Press Play: Songs to maintain positivity during the COVID-19 pandemic


Photo credit: Richard Andrus

Richard Andrus, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Over the past two months, the world has lost a sense of normalcy, forcing billions of individuals to self-isolate to avoid becoming contaminated with the wretched COVID-19.

Things we took for granted, such as movie theaters, parks and colleges being open for business, have been stripped away from our grasp, leaving us to find alternative means to stay entertained, productive and educated.

Accomplishing this has proven to be easier said than done, as I and many others have struggled to get up every morning and not let these barriers get in our way.

Regardless of how much damage this virus may do to the world, optimism and perseverance are crucial to making it out alive and ultimately regaining a sense of normalcy worldwide.

These are ten songs that have helped me keep a positive attitude and stay confident throughout the COVID-19 outbreak.

“don’t forget to breathe today” – San Holo

In light of recent events, Dutch musician San Holo has started releasing singles every week as part of an ongoing EP titled “stay vibrant.” At the time of writing, this EP comprises seven songs, all of which are bursting with pure, raw emotion.

Although they’re all magnificent in their own right, “don’t forget to breathe today,” the second single off the effort, stands out the most as an instrumental breath of fresh air during these troubling times of ours.

With the song, Holo provides an infectious and empowering beat that not only radiates nostalgia but also produces a feeling of hope, the latter of which is invaluable and vital to stay vibrant.

“I’m Still Standing” – Elton John

Despite being written about overcoming a toxic relationship, Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing,” off 1983’s “Too Low For Zero,” is just as if not more relevant than it was when it was released nearly 40 years ago.

One can interpret the uplifting anthem in several ways, with the original detailing one’s fight to endure their struggles after a breakup. On the other hand, another interpretation of the lyrics concerns the relationship we all currently have with this world pandemic.

With this new interpretation, the lyrics suggest that as long as we give every day our all, then these struggles that we currently face will end up making us stronger, inside and out, and that we will be back to normal in no time.

“This Is War” – Thirty Seconds to Mars

In recent years, Jared Leto has seemingly prioritized his acting career, starring in films such as “Blade Runner 2049,” “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Suicide Squad,” among others, and put his music career on the back burner.

Nevertheless, whenever Leto releases music with his brother Shannon as 30 Seconds to Mars, it proves to be worth the wait.

A prime example of this is 2009’s “This Is War,” the duo’s third album, which experimented with the genre of indie-rock while maintaining veins in industrial and progressive rock.

The title track, released as the second single off the effort, is a bold anthem about conflict and the necessity to fight and learn from it—themes that directly parallel the global attitudes of this pandemic.

“Wild Time” – Weyes Blood

Last year, singer-songwriter Natalie Mering, professionally known as Weyes Blood, released her fourth studio album, “Titanic Rising.” The follow up to 2016’s “Front Row Seat to Earth” saw the influence of artists such as Joni Mitchell and the Carpenters on Mering, resulting in 10 songs that display the range of genres she can thrive within.

“Wild Time,” the eighth song on the album, intimately describes how it feels to love and live through a cruel and panic-stricken society. In the face of such a melancholic subject matter, the song feels lighter than one might expect, with Mering singing over dark, vivid instrumentation, which would see fit in a song from the James Bond series.

While it is notably darker than the other songs on this list, the inclusion of “Wild Time” is necessary as the society depicted throughout the six-minute runtime has become ours, whether like it or not.

“PDLIF” – Bon Iver

After releasing “i,i,” their critically acclaimed fourth studio album, last year, Bon Iver has returned with a new single inspired by the desolation and despair brought upon by global crises.

“PDLIF,” an acronym for “Please Don’t Live In Fear,” was recorded entirely in isolation by frontman Justin Vernon and a plethora of collaborators. Over an ethereal saxophone riff from Alabaster dePlume, Vernon and company encourage listeners to remember that they’re never alone, no matter how much distance there might be between them and their loved ones, and not to get brought down by the hostility seen in the media.

