For the first time in decades, music’s role as a means to materializing our raw emotions reached a point of genuine skepticism early this year.
The long list of uncertainties presented by the never-ending shit-show commonly known as the COVID-19 crisis brought about questions that many artists are still unable to answer. What happens when a global pandemic prevents artists from meeting with their band members or production crew? What happens when artists are completely cut-off from serviceable recording equipment? What if every concert is cancelled, causing most artists to lose their only viable source of income? What if that lack of income leaves artists unable to put money towards producing any new music for the foreseeable future?
The artists that have struggled to answer some or all of those questions have been forced to either make money through creative new content strategies or kiss their careers goodbye. What content strategies could artists pursue that they haven’t tried before, you ask? Well, bands like Sticky Fingers saw this as an opportunity dig through unreleased archives and publish live tracks that had yet to grace streaming services. Artists like Amber Mark recognized that this was a great time to uncover half-baked demos that could tease fully-formed releases months down the line. Singers with indisputable vocal talent like Frank Ocean or Mahalia decided this was the perfect chance to deconstruct studio tracks into acoustic renditions and let their unbelievable voices speak for themselves. The list of clever money-making attempts goes on and on, but the actual cash-flow from these stunts has typically been minimal, leaving many artists in a constant state of anxiousness while trying to figure out how they can stay afloat long-term.
Unfortunately, the cruel irony for those artists still struggling to make ends meet is that there is more new and inspiring content to write about in 2020 than there has been in decades. The artists fortunate enough to have access to a recording studio, high-end equipment, a production crew/bandmates, and funding are presented with a rare opportunity to play into modern culture and give themselves a better chance of attracting new fans.
Take the looming presence of the global pandemic for example. Many artists are scrambling to produce singles and EPs that help their listeners cope with their time separated, scared, and indoors. A high percentage of singles from smaller artists focus on basic improvements that are often pertinent to the lives of both the listeners and the band themselves. Daisy the Great’s single “Friend” follows that exact pattern, renouncing the band members’ ways as deadbeat companions as they promise to be more accessible friends when everyone can go outside again. Other more influential artists like Bon Iver are trying their best to prevent their fans from falling into mental obscurity. Their single “PDLIF”, or “Please Don’t Live In Fear”, urges their fan-base to not let uncertainty paralyze them into depression or anxiousness.
Similarly, the past month’s global protests surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement produced some incredible musical content. Industry stars came out in droves to challenge the systematic oppression black people have faced from both a modern and historic perspective. In a matter of days playlists were flooded with new protest songs in support of the movement, while older protest songs from artists like James Brown, Marvin Gaye, and Kendrick Lamar also received an enormous increase in their streaming numbers. Streaming services played their part too. On #BlackoutTuesday, Spotify focused a sizable portion of their channels and playlists on black pride, while Apple Music completely dismantled and replaced their home screen with a message supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. Apple’s home screen focused on one individual button that led users to a playlist of songs also focused around black pride. All in all, protesters and social activists turned to music to help them put further emphasis and power behind their demands for change, and the agility of artists and streaming services helped them do just that.
But while multiple artists scramble to write new content that pertains the the ever-changing disarray that is 2020, no one has won yet. Music-centric locations like bars, clubs, and restaurants have all obviously been closed, while most people aren’t investing as much time in front of a car radio. Why would they when they have no consistent reason to travel during quarantine? In other words, no one is succeeding in telling the general masses what to listen to other than themselves. The statistics prove it – according to Billboard and Nielson Music/MRC, 43% of people are listening to music from artists they’ve never listened to before, music video streams are up 10%, and there has been a 27% increase in streaming service subscriptions. Clearly more people are discovering music on their own than ever before, while the data supports the fact that new artists could have a golden opportunity to break into the mainstream.
If 2020 has taught us anything thus far, it’s that no matter what fortunes or catastrophes affect the world, music will always play a pivotal role as a vessel for social expression. While we can only hope that the worst is behind us, now’s a better time than ever to celebrate the amazing new tracks we’ve been presented with in this extremely unique quarter. That being said, the following playlist contains 30 of my favorite songs released over the past three months. As always, the songs are in no particular order with a restriction of only one song per artist.
Think you have enough music to last you throughout the summer? Think again! Revisit the best music from last quarter to help add more songs to your summer playlist: FeenyFaves – Best Songs of 2020: Q1 (January-March)
Do I remember what a normal summer feels like? Barely…but it would also help to listen to my favorite musicreleased last summer as an auditory reminder. Take a look back at a the songs that kicked off summer 2019: FeenyFaves – Best Songs of 2019: Q2 (April-June)