What the World Needs Now

Words by Mollie Simpson - @molssimp

Everyone is losing something because of the global pandemic: jobs, loved ones, the simple freedom of eating in a café alone, with a book and watching the sunlight hit the table, festivals, gigs, relationships, the potential to develop romantic or platonic connections that are just starting to become harmonious and beautiful. We can’t comprehend the statistics, the scale, the invisible collateral damage still being caused by people sinking pints in pubs or wandering a library. Where confusion is a state of being and reminders are everywhere, for me and my friends, feel-good music has felt liberating and otherworldly.

From the explosion of COVID-19 playlists on Spotify, it’s clear to see that rediscovering feel-good music has been imperative in aiding a lot of people’s mental health. For me, ABBA, The Beatles, ‘80s funk and disco, circa 2014 indie and cheesy love songs fill the Spotify sidebar: me and my friends once considered our tastes refined and highbrow. But now we are vulnerable and shameless and desperately in need of uplifting escapism, a way of reconciling the darkness within ourselves with a world that can be positive and relentlessly beautiful. We don’t have the words ourselves yet, but maybe Chiquitita by ABBA does, or The Beatles' Here Comes the Sun. I admit I don’t have the strength to revisit Mount Eerie or Sufjan Stevens. Unrelated sadness in the time of pandemic hits too hard.

In 'The Death of the Author', Roland Barthes discusses how meaning isn’t written in texts, but discovered by the reader through a process of self-identification. And I suppose that’s why messages of hope, songs about running away, songs about feeling lonely, songs about missing a loved one, songs about self-belief and strength feel so pertinent now: we can ingratiate our own feelings into music too effortlessly. Everything hits differently, and so it will for a while.

Art, music and culture have always been about collaboration and exploration. It’s appropriate that in a time of isolation we are, almost paradoxically, incredibly well-connected, which is a joy in itself. Technology was once the villain, but now it is a lifeline: sharing music with friends has been incredible. Our collaborative self-isolation playlist draws loneliness into a shared experience that is around five hours long, and none of the songs fail to make me smile. I am grateful to have music in this time, to be living in a time where culture is accessible and shareable and friendships can still blossom from miles apart, where I can listen to the same Tears For Fears four times a day, and feel a little bit better.