In this world of increased distance and isolation, I imagine lots of us have gotten stuck in a YouTube vortex at one point or another. As I write, I’m in one, and it’s been going for a few hours. It’s late, and I need to go to bed, but I’m watching musicians do their thing – as Elizabeth Bishop says, “I am in need of music.”
As opposed to simply listening to songs, I’ve found watching videos helpful in connecting to the music I deeply need right now. In a video, there’s an added layer of meaning and interpretation on the part of the artist to show us what the music can reveal and how it might impact us.
So, here are six YouTube videos involving music that strike me as helpful these days. They were all created before COVID-19. They offer me some insight / advice as I navigate these unusual and challenging times, and they make me feel connected.
Watch them with me. Indulge in them, and don’t feel bad spending the time. Enjoy them. Tell me what you think, and add to the list.
(1) ‘Want You Back’ by Haim. Note the empty streets of LA, hardly a normal scene, and the way they reflect the streets of cities and towns across the world. Note the silliness of the sisters (Haim is a band of three sisters) and the way they play through those empty streets. It reminds me of the extreme lengths to which families and roommates are documenting their endless efforts to stay entertained. Note the occasional example of excellent social distancing as the sisters move along together. And note the clear message of the song, to which I think we can all relate. I haven’t hugged someone in like 17 days. I want hugs back. I want you all back.
(2) ‘Changes’ by Charles Bradley. As soon as we can get past the fact that this song serves as the soundtrack to the opening credits of Netflix’s filthy (and hilariously uncomfortable) animated show “Big Mouth,” the song stands on its own as a brilliant work. The video is simple – one man showing us heartbreak as he lives through changes in his life. His is perhaps the most expressive face in the history of expressive faces, and we’re all going through changes these days. It’s worth sitting in the reality of those changes and naming them as they are. And, Bradley does it in one long take. He’s a genius.
(3) ‘Light On’ by Maggie Rogers (La Blogothèque – Live in Paris). This video captures visually both the vulnerability of being alone in the dark, but also the utter joy of what it means to be together in the light. I have daydreams about what it will look like when we are all together again – I hope it looks like this video. There are people being brave, singing and dancing, being joyful with one another – a good and healthy thing to see these days.
(4) ‘Shadow Days’ by John Mayer – In this video, while Mayer isn’t totally isolated from others, it’s clear that the conclusions he draws about himself come in the solitary space he occupies reflecting on hard times he has faced. The scenes reflect that solitude beautifully – a long car ride alone out of the city, a vast landscape, the ever-changing western sky. He is convincing himself that he is good, and in that, he invites a good question for all of us – what can we learn about ourselves during this time of relative stillness? What can we forgive? How might we live differently on the other side of COVID-19, when these shadow days are past us?
(5) 2002 – Anne Marie and Ed Sheeran. Let’s imagine these two are quarantined together, healthy, and bored enough to embrace creativity and write new songs. Something like this tune might emerge, hearkening back to happier, less troubled times. If you’re lucky enough to be with loved ones you can share your musical gifts and talents these days, do it! And, share those gifts and talents with others through the vast digital network you have.
(6) ‘Ironic’ by Alanis Morissette – a classic for any child of the 90’s, and an iconic music video that shows how many layers of identity one person can have. There’s a certain melancholic joy to this video which resonates with me these days. While I’d rather opportunities to share my joy fully with others, there are simply joys I’ve encountered because I’m alone more often now – the absence of FOMO (fear of missing out), the sense of being less busy, the chance to breathe deeply and remind myself that, in this quiet space, I still serve others, and I am still breathing. And, as so many things are different than we expected them to be these days, the song reminds us that life has a funny way of teaching us sometimes.
What are your quarantine jams and videos? Pass them along – Lord knows I’ll get lost in the vortex again soon.