What music means to me: testimonies from lockdown

The unifying ability of music, to reach out and connect people across the word, allowing for individual expression while revealing a common reliance, has become especially vital as of late.  As music is used as a way to deter reality, the differences in songs played by everyone within this hard time seem an interesting shorthand to get a glimpse into someone’s life.

A noticeable difference to the most popular genres within 2020 was the increase in children’s music, brought about by the fact that children were not allowed in schools, so time at home increased. USA Today claimed a rise in children’s audio by 5%, as well as a 22% rise in streamed children’s videos. Ryan Martins, a single father of two, was happy to have his children home more, but the constant repetition of songs aimed at school children drove him mad: “There were times we listened to the same thing about 11 times in a row, I had to turn it off before I went crazy.” From another parental point-of-view, Gary Southern, a 51-year-old father of a teenage girl, expressed frustration at the blaring music emanating from his daughter’s bedroom: “It’s a reminder of two things really — one is that she’s home and safe, the other is that her music taste is awful!”

COVID-19 has provided an obvious show of the gap between generations, as now more than ever, they’re forced into each other’s periphery. For some, like Gary, this will likely be a difference that cannot be understood, whereas others make attempts to bridge the gap and try to understand the appeal of new music.

Katie Dyer, a 60-year-old woman living at her son’s house has been trying to move forward in her music, closing the gap between the young and the old in an attempt to understand her grandchildren better: “I’m lucky that I can isolate with the rest of my family instead of being alone. The least I could do is make an effort where the children are concerned.” This included a review of 2020 chart toppers, including ‘Blinding Lights’ by the Weeknd and ‘Someone You Loved’ by Lewis Capaldi: “I don’t think I will ever understand Spotify, but as long as someone is here to play it for me, I’ll happily dance to new songs. Especially the one about watermelons.”

When speaking to Lucy Henderson, a 13-year-old from Gateshead, it was made clear that many of her musical influences came from social media. This seemed to already be the case to a degree, but the increased time on her hands meant time spent online drastically increased. This time at home in 2020 has been used by Lucy to attempt to become ‘TikTok famous’, only increasing her time spent on the app. The rising awareness for certain songs that are played consistently throughout the app is also seen in the Top 40 best songs of 2020, wherein the majority of those on the list are popularly featured on TikTok, used for trends such as dancing or comedic clips. “It was a fun thing to do when there wasn’t any school. You could just listen to music you liked and dance along to it. Looking back now it seems like ages ago, but I don’t remember it being hard; the songs just make me smile.”

The influences of social media through 2020 have been the source of many changes to the younger generations, not only in music, but in their general lifestyles as well. Jack Brown, an 11-year-old boy from Newcastle has a drastically altered routine due to the pandemic. Where getting ready and walking to school would have been, Jack prefers to sleep in, stay in pyjamas and not pay attention to his Zoom classes. “I don’t really enjoy school anyway, but when it’s on my computer it’s so much easier to just go on my phone instead.” In a time where social media is an easy way to throw the day away, children are getting fewer opportunities, and along with it less motivation, to participate in the physical world around them. For some, like Jack, the music they hear gives them a chance to stop and look up, instead of staring at a screen. “My mum let me get Spotify in April, so I’ve been listening to EVERYTHING! I like to play music and people-watch out the window. It feels nice, like a break from the rest of the day.”

Lynsey Jones is living at home after the closure of universities made her leave campus. She said that her music tastes had not necessarily changed, but she had a lot more time to actually listen to music, or hear something new that friends might have recommended. Something she found unexpected was the influence of her parents throughout lockdown: “They’ve always had their own playlists in the background but usually I don’t spend as much time at home, so the songs don’t really register.” It seems that the time spent at home has given her the opportunity to appreciate the music loved by her parents: “It kind of crept up on me. One minute I’m sticking to my normal playlists, the next I’m asking my dad the names of songs so I can add them on Spotify.” Lynsey also said it brought her closer to her parents, music giving them all something to enjoy together.

From the point-of-view of older people, music seems to come from the past instead of the present, where old releases are rediscovered and the joy of listening to a song long forgotten can make your day. Timothy Warren, a 72-year-old living at home with his wife in Alnwick has had such an opportunity. Fewer changes had been made to his routine, as a retired man there was already more of a chance to take life a little slower and appreciate the smaller things. The one main difficulty with his lockdown is his inability to see his family, with grandchildren he had not seen in months. Timothy and his wife had tried to find more things to do around the house in order to occupy their time, but music was the main factor in helping them get through. “I’d always used to listen to music on the radio in the morning but now I spend at least an hour every day getting to enjoy some of my old favourites”. These included Guns and Roses, The Beatles and Fleetwood Mac. As well as his wife’s true love, ABBA. The stay at home meant the couple were able to reminisce together, spending time and enjoying each other’s company. “It’s the first time in a while I remember slow dancing with my wife. I didn’t know I missed it”.

Article by Ellie Whitworth

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