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June 03,2020

by Stephanie Soh

Music Hits Differently Now

We’re used to categorising art in terms of big shifts in wider society. We say, because this is a post-9/11 film, or this painting was made during the Industrial Revolution, or this novel is pre-war, we can understand it in relation to that change.

There’s no doubt this approach will be applied to what’s created before, during and after the coronavirus pandemic – seen as global humanity’s biggest challenge since the Second World War. 

And when it comes to music – capable of evoking such visceral memories – I’ve not been able to stop contextualising it like this since social distancing properly kicked in and the UK went into lockdown.

Chemical Brothers

Music just hits differently now and all music made before 2020 speaks of a lost world that had not yet reckoned with Covid-19.

‘Get Lucky’ by Daft Punk featuring Pharrell and Nile Rodgers, for instance, isn’t just 2013’s ubiquitous sound of the summer. It’s now a track that transports you to a sun-drenched past full of promise – of meeting up with your friends on the first evening of a trip abroad or hunting down a late-night bar after refusing to call it a night. It was a time when you did indeed have the potential to – heavy emphasis here – get lucky.

Get Lucky

And it’s no surprise that the music that feels most urgent now is the music associated with singing and dancing with other people. Whether it’s the breezy house track that made you rush into the crowd in search of your crew because you had to be with them for this one, or the cult pop song that got everyone at the gig to sing in unison, it harks back to a once simple and now forbidden pleasure.

Similarly, there are the tunes you might hear for the first time in lockdown that carry the dream of a not-so-socially-distant future – the ones you can’t wait to have hurled at you in a dark basement or hear coming from an outdoor stage with the sun setting behind it. As festivals and live shows drop off of this year’s calendar, it’s tempting to escape into fantasies about post-pandemic parties and the Summer of Love we surely deserve in 2021.

I knew I was waxing a bit too lyrical when one of my fantasies turned out to be very specifically ‘The Pandemic Is Over And You Are At A Festival Watching Toploader Playing “Dancing In The Moonlight”’. Suddenly, I don’t care if ‘Dancing In The Moonlight’ is overplayed or that its particular brand of joy is supermarket advert-friendly. It’s a song that everyone knows, so it now has the power to be a great unifier – and I, for one, would like to experience “feeling warm and bright” once again. 

Toploader

While music gives me hope for a time when it can reunite us, in lockdown it’s also doing the heavy-lifting of helping me in my solitary moments. There’s a reason why the YouTube account ChilledCow, which runs the ‘lofi hip hop radio - beats to relax/study to’ stream has 5.5million subscribers and Spotify’s ‘Peaceful Piano’ playlist has almost 6million followers. 

Modern life can be a barrage of catching three different modes of transport to work, stressing out about not being able to commit to the mindfulness exercise that is supposed to be de-stressing, and so many screens – so many screens everywhere. As peace doesn’t come easy, I often find that I need to make an effort to impose it, and that the most effective way to do this is through music.

I’m talking about the kind of music that can block out the outside world, but which also offers enough lulls and gaps for your thoughts to float in. For me, ambient and ambient-esque artists like Brian EnoPantha du Princeand Julianna Barwick are able to carve out that mental space. 

Brian Eno album Ambient 1

Now that my world has shrunk to my home, I’m turning to these artists even more. Muffling the sound of neighbours, being cosy and creating a work-fit environment are all better attempted when you have a soothing aural buffer in place. 

Of course, it’s not just my psychological response to music that has changed, but the material reality it’s built on too. With venues closed, artists unable to tour and performances cancelled, the coronavirus pandemic has hit the industry hard. In the UK alone, artists and managers have lost an estimated £50million so far, while the live music sector is expected to lose £800million this year. 

Music is obviously not in any danger of becoming extinct, but it’s looking very likely that it will be harder to make a living from it, especially for those without capital to begin with. Some of the music that might have been, will be lost. 

But despite the current limitations, innovators are still finding ways to use music to bring us together, even if we may be physically alone – the radio station No Signal have been hugely popular with their soundclash series that pits tracks by two different artists head-to-head, with Twitter users weighing in using the hastag #NS10v10. Meanwhile livestreamed gigs have proliferated and socially distanced concerts and raves have sprung up, although they aren’t to everyone’s taste. 

NS10v10

It all kind of reminds me of another song I’ve been appreciating differently in lockdown – Britney Spears’ ‘Till The World Ends’. Released in 2011, it captures that enduring idea of the end of the world party: “See the sunlight, we ain’t stopping / Keep on dancing ‘til the world ends” she sings. Well, Britney was right about wealth re-distribution and she was right about this. 

