Defining 2020 is no easy feat. Within March we were met with the realisation that life as we know it would soon become life how we once knew it, the events to follow no doubt altering us. With nothing to do and nowhere to go we were given the time to sit back and listen a little more. The soundtrack to such a year was going to be different for everybody but left to my own devices, I found solace in filling the empty space with some noise.
2020 has redefined how we experience music, one that is singular and confined to our households, speakers and headphones. It’s hard to believe that concerts still existed at any point of 2020 considering how long we’ve felt stuck in this simulation. For me, the year began with Halsey’s introspection on Manic. I was lucky enough that my last gig before COVID-19 took over was one last-minute decision to scour for a ticket to her O2 London show on Twitter. Mid show she exclaimed that she was set to take a break from touring, and then, by force, so did everybody else.
Those were blissful months before the first official lockdown announcement in March, back before we knew what lockdown even meant. The big releases seemed to reflect an escapism and blissfulness of what was to come once this would be over; Future Nostalgia being an even more fitting title upon release than when Dua Lipa first dreamt it up. Dua Lipa and The Weeknd each released their highly anticipated albums within one week of each other. Despite their differentiating themes, they both revived the eighties’ style whilst modernising the production, giving it new life. Their albums gave us a sense of life post-pandemic early into lockdown; one of concerts and crowds and both these things existing simultaneously. Whilst The Weeknd’s themes have not changed too much over the years, his presentation has, and it’s one that suits him. Dua, however, gave us a complete 180 of what we were to expect from a sophomore album. It paid off tenfold.
Some albums just made sense. Miley’s rock release felt like something we had been waiting in suspense for for some time now. A culmination of her previous experimentation and her own rock muses, it suits her more than any other genre she has taken hold of. Taylor returned to what she does best accompanied by the acoustics of her two surprise releases Folklore and Evermore and Chloe & Halle, with their debut release Ungodly Hour, created an RnB album worthy of all its praise upon release.
Social distanced songs became albums made in lockdowns in different time zones. Music reflected life in real time more than ever before, with artists churning out music due to how they too felt amidst the constant uncertainty. Among artists who constantly reinvent themselves, one that made the most sense was Machine Gun Kelly’s foray into punk. It was just one of the albums completed amidst the landscape of 2020. So many artists came into their own in 2020 despite not being able to prove so in person. Kehlani’s It was good until it wasn’t brought with it videos made throughout isolation periods, proving that her creativity wasn’t stifled but rather readjusted upon her album release. Dua gave us Studio 2054 upon postponing her tour once again, a homage to the past and hopefully a nod to future nights in clubs and bars.
I certainly delved back into old music as some sort of safety net, but a few new tracks I had on repeat, in various lockdowns include:
The first lockdown playlist -
Wash my Hands (Lata Harbor feat. Marc E Bassy & Collett)
Golf on TV (Lennon Stella)
Summer repeats -
Cabin fever (Jaden) (quite literally)
Busy Boy (Chloe & Halle)
Pussycat Doll (Flo Milli)
Tracks from winter -
Zombie Live Cover (Miley Cyrus)
Forget Me Too (Machine Gun Kelly feat. Halsey)
Back to the Streets (Saweetie feat. Jhene Aiko)
The year is almost split into two. Not pre-pandemic and post-pandemic, but rather escapism and self-reflection; both themes simultaneously floating throughout 2020. The hedonism of After Hours gave us visions of life beyond our four walls of lockdown whilst later releases such as Folklore showed a different side to solitude; one that begs us to self-reflect.
So, what will 2020 in music be remembered for?
A year of disco; a lack of dancing.
Cancelled plans and free time.
Political upheaval and personal constraint.
A year filled with space.
And so, despite the distance between one another; friends, family, strangers, there was a shared catharsis expressed through music. 2020 persisted with resistance and what people had on rotation will be what binds them to such a messy year, bringing them back to their days in isolation with whatever they had on repeat. Frustratingly, I hadn’t listened to Phoebe Bridgers until the year was ending. However, it was her most recent release, the cover of If We Make It Through December that felt like a lifeline as 2020 drew to a close. She sings how it’s ‘meant to be a happy time of year’, a sentiment nodding to those who feel as though their sadness is misplaced, but, as the title itself suggests, we just have to take it one day at a time.
Stay safe everyone x