In the loosest, most pandemic-meme-inspired interpretation of the phrase, nature is clearly healing. A few more seats at your favorite restaurant just opened up. The padlock on the fence of your local public basketball court is gone. You’re starting to clean your house because of potential company, not because you’ll take any excuse to stay busy and tidy up your pandemic isolation chamber. The sun is even setting after 7pm. Okay, daylight savings might technically have nothing to do with the pandemic. But it’s helping to accelerate the healing process that devastated everyone’s social and mental well-being over last year. Luckily for us, the music industry is a main focus of that healing process as well.

It’s no secret that the global lockdown devastated musical artists in particular by stripping away the live shows that often make up the vast majority of their income. With the future of live music top of mind, congress, nonprofits, streaming services, and many others have all done their part to move the needle just far enough to keep many independent artists afloat.

What specifically is moving that needle, you ask? The new CASE Act gives songwriters extra protection for copyright claims contested in small claims court. This gives them the grounds to defend their intellectual property without emptying their pockets trying to fight the record company’s expensive lawyers. The Protecting Lawful Streaming Act significantly increases the penalties for illegal streaming. This ensures that criminal streaming activity won’t be treated as a misdemeanor and artists can receive more royalties that they deserve.

As a means of differentiation from other streaming services, SoundCloud announced “fan powered royalties” which allow artists to get paid based on individual listening habits rather than number of streams. For example, if you only listen to one artist with your $5 SoundCloud subscription, that artist would get virtually all of your money. This systematic payment change claps back at the streaming services who pay per stream. For example, Spotify and Apple Music have often argued there’s no fairer way to pay artists than by giving them approximately $0.003 every time someone listens to their song.

Equally as important from the perspective of someone who used to describe themselves as a “frequent concert-goer” is the Save Our Stages Act. This hugely important grant will provide 6 months of financial support to keep entertainment venues functioning long enough to survive until the summer. Bringing back live shows is the eventual key to ensuring artists’ long-term financial stability, so a bill that keeps venues open as a future catalyst for recovery is beyond crucial.

Yet even as financial recovery looks imminent for many musicians, there still seems to be a holding pattern of artists waiting to release music until vaccinations are given and social balance is restored. Take this year’s charts as an example. Olivia Rodrigo’s “Driver’s License” is the first song to hit 1 billion streams in 2021 after leading the Billboard Hot 100 charts for 8 consecutive weeks. Is it a great song? Yes, of course it is. Is it also indicative of an outwardly lonely society that hasn’t had any significant social and physical interaction for the better part of the last 12 months? I’d say so, and clearly a lot of other listeners would too.

So when will the 2021 hype train be ready to leave the station? Some would argue the Biebs already opened those train doors with his new album Justice and the accompanying earworm “Peaches“. But look at the artists that have hinted at a big release this summer…

Every song on Drake’s new EP Scary Hours 2 would probably be good enough to find its way into any 2021 party playlist, but rumor has it that this EP isn’t the only music Drake plans on dropping this year. BROCKHAMPTON seem poised to return to their riotous ways after their new single “BUZZCUT” hinted towards a forthcoming album filled with daydreams of future mosh pits. Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak’s new identity as soul duo Silk Sonic sounds like an amazing excuse to lower your car windows on a summer night and shamelessly flex your golden pipes to whatever unfortunate soul happened to pull up next to you at a stop light.

And those are only the artists who were kind enough to drop a hint. Artists like Cardi B, Kendrick Lamar, Lorde, Rihanna, and Travis Scott are just some of the names rumored to appear on your new music playlist some time over the next 6 months.

So as we brace ourselves for the flood of summer bangers, let’s take a second to bask in the calm before the fully-vaccinated storm. The finish line is in sight. The light is on the horizon. Moods are lifting, and we have plenty of new music to soundtrack the changing tides. The following playlist contains 40 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.

I know, I know, you don’t want to reminisce about the absolute dumpster fire we not-so-fondly knew as 2020. No one does. But I promise you, the best songs from last year are a worth revisiting regardless of the horrid year they represent. Check out last year’s best songs here: FeenyFaves – Top 200 Songs of 2020

No one likes lockdown anniversary posts, but it’s incredibly interesting looking back at the sobering uncertainty exemplified by last year’s equivalent Q1 article: FeenyFaves – Best Songs of 2020: Q1 (January-March)