“For Now” – Cast of Avenue Q

Audiences have celebrated “Avenue Q,” a racy spoof of Sesame Street and the Muppets, ever since it premiered on Broadway in 2003. Nearly 20 years later, the musical, known for its depictions of racism and homosexuality, continues to be relevant throughout today’s society.

At surface level, “For Now,” the final number of the show, appears entirely to be a reprise of “It Sucks To Be Me.” In reality, it is so much more as it evolves upon the original, filled with cynicism, by stating how everything in life, good and bad, is only for now.

The song ends up displaying how much we take for granted in addition to how much we need to start genuinely caring about ourselves and our loved ones as we never know what could be right around the corner.

“Get Your Wish” – Porter Robinson

Ever since the release and promotion of his debut album, “Worlds,” in 2014, Porter Robinson has stayed immensely active within the electronic music scene.

By promoting new material with Madeon and as Virtual Self, an alias inspired by the techno and trance eras of the late 1990s, the North Carolina-based producer has gained a vast following for his non-conformist take on the EDM genre.

In late January, Robinson announced “Nurture,” his second studio album, alongside “Get Your Wish,” the lead single from the effort.

The song feels like a natural progression from “Worlds,” with Robinson, whose vocals are barely recognizable due to being pitched upwards, singing over a nostalgic, synth-pop sound about his urges to move forward, stay productive and be proud of what he creates—something everyone can relate to concerning the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Myth” – Beach House

Throughout their seven albums, Beach House, the duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally, have made waves in the dream pop genre, releasing a multitude of songs containing deep harmonious textures and introspective themes.

One such song is “Myth,” the lead single of the duo’s 2012 album, “Bloom,” which portrays a compelling narrative to consider in today’s day and age.

Throughout the song, Legrand speaks of how she feels like she is drifting through life and wants to make sense of it but instead fantasizes about a better world to escape the pain. By the end, she recognizes her faults and leaves this unhealthy lifestyle in the past, ultimately admitting that she is unable to change her previous actions and has to move on.

This first half of this narrative is one that has become normalized during this pandemic, with people feeling so helpless that they end up dissociating and sleeping to escape their emotions. On the other hand, the second half is what people have to do in this type of situation, that being to acknowledge how the world has changed and regain confidence in ourselves to stay productive.

“Runnin’ (Lose It All)” – Naughty Boy, Beyonce, Arrow Benjamin

British DJ Shakid Khan, professionally known as Naughty Boy, is most known worldwide for his 2013 collaboration with Sam Smith, “La La La,” off his debut album of the same year, “Hotel Cabana.” However, Khan’s discography is much more extensive than people care to believe.

One prominent figure throughout his work is his 2015 collaboration with Beyonce and Arrow Benjamin, “Runnin’ (Lose It All),” which is a fierce rallying cry to stop running away one’s internal demons and start running towards embracing their insecurities.

Overall, as the outbreak has the potential to increase rates of depression and anxiety worldwide, this song has the potential to raise hope and keep us sane during a time when everything is not.

“breathin” – Ariana Grande

With the release of “Sweetener,” her fourth studio album, in 2018, the world witnessed Ariana Grande’s transformation into a full-blown pop superstar. Grande delves into various genres over the 15 songs, exploring EDM and synth-pop while keeping a firm foundation in pop and R&B.

“Breathin,” the third and final single from the former Victorious actor, is based on Grande’s personal experiences in regards to how breathing can help with anxiety and stress reduction.

While the production by ILYA is worthy of praise, the lyrics are the most remarkable part of the song as they feel as if they are Grande’s uncensored thoughts, making her come off as remarkably down-to-earth and charismatic in comparison to other artists of her caliber.

As seen by the comments on its official music video, it is helping the world continue breathing even during its darkest moments.

Although these songs cannot cure COVID-19, they can at least provide a sense of undying hope for the future when we should be able to go outside and enjoy the company of others without fear once again.

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