EUrKLzDUMAAKfoq

June 03,2020

by Stephanie Soh

Music Hits Differently Now

We’re used to categorising art in terms of big shifts in wider society. We say, because this is a post-9/11 film, or this painting was made during the Industrial Revolution, or this novel is pre-war, we can understand it in relation to that change.

There’s no doubt this approach will be applied to what’s created before, during and after the coronavirus pandemic – seen as global humanity’s biggest challenge since the Second World War. 

And when it comes to music – capable of evoking such visceral memories – I’ve not been able to stop contextualising it like this since social distancing properly kicked in and the UK went into lockdown.

Chemical Brothers

Music just hits differently now and all music made before 2020 speaks of a lost world that had not yet reckoned with Covid-19.

‘Get Lucky’ by Daft Punk featuring Pharrell and Nile Rodgers, for instance, isn’t just 2013’s ubiquitous sound of the summer. It’s now a track that transports you to a sun-drenched past full of promise – of meeting up with your friends on the first evening of a trip abroad or hunting down a late-night bar after refusing to call it a night. It was a time when you did indeed have the potential to – heavy emphasis here – get lucky.

Get Lucky

And it’s no surprise that the music that feels most urgent now is the music associated with singing and dancing with other people. Whether it’s the breezy house track that made you rush into the crowd in search of your crew because you had to be with them for this one, or the cult pop song that got everyone at the gig to sing in unison, it harks back to a once simple and now forbidden pleasure.

Similarly, there are the tunes you might hear for the first time in lockdown that carry the dream of a not-so-socially-distant future – the ones you can’t wait to have hurled at you in a dark basement or hear coming from an outdoor stage with the sun setting behind it. As festivals and live shows drop off of this year’s calendar, it’s tempting to escape into fantasies about post-pandemic parties and the Summer of Love we surely deserve in 2021.

I knew I was waxing a bit too lyrical when one of my fantasies turned out to be very specifically ‘The Pandemic Is Over And You Are At A Festival Watching Toploader Playing “Dancing In The Moonlight”’. Suddenly, I don’t care if ‘Dancing In The Moonlight’ is overplayed or that its particular brand of joy is supermarket advert-friendly. It’s a song that everyone knows, so it now has the power to be a great unifier – and I, for one, would like to experience “feeling warm and bright” once again. 

Toploader

While music gives me hope for a time when it can reunite us, in lockdown it’s also doing the heavy-lifting of helping me in my solitary moments. There’s a reason why the YouTube account ChilledCow, which runs the ‘lofi hip hop radio - beats to relax/study to’ stream has 5.5million subscribers and Spotify’s ‘Peaceful Piano’ playlist has almost 6million followers. 

Modern life can be a barrage of catching three different modes of transport to work, stressing out about not being able to commit to the mindfulness exercise that is supposed to be de-stressing, and so many screens – so many screens everywhere. As peace doesn’t come easy, I often find that I need to make an effort to impose it, and that the most effective way to do this is through music.

I’m talking about the kind of music that can block out the outside world, but which also offers enough lulls and gaps for your thoughts to float in. For me, ambient and ambient-esque artists like Brian EnoPantha du Princeand Julianna Barwick are able to carve out that mental space. 

Brian Eno album Ambient 1

Now that my world has shrunk to my home, I’m turning to these artists even more. Muffling the sound of neighbours, being cosy and creating a work-fit environment are all better attempted when you have a soothing aural buffer in place. 

Of course, it’s not just my psychological response to music that has changed, but the material reality it’s built on too. With venues closed, artists unable to tour and performances cancelled, the coronavirus pandemic has hit the industry hard. In the UK alone, artists and managers have lost an estimated £50million so far, while the live music sector is expected to lose £800million this year. 

Music is obviously not in any danger of becoming extinct, but it’s looking very likely that it will be harder to make a living from it, especially for those without capital to begin with. Some of the music that might have been, will be lost. 

But despite the current limitations, innovators are still finding ways to use music to bring us together, even if we may be physically alone – the radio station No Signal have been hugely popular with their soundclash series that pits tracks by two different artists head-to-head, with Twitter users weighing in using the hastag #NS10v10. Meanwhile livestreamed gigs have proliferated and socially distanced concerts and raves have sprung up, although they aren’t to everyone’s taste. 

NS10v10

It all kind of reminds me of another song I’ve been appreciating differently in lockdown – Britney Spears’ ‘Till The World Ends’. Released in 2011, it captures that enduring idea of the end of the world party: “See the sunlight, we ain’t stopping / Keep on dancing ‘til the world ends” she sings. Well, Britney was right about wealth re-distribution and she was right about this. 

EUrKLzDUMAAKfoq