Let’s face it – the two years when the COVID pandemic was its ragingly worst and lockdowns were everywhere were TOUGH.
Even if you liked being home and reading and streaming and cosying up to those you love (like this blogger), there were times, many times, when it all got too overwhelming to properly deal with and you began to feel like nothing good could ever come of it (except for the normalisation of working from home which is the gift that genuinely keeps on giving).
And yet, somehow, people did find silver linings in the grey clouds of COVID, including many music artists who, faced with an inability to go out on the road and earn their normal living, got super creative with how they communicated with fans and how they practised their art.
One obvious outworking were the promotional videos they created which made inventive use of at-home locales, finely choreographed solo performances knit together imaginative ways and empty places where being alone wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
It seems like it’s high time these videos were recognised as clever contributions to music generally but also to the way they helped us get through pandemic lockdowns by reminding there was still life to be had and had in musical profusion …
“Save a Kiss” by Jessie Ware
English singer, songwriter and broadcaster Jessie Ware wasn’t even on my musical radar when I first came across her infectiously alive song “Save a Kiss” which I described as an “out-and-out dancefloor banger and would’ve done just fine without a clip of any kind such is its infectious listenability” in the dark days of 2020. It wasn’t simply that the song was catchy as hell; it was that it came with a clip where all of her singers and dancers etc. all recorded their choreographed parts at home before uploading them to be edited into a video which sparkles with energy, vitality and an exuberant sense of life being lived. Not easy when life had all but been stopped in its tracks, but they managed it, gifting us one of the best songs of 2020 with a clip that more than matched the song it was designed to promote.
“Phenom” by Thao & the Get Down Stay Down
When I came across “Phenom” by San Francisco-based group Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, I was immediately entranced by its lusciously quirky mix of insistent melody, emotively acrobatic vocals and editing of at-home recorded choreography that merged into a whole so seamlessly you swore there must have magic afoot somewhere. But nope, it’s just truly inspired artists who realised early on the pandemic presented some very cool possibilities if you harnessed them properly. The BBC notes that Thao and the Get Down Stay Down “were one of the first acts to harness Zoom in a music video, [setting] a standard that’s hard to beat” with the group cleverly “Dividing the screen into a three-by-three grid, Brady Bunch-style, they choreographed an awe-inspiring dance routine that ripples across each of the panels”. Water pours across frames, disparate bodies perform a mesmerising whole, and you sit through it all, raptured by song and visuals that go so perfectly together it’s compulsive repeated viewing.
“Over and Over” by Jessy Lanza
Now this is clever, and also a little sad too. As the BBC observes “”Riding up and down a deserted escalator is the stuff of most kids’ dreams” but there’s also something sad about being the only one in a place where normally lots of people noisily and happily congregate. This clip, which sees Canadian alt-op artist Jessy Lanza going endlessly up and down escalators in a San Francisco mall, captured that sense of being alienated from all the things we normally take for granted, something that really home for this blogger when they walked nervously into a deserted mall during lockdown to pick up something from a click-and-collect point at a store. The quietness and aloneness of what was normally a communal experience really hit home and Lanza encapsulates it beautifully with a song which mirrors lyrically what the clip so ably portrays.
“Mateo” by Tove Lo
Hailing from Sweden, a country that knows music and knows the dark and light of human existence and how to marry the two of them together expertly well, Tove Lo is an insightfully thoughtful at the best of times. But in “Mateo”, she channels a kind of unrequited love with music suffused with endless longing and some beautifully spliced-together lip-syncing performances by her fans who absolutely the feel of this moving song. While the BBC correctly notes that “getting your fans to lip-sync to one of your songs” was very much on-trend for 2020, Tove Lo makes inventive use of fan’s contributions (“[I was] so happy to see all of your faces and places, makes me feel like we’re together while apart.”), adding to the affecting weight and feel of a song that has all the feels in spades.
“House Arrest” by SOFI TUKKER
SOFI TUKKER (Florida-based Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern) have never been boringly unimaginative artists, either musically or visually, so it wasn’t really surprising that they met the challenges of pandemic lockdown by “hosting a livestream DJ set every single day since quarantine … in mid-March . It is exactly what you’d expect the relentlessly inspired duo to do, an approach that yielded intensely meaningful fan interactions – “The dedication and love that people are sharing with each other in this really unprecedented time in history has been blowing our minds” said the band in a statement on iHeart – but also the song “House Arrest” which neatly captured the spirit of the at-home age. SOFI TUKKER meant the challenge of metaphorical COVID lemons raining down upon them by making the tastiest musical lemonade ever and showing everyone that being all by yourself didn’t have to mean being alone or surrounding your creativity which for the duo continued unabated even during the worst of pandemic times.
EUROVISION SONG CONTEST 2023 UPDATE!
In the latest news from the glittery world of Eurovision we now know next year’s host city will be Glasgow or Liverpool, that Junior Eurovisioners will be spinning the magic on 11 December in Yerevan, Armenia, and that and Israel has a contestant already – say hello to Noa Kirel! We’re also heading into nationals before and after Christmas and into the first few months of 2023 when things go really big. Lots to look forward to as things heat up for Eurovision 2023!