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Our pandemic playlists serve as time capsules

Sunday Morning

March 13, 2022

The full title of this article from the NYT is: “Our pandemic playlists can serve as time capsules, providing a record of our emotions and states of mind over the past two years.” Thanks to my sister Jacquie for sending it to me. ❤️

I agree with the article. My playlists — not just for the past two years but back to my mix tape days — reflect my mood at the time. As Kenny Chesney puts it so well, “they take me back.”

The article focuses on sad songs. I don’t often go there with my playlists; most of my lists contain the happy music of old Carolina beach music and soul music. Hmmm. That’s not right because some soul is music is melancholy. Ok, so I like happy music and even some sad soul music! Mixed in with some classic radio hits from the 70s and 80s - Doobie Brothers, Fine Young Cannibals, Golden Earring, Squeeze, Survivor, Delbert McClinton, Buffett and Foreigner. Oh yeah, ZBB, too with some DMB.

The article:

Sad songs

To get through the pandemic, the writer Hanif Abdurraqib has relied on “sad bangers”: “songs whose lyrics of grief, anxiety, yearning or some other mild or great darkness are washed over with an upbeat tune, or a chorus so infectious that it can weave its way into your brain without your brain taking stock of whatever emotional damage it carries with it.” Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” is a sad banger, he writes in The Times Magazine’s annual music issue. So are Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own” and Lil Nas X’s “Lost in the Citadel.”

Music that conveys multiple, contradictory feelings has been precious these past few years. Uncertainty has been constant, optimism tempered by caution, anticipation mixed with fear. Thank goodness, then, for songs that permit us to dwell and even delight in the liminal state between OK and not OK. Such a song, Abdurraqib writes, “gets beyond binary emotions and unlocks a multilayered fullness that might, depending on the song, involve dancing, and crying, and longing, and stumbling out of some dive bar midtune to text or call the person you probably shouldn’t.”

I label my playlists by month and use them like a diary, to keep a record of a particular moment. A month or a year or a decade down the line, I can cue up a playlist and be returned, briefly, to that moment in time, to its unique matrix of feelings and impulses. My playlists from the past couple years are teeming with sad bangers, songs that I could dance and sing to, drive and weep to. Old songs like “True Faith” by New Order (March 2020). Newer ones like Olivia Rodrigo’s “good 4 u” (July 2021).

I wonder what will become of our pandemic playlists years from now. Will we be inclined to revisit them? Will we want to re-experience what Abdurraqib calls “the minute-by-minute emotional contradictions of this era”? Or will we leave them to history, fossils from a time we’d prefer to forget?

How true. 😁

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