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Pandemic Playlist – The New York Times

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Pandemic Playlist – The New York Times

To get through the pandemic, writer Hanif Abdurraqib has relied on “sad bangers”: “songs whose lyrics convey sorrow, anxiety, yearning or some other light or great darkness with an upbeat tune, or a chorus.” What is washed is so contagious that it can weave its way into your brain without taking stock of any emotional damage it does to your brain.” Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” is a sad bombshell, he writes in the annual music issue of The Times Magazine. So is Robin’s “Dancing on My Own” and Lil Nas X’s “Lost in the Citadel.”

Music expressing multiple, conflicting emotions has been priceless over the years. Uncertainty has been constant, optimism is carefully restrained, anticipation mixed with fear. Thank goodness, then, for the songs that allow us to live and even enjoy the frontier between OK and Not OK. Such a song, Abdurraquib writes, “goes beyond binary emotion and unlocks a multi-layered wholeness that, depending on the song, dances, and weeps, and longs, and some dive bar from midtune to text or that. The person might stumble to call which you probably shouldn’t.”

I label my playlists by month and use them as a diary to keep a record of any special moments. A month or a year or a decade down the line, I might cite a playlist and come back to it briefly, in that moment, for my own unique metrics of emotions and impulses. For the past few years my playlist has been filled with sad bang songs, songs that I could dance and sing, drive and cry. Old Songs like “True Faith” from New Order (Mar 2020). New ones like Olivia Rodrigo’s “Good 4 You” (July 2021).

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I wonder what will happen to our pandemic playlist years from now. Would we be willing to take a look at them again? Would we like to re-experience what Abdurraqib calls “the minute-by-minute emotional contradictions of this age”? Or will we leave them to history, the fossils of the times we would prefer to forget?

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