Ever since Covid-19 barricaded all movements, a notch of difference to our listening pleasure speaks volumes. Playlists that once religiously accompanied our dailies are now being given a spin-lift.
Spotify for instance, recorded a surge in paid subscribers. While it lost listeners from the car, wearable and web platforms – usage on T.V and game consoles was up by 50 percent.
“Morning routines have changed significantly. Every day now looks like the weekend.” – Spotify
Curating pandemic playlists became trendy. Music lovers started compiling their own collection of songs to get through this pulverising period. The activity was deemed as soothing – for some, more so than actually listening to music itself.
Just this June, UK’s Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden shared his “Songs To Get Vaccinated To” playlist on Spotify. Among his recommendations are Pat Benatar’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Lizzo's Good As Hell and Queen's Don't Stop Me Now.
And, always a hit with the crowd are the celebrity-curated playlists – particularly those created during lockdown. American designer and DJ, Heron Preston’s list included what he called as “classic feel-good songs.”
The world listens
Music aside, Spotify’s current focus is the podcast market that doubled in 2020. Caged in, people were searching for new ways to fill the sudden quiet.
The Infinite Dial, which surveys digital media consumer behaviour in the US, reported early this year that 28 percent of the country’s population (age 12 and above) are now weekly podcast listeners – a 17 percent increase over 2020.
“In the near quarter of a century that the Infinite Dial has been the survey of record for digital audio, the space has never been more vibrant, or more diverse, than it is today,” said Tom Webster, senior vice president at Edison Research.
Almost everyone is jumping on the Podcast bandwagon. When news broke that Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen were coming up with their own podcast, the response was astounding.
Former US president Barack Obama and musician Bruce Springsteen rocks the airwaves. Image Credit: Spotify
Renegades: Born In The USA features the former president and the legendary rock star in conversation on issues ranging from politics and the state of the country, to fatherhood, marriage and manhood.
Of course, Michelle Obama did it first. Her podcast, launched last summer, was billed as the top global podcast at the time. Calling it a tough year, her hope was for it to help listeners overcome life's challenges.
The piece quoted a music therapist, Jessica Pouranfar, who explained that “the way we listen to music is extremely psychological and physiological”. She links this to a natural effect that sound has on humans.
“Music activates so many areas of the brain at the same time, in both hemispheres that involve emotion, memory, language and motor. It activates the neurotransmitter dopamine, which helps you feel pleasure.”
The pandemic rewiring our taste in music is not much of a rare thing altogether. Just ask around among your social circle and you will probably find a friend who has experienced his or her music taste changed during the pandemic – should they care to admit.
“I used to only listen to pop rock, but now, I’m drawn to opera ballads. Puccini, Mozart, Purcell, Rossini or Verdi. The kind that rises and falls with such emotion,” Rebecca Sinhua, from Madrid, relates.
“I really have no explanation to give. I don’t even understand what’s being sung, but they just send a tingle through my mind. Just take a listen to Dido's Lament. It’s just so sad and haunting, yet it gets me through the day.”
James Blake (not his real name) says, he now puts on K-pop when exercising. Hailing from Sarasota, it is as much wildly out of character for him as it can ever be possible.
“I work a perfectly decent office job. I wear a suit and drive a BMW. This is not something ordinary for me. Never in a million years would I have thought to actually like BlackPink. I just got hooked last year when I was flipping through Spotify.”
BlackPink could surprisingly end up in your playlist. Image Credit: Spotify
This only demonstrates that the enjoyment we derive from sonic elements can shift as we undergo trauma. Yes, the pandemic, with all its encompassing effects, has affected us mentally.
Whether it is listening to less music – and instead, finding solace in podcasts, or curating playlists in a magpie-like fashion, we do whatever we can to get through a pandemic. Even if it means, secretly listening to K-pop.
Or, perhaps this playlist sounds like a better idea.
Cover Image: Philippe Nick – Bantersnaps /Unsplash
Writer | PY Cheong
PY Cheong has plied the trade of words long enough to recognise the difference between writing and storytelling. Believes in always dressing up his prose. Living and breathing the work he does.