At the risk of stating the obvious, when times are tough, music often serves as comfort. I’ve found myself leaning into angry hardcore, whimsical twee and mass-marketed teen pop in equal parts because those sounds were formative in my life, and because they articulate my range of emotions (angry, sad, hungry, horny, tired, repeat), in direct, uncomplicated terms. I don’t want to be told to “buck up, we’re in this together,” like so many “Imagine”-singing celebrities have promised in the past few months. Still, there’s been a barrage of feel-good pandemic tunes released each week, somehow meant to inspire listeners to... stay at home better? I appreciate some of the sentiment expressed in these songs—like, if Gloria Estefan tells you to wear a mask and it inspired you to wear a mask, you’re far too easily influenced, but at least you’re finally wearing a mask—though the content is silly.
And so, despite my better judgment, I listened to as many pandemic songs as I could stomach and ranked them as objectively as I could below.
I’m, like, 9,000 percent sure this song was written before covid-19 was a daily threat to everyone’s life, so branding it as empowerment for these particular days feels a little cheap. Or prophetic? I can’t prove it, but I feel it in my bones.
12) 5 Seconds of Summer, AJ Tracey, Anne-Marie, Bastille, Biffy Clyro, Celeste, Chris Martin of Coldplay, Dermot Kennedy, Dua Lipa, Ellie Goulding, Foo Fighters, Grace Carter, Hailee Steinfeld, Jess Glynne, Mabel, Paloma Faith, Rag’n’Bone Man, Rita Ora, Royal Blood, Sam Fender, Sean Paul, Sigrid, YUNGBLUD, Zara Larsson, “Times Like These”
Every generation gets their own “We Are the World,” and it’s unfortunate that ours is a cover of a Foo Fighters song, performed by a Foo Fighter and a bunch of other BBC-approved celebs. It’s not mediocre, by any means, but the schmaltz is overwhelming.
This country song, despite the title, is about what happens when “this time” is over. It’s fine, but it has probably emboldened people to slide into that bar’s corner booth a bit prematurely. No thanks.
Do they want to fuck the quarantine? I think twenty one pilots wants to fuck the quarantine?
I think this song is specifically for the state of New Jersey, but lately every day and everywhere feels like New Jersey, so I approve. The lyric, “When you can’t do what you do/You do what you can,” is particularly clever.
This is a solid, somber cover of Flo Rida’s “My House,” except the lyrics act as a PSA. Here’s a choice one: “You can’t come to my house/Suddenly two’s a crowd.”
Finally, a song about the reality of the situation—being fucking scared of a global health crisis. The bravery!
This is a silly remix of Estefan’s 1989 single “Get On Your Feet,” but whatever, it made me smile.
This is the worst Iceage song, if only for its thematic content, and a bad Iceage song is still better than almost all other songs. I am not biased, and I will hear nothing of it.
Mr. Worldwide is the most optimistic person alive, so it’s no wonder that his pandemic call to arms is the... least cringe-y? Okay, maybe it’s a little cringe-y, but at least it feels true to his artistry. I’m on board.
Need I give an explanation? Cardi B is the voice of this generation and using her voice shouting, “Coronavirus, it’s getting real!” is almost too perfect.
Dolly Parton is the only famous person who can tell her audience, “Let’s try to make amends/When life is good again,” and they will listen. She’s solace personified.
Listen, this Japanese pianist’s purely instrumental ditty is the best feel-good song release during the pandemic because it’s the only one that actually made me feel relaxed. That should be enough. It’s charming as hell.