We all need something to take our mind off the coronavirus news coverage that is saturating our daily lives. In this time of crisis, people can find joy in music. Listening to a favorite soothing song can help heal the soul. Since I’m practicing social distancing, I’m home alone for the majority of the day. Well, not exactly alone, I have “Alexa”, my digital personal assistant to keep me company. One of Alexa’s many functions is creating musical playlists by compiling a list of songs to reflect my mood. My current playlist is called “ The End Of The World”. I put it together a few weeks ago when news reports were hinting that society as we know it was a thing of the past.
Song 1: Waiting for the End of the World by Elvis Costello
This new wave pop ditty from Elvis Costello’s first album released in 1977 is a claustrophobic travelogue about people riding the underground subway as the world descends into chaos. And it has a great bass-line beat. I had the pleasure of seeing Costello play live last year. He was part of the second British musical invasion that occurred during the late 1970’s New Wave period. Favorite line: “Dear Lord, I sincerely hope your coming, ‘cause you really started something…”
Song 2: It’s the End of the World As We Know It by R.E.M.
This stream of consciousness song by American rock band R.E.M. first appeared on their 1987 album Document. Amid the global coronavirus pandemic, the song re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 in March. The lyrics speed by so fast it’s hard to understand them, like the majority of R.E.M.’s early songs, but the driving beat let’s you know things are serious. Favorite line: “It’s the end of the world as we know it…and I feel fine.”
Song 3: Channel Z by The B-52’s
This is a single by The B-52’s from their 1989 album Cosmic Thing. Although Love Shack eclipsed every other song on the album, there were a couple equally as good. The song Channel Z references the 24/7 news cycle that fills our brains with a non-stop informational overload. It was originally written about the state of the country at time. Who knew nearly 30 years later it would be worse? Favorite line: “Getting nothing but static, Static in my attic from Channel Z.”
Song 4: 4 Minutes by Madonna
This song by legendary singer Madonna from her eleventh studio album Hard Candy (2008) features vocals by Justin Timberlake and Timbaland. This uptempo dance-pop song with an urban and hip hop style also includes some kick-ass marching band music. There may be only 4 minutes to save the world but there’s a lifetime to dance. Favorite line: “But if I die tonight at least I can say I did what I wanted to do.” Sound familiar, Millennials?
Song 5: Tainted Love by Soft Cell
This piece of electronic ear-candy by English synth-pop duo Soft Cell was released in 1981. Ah, the good old days when viruses were covered up by the nightly news. In this new normal of social distancing, the song takes on greater meaning. The tune is sad and dark, yet upbeat at the same time. Who doesn’t love the 80’s? Favorite line: “Don’t touch me please…”. Warning: This song is contagious.
Song 6: Language Is A Virus by Laurie Anderson
This curiosity is from the album Home of the Brave released by Laurie Anderson in 1986. I could write more than one column about this musical artist alone. Her bizarre spoken word, minimalist performances have people debating whether she is a fraud or a genius. (I say genius.) True, Laurie Anderson is not everyone’s cup of tea. But with the lyrics “Paradise is exactly like where you are right now only much, much better…” how can you not love her?
Song 7: Breathing by Kate Bush
This atmospheric symphony is from the album Never for Ever released in 1980 by Kate Bush, an English singer-songwriter, musician and record producer. It’s a song about breathing, so simple yet so profound, and these days, downright scary. Kate Bush is an undiscovered gem of a singer who’s eclectic musical taste and idiosyncratic vocal style have made her one of the United Kingdom’s most successful solo female performers of the past 40 years. I get chills when she sings the line “I’ve been out before, but this time it’s much safer in…”. She was social distancing before it became mandatory.
Song 8: Life During Wartime by Talking Heads
An anthem for today, this song by Talking Heads was released as the first single from the 1979 album Fear of Music. Always ahead of their time (no pun intended), this song tells the story of fighting a modern war against an unseen enemy. And since the President has invoked the War Powers Act due to the coronavirus, we all know what living in war time is like. It’s not fun. This song details the day-to-day struggles we all face when our lives are turned upside down. The song leaves listeners with a stern warning. “This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, This ain’t no fooling around…”. Words to live by.
Stay safe everybody.