March this year feels odd. There is a sense of maturity and growth I think we all feel after 12 months of lockdown and quarantine to varying degrees , and yet somehow I have the most uncomfortable sense of nostalgia, or, more appropriately, deja vu about the whole thing. Even with vaccine distribution making significant progress worldwide, I feel like I’m in the same place I was last year. Granted, last year I thought coronavirus just meant two week vacation. Nobody was really as worried as we should have been last March. You could make the argument that even today there are still some people who aren’t taking the pandemic as seriously as they should be.
The pandemic really brought out the music lover in me. Springtime last year was packed to the brim with projects new and old by Marina and the Diamonds, Dua Lipa, Halsey, Conan Gray, and The Thompson Twins. Manic and Electra Heart were two albums I had on heavy rotation during the earlier weeks and even months of lockdown (and unsurprisingly I find it difficult at times to re-listen to albums like this that I enjoyed during quarantine). The Springtime playlist I made from all the new music I was discovering to is almost unbearable to listen to a full 12 months later. Not because the songs are poorly written or bad in quality, but simply because they are so synonymous with a period in which I felt such an immense loss of direction. And sometimes I just look back and find my music range was distinctly lacking in flavor and variety.
Because of the way I view this music in hindsight, it makes me wonder what the albums most important to me now will feel like 12 months from today. Will the same overwhelming sense of grossness accompany each playlist I’ve made since then? Nowadays my taste has evolved far past the bubblegum pop songs of my past. I find myself drawn to an eclectic array of projects from all sorts of genres and decades. An Innocent Man by Billy Joel, Back to Black by Amy Winehouse, In The Wee Small Hours by Frank Sinatra, Women In Music pt. iii by HAIM, and Green Blue by COIN.
I wonder: will these current favorites happen upon the same fate? Or will they be more synonymous with hope: vaccine progress, many schools (including my own) adopting hybrid learning plans, and restrictions beginning to lessen as we learn more about the disease and our own continuing capacity to fight it. Nowadays it’s hard to imagine a world free of COVID-19, and some say that will never be a reality. That the coronavirus will become just as regular as the common cold or influenza.
From the place where I am now, I have to be thankful. Thankful for all that we have learned about the disease in the past 12 months. Thankful that quarantine pushed me to resume playing the piano, and more recently, writing poetry. That I was encouraged to take initiative for myself and grow towards a level of independence. But also mindful of things we have lost. It’s possible we have lost an entire world that existed pre-pandemic. There will be massive ripple effects even years after we’ve achieved herd immunity from the disease, if we ever do. There are people mourning the loss of jobs, family, and life itself. I don’t think quarantine has been particularly easy for anyone, but celebrities and the top one percent experienced a very different pandemic than the rest of the population.
Amidst shutdowns and mask mandates, we witnessed one of the largest social justice movements in history. Accountability was demanded from our leaders at a local and national level, where cities and districts were encouraged to re-evaluate their police spending in favor of higher-trained mental health professionals. These workers were better equipped for wellness checks and other police duties where it was exposed that our police forces are woefully unequipped to effectively handle these situations without excessive abuse of power and force. It makes you wonder why we were sending overarmed police into mental health or wellness checks at all, and what kinds of people would be attracted to a job where they have an implied superiority over other civilians.
We watched art struggle early on, but quickly start to thrive. Some incredible projects were born out of isolation, such as Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher or Chloe x Halle’s Ungodly Hour. Come April 9th we will be 3 Taylor Swift albums richer since last year. I saw The Weeknd have arguably his most successful album cycle yet, and somehow fail to secure a single Grammy nomination (personally I think Justin Bieber bought the nominations that were originally intended for Abel). This and other notable snubs reignited old sparks about racial discrimination in the voting process and possible preferential treatment, beneath the overarching question that is “Are the Grammy’s even that important anymore?“
And yet there is more on the horizon. Lana Del Rey has teased a possible Rock Candy Sweet this June; Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak have a Silk Sonic album on the way; Lorde and Adele have yet to confirm anything, but their returns to music are long-awaited amongst fans. New Paul Mcartney is coming in April, while Kanye West, Drake and possibly Rihanna show promise. Many celebrities took advantage of the unusual circumstances and distancing to create their best works yet, however some decided they just didn’t care about the restrictions at all. And when you’re rich enough, that’s very much a possibility.
No matter what the future holds, it’s important to remain anchored in now. I spent lots of March through most of July waiting on the world to change. I was so focused on driving to a destination not yet known that I forgot to stop and look around. I’m ever grateful for Snapchat flashbacks that show me the photos I took 1 year ago on this same day, because these are sometimes the only ways I can even remember what life was like on a day-by-day basis. Look back and introspect, but be grateful for where you are now–and the things that have carried you to your place in the present. Think of the future in a way that makes you feel smart, not hopeless or drained or powerless. Recognize that some things are outside your capability, but on the same vein some things are definitely within your control.
Stay safe out there, and until we meet again.