in a world where we only truly (safely) interact between screens. The music video features him riding down the streets and tossing roses at doorsteps, and it really brings out that sentiment of loneliness in a way that hits especially hard.
“How can you miss someone you’ve never met?
‘Cause I need you now but I don’t know you yet,
But can you find me soon because I’m in my head?
Yeah, I need you now but I don’t know you yet.”
Randy Newman – “Stay Away”
An adorable, and to the point love song for the ages (of the pandemic), Randy Newman’s “Stay Away” is a beautiful ode to the people we’re bunkered up with. It details the hardship of being a couple right now, but also the feeling of unconditional love and comfort that comes along with trusting one’s partner — or quaranteam. And as Newman helpfully reminds us: Don’t touch your face!
“Stay away from me,
Baby, keep your distance, please,
Stay away from me,
Words of love in times like these,
I’m gonna be with you 24 hours a day,
Lot of people couldn’t stand that, but you can,
You’ll be with me 24 hours a day,
What a lucky man I am,
Stay away from me,
Wash your hands,
Don’t touch your face,
How do you like that?
Wash your hands,
Don’t touch your face,
I saw you.”
Of course, there are tons of other songs that could make this list, even those that weren’t even released in 2020. How perfect is this new rendition of Julia Michaels and JP Saxe’s “If the World Was Ending” released to support Doctors Without Borders at the height of the pandemic?
I’m sure there are tons of others that didn’t quite make our list; that’s where you come in! Tell us your favorites in the comments below.
This is hard, but like everything else in life, this too shall pass. Stay safe out there, and happy listening.
Sammy Hakim is an up-and-coming young songwriter based in New York City. In May, 2018 she graduated from Berklee College of Music with a Major in songwriting and a focus in music business. These days she spends most of her time in songwriting sessions with artists all over the country.