Artists continue to release new music with coronavirus-centric songs


Pitpony Photography | Wikimedia Commons

Farah Javed, Managing Editor

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, people have taken solace within the arts. From free online art or acting classes taught by Broadway stars to artists performing free concerts on Instagram Live, creative expression has cultivated a community in these troubling times.

In fact, being in isolation has inspired many artists to release new songs written about how they’ve dealt with the feelings of being in quarantine. Early on the trend was OneRepublic with the release of “Better Days” on March 25. The song was completed when two of the band’s members were stuck in quarantine and used music and connecting virtually with their fans as solace. As the title says, the premise of the song is to remind listeners that better days are to come after this pandemic.

OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder opens the song singing, “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.” This line alone has become the slogan for getting through the pandemic.

“Better Days” has been used in numerous commercials asking people to donate and help those in hospitals who are working on the front lines of the virus. OneRepublic has also performed its single on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and on Instagram. The band also designed T-shirts, labeled as the “Socially Distant 2020 Tour” tee and featuring the dates of OneRepublic’s free virtual concerts and performances on the back.

Just like for “Better Days,” the proceeds from the now sold-out shirt will be donated to MusiCares’ COVID-19 Relief Fund. OneRepublic also released a music video for the new single, composed of videos and photos of fans singing along to the song around the world. In a time when people are forced to be apart from one another, the video is a testament to how being isolated is the way to return to the better days to come.

Also inspired by the government lockdown, Twenty One Pilots released “Level of Concern” on April 4. This long-awaited single deviates from the band’s usual sound, incorporating electric guitar and a 1990s-esque sound.

Though the song begins, “Panic on the brain, world has gone insane/Things are starting to get heavy, mm/I can’t help but think I haven’t felt this way/Since I asked you to go steady,” it serves to bring hope.This first line captures the quarantine atmosphere; with no one having a straight trajectory on how to handle the pandemic, people have been left alone and panicking.

With fear and questioning about when things will become stable again occupying many people’s minds, “Level of Concern” strives to provide encouragement and hope. Over the course of the song, Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun challenge the established somber setting of the song with an upbeat tempo.

When the question “Will you be my quarantine?” is posed in the song, it can be romantic but actually has a far more extensive reach. In a time of global vulnerability, people wish to have someone to talk to and share the brunt of the experience. This is evident in that the phrase “Tell me we’re okay” is repeated, with more urgency each time it appears in the song.

“Level of Concern” has dethroned Panic! At the Disco’s “High Hopes” from its 57-week No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Hot Rock Songs chart. The proceeds from “Level of Concern” will be donated to Crew Nation, an organization that raises money to help music crews left unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whereas OneRepublic and Twenty One Pilots released singles, Charli XCX is slated to release a whole album written and produced in quarantine on May 15. Titled “how i’m feeling now,” this album will not just be her experience in quarantine but that of her fans as well, as the British artist has been opening up the process to them, allowing their access and input on the tracks, lyrics and visuals.

Charli XCX released the single “Forever,” which at first glance solely appears to be a love song. It discusses a “love suicide,” as two partners struggle to maintain a long-distance relationship. Still, she adapts this song through her music video to adhere to all listeners feeling frustrated and missing others.

The “Forever” video is a compilation of everyday life sent in by fans. From going out for breakfast to walking on the beach to attending concerts, the video is a reminder of the semblances of life that seemed to be guaranteed forever but are currently not.

The end of the song is especially applicable to the current pandemic. Charli XCX sings, “We say promises and we give up the lies./Front of my mind, in the front of my mind./You stay right in front of my mind.” Right now, families are not whole. People are either losing loved ones or separated from the people who mean the most to them. Hence, she captures the constant state of worry and fear that people are experiencing.

Following the example of musicians responding to COVID-19, others have uploaded videos of themselves performing songs. In fact, this new category on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok is referred to as “quarantunes.” Even actor Tom Hank’s wife, Rita Wilson, created a playlist of “quarantunes” meant to capture the zeitgeist of these times as well as empower and provide humor. Two of the songs on the playlist are “All by Myself” by Céline Dion and “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor.

One beloved “quarantine” singer is Jake Miller. Through a series of catchy songs on TikTok, he captures widespread, relatable problems like rationing food and toilet paper or being driven insane by bored family members.

Overall, music is being used as a way to uplift people and provide hope when there seems to be nothing but uncertainty and loss. This COVID-19 pandemic is a traumatic experience that everyone in the world is enduring simultaneously. Through music and “quarantunes,” people are given an outlet to voice how they feel and are reminded of better days to come.