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A change of key: music and my lockdown experience

It has been a strange year. When we went into lockdown in March, everything seemed to change. I have had low moments, and there have been times where I have struggled to come to terms with everything that has changed in my life and throughout the world. But I have also made some truly happy memories over the last few months, and I have learnt so much about coping when the world seems to have flipped itself upside down. 

I could chart my lockdown experience through music. Listening to Spotify playlists and songs I used to love on repeat has been etched into my routine. Sometimes all it takes is that one perfect song to change the mood for the rest of the day. 

I have had a Taylor Swift phase, a Dear Evan Hansen phase and a Beatles phase. I have listened to many a noughties playlist, reliving memories of school discos and POP. A song can make you incredibly nostalgic, and there are days when dancing in your bedroom to an old Taylor Swift classic is exactly what you need to remind yourself that some things never change. 

Music does not have to be revolutionary or complex. It does not even have to be particularly good. If a song can uplift you in any way, especially when so much else seems uncertain, it is definitely worth a listen. 

Music can stir the memory of any emotion

There are songs I might never listen to again after lockdown. In March, I used to go for long walks and listen to Dodie Clark’s ‘Would You Be So Kind’ on repeat for at least an hour. There was something about its light tone that just made me happy. Its beat made me walk faster and, when the sun was shining, I somehow felt lighter. I didn’t have to skip the songs I didn’t like, interrupting my thoughts. I could just walk. But you are going to get tired of listening to a song too many times, and I was in a very different place in March. I think we all were.

At times like this, when people are struggling, music is more powerful than ever. It is so intimately connected to memories and emotions. We remember the rhythm, chords and rhyme. More importantly, we remember how we felt when we heard it. A song can be a reminder of times of pure joy and feelings of hurt. It doesn’t matter whether it has a hauntingly sad tone or is undeniably upbeat, music can stir the memory of any emotion. 

Every time I listen to Sigur Rós’ ‘Hoppípolla’, I remember the first time I heard it years ago. I was on a car journey with my whole family and I just felt completely happy. I don’t remember the Icelandic lyrics, and I don’t suppose I ever will, but I do remember that feeling. 

There are songs that will make you feel strong and empowered – Lizzo’s ‘Good as Hell’ is still my go-to when I’m in need of a little confidence. There are others that will make you weep. 

At a time when physical contact was banned, it was pure escapism

We are living through a moment of change, and many of us are suffering. You might not always remember how you felt during lockdown, but perhaps there’s a song that will one day remind you of both the painful and happy moments.

Globally, there has been a transformation in our music tastes this year. The average tempo of 2020’s top 20 best-selling songs is the highest it has been since 2009. At 122 beats per minute, songs are getting faster and happier.  

Harry Styles’ music video for ‘Watermelon Sugar’ was dedicated “to touching” and has been viewed over 56 million times on YouTube since its release in May. It’s a song about sensuality and euphoria. At a time when physical contact was banned, it was pure escapism. Other upbeat hits over the last few months have been Doja Cat’s ‘Say So’ and Lady Gaga’s ‘Stupid Love’.

Popstar Raye said that “you would expect political or emotional music matching the aura of the time to be more prevalent, but it’s actually the opposite – which shows how we’re coping”. We are searching for “music that draws you out of the reality of what is going on right now, and transports you to somewhere more positive and uplifting”.

The world has seemed very strange over the last few months, but we will always have music. Sometimes all you need is to listen to that one song that makes you smile and think about your favourite memories. Other times, it is the music that makes you break into tears which truly helps you cope. 

Songs often modulate from a minor to a major key, from a tone of pain to one of hope. Maybe now is the time for that change of key.

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