With the rest of the world at a halt this past year, many of us college-aged kids craved an escape or turned to nostalgia for comfort.  

In particular, music has enabled us to wallow in our emotions and connect with ourselves and others who are feeling the same way. For these reasons, the noticeable increase in our consumption and sharing of music comes as no surprise. 

Senior Zophia Dadlez, a DJ for student radio station WRUR-FM, noted that music is an inherently “emotional experience” that people are able to share with their friends easily, making it a “jumping point” for social connection. 

Dadlez hosts her own show “Full Moon in Leo” every week on The Sting, WRUR’s online radio station. The show gives her a platform to share the songs she’s been enjoying, talk about astrology, and (virtually) spend time with an occasional co-host, such as her sister. She became involved with WRUR a few weeks after the pandemic struck. In a time where it was increasingly difficult for students to initiate and maintain relationships, Dadlez found that her social life had actually improved. This resulted from the sense of community she discovered at the radio station, which has an active Discord server and hosts Zoom meetings for members every weekend, where students share their favorite music. 

It was also through WRUR that Dadlez met her current housemate, as well as two of her closest friends, one of whom produced her phenomenal 2020 EP, “Night Plow Route.” The two spent the summer sending files back and forth, with Dadlez writing and recording in her room, and UR alumna Hannah Jocelyn mixing and producing the tracks. The deeply personal experience of sharing lyrics, instrumental audio clips, and the odd vocals via voice memo helped her form lifelong friendships even when everything was shut down during her senior year. 

WRUR is only one example of how the power of art persisted during the pandemic; music brought people together in unprecedented ways, be it neighbors singing with each other from across their balconies and through their windows, policemen playing guitar in the streets of Spain, or the Internet unifying to scorn the delusional, tone-deaf debacle that was celebrities singing “Imagine” from the comfort of their mansions, barely a week into quarantine. As festivals were cancelled and tour dates postponed, artists and fans shifted to livestreams, ranging from virtual concerts such as BTS’s record-breaking event Bang Bang Con and Dua Lipa’s Studio 2054, to free online events such as Sennheiser’s #Don’tStopTheMusic, Global Citizen’s Together at Home series, and various Instagram lives.

Slowly, as TikTok creeped its way into our scrolling routines, music such as “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd and “Say So” by Doja Cat began to fuel viral dance challenges. These “sounds,” as they are known on the app, formed the backdrop for performances that became sources of respite for bored teens in their rooms, frontline workers on break, and everyone in between.

The success that “Blinding Lights” experienced, however, extended far beyond TikTok; it became the first song to go No. 1 during the pandemic. In fact, 2020 was a massive year for pop — perhaps the biggest since 2014 — with releases like The Weeknd’s multi-platinum “After Hours,” Beyonce’s visual album “Black is King,” Dua Lipa’s disco-revival record “Future Nostalgia,” Chloe x Halle’s Grammy-nominated “Ungodly Hour,” and Ariana Grande’s chart- topping “Positions” dominating the music landscape.

The year also inspired a number of more understated pandemic albums which mirrored the daydreaming and introspection that the pandemic had compelled us to engage in. The most notable of these releases included Taylor’s Swift’s “folklore” and “evermore,” both of which provided a quiet, intimate listening experience. All other spontaneous pandemic-time releases echoed this characteristic, be it Troye Sivan’s captivation with boredom and being alone in “In a Dream,” Charli XCX’s examination of emotional extremes in “How I’m Feeling Now,” or Phoebe Bridger’s raw yet satirical songwriting that addressed overcoming trauma in “Punisher.” Music has served as a testament to the incredible uniting power of online communities. It’s helped us stay afloat through the turmoil of our time; if anything, the past year has been a resounding confirmation of humanity’s capacity to persevere, our tendency to draw from our individual and collective experiences, and our unbelievable commitment to finding ways to foster a sense of community, even in an era as unprecedented as this.



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