During this stagnant, yet nerve-racking time, many are learning how to modify their whole lives — jobs, hobbies, and relationships — to fit into their current confined spaces. Though we are grappling with the same ultimate dilemma, we are isolated from each other, and this can elicit a feeling of helplessness. Those in the music and entertainment industry are facing similar obstacles — to continue to create with limited resources and aid others with the gifts and public platform they have been given.
Though, some ideas are more effective than others.
After the celebrity rendition of “Imagine” went sour, I’ll admit I questioned if the power of music was even strong enough to get us through this. But when the celebrities stop preaching from their mansions and actually use their talents and platforms to financially or spiritually help others, I’m reminded of the strength in musical expression. The following artists have shown success in uniting and empowering people in their own unique ways. Here is the current state of pop:
In mid-March, Lady Gaga announced that she would be postponing the release of her sixth EP, Chromatica, set to have come out April 10th. She explained to her disappointed fans via social media that she couldn’t in good conscience “release this album during a global pandemic.” It is interesting that these circumstances have increased the amount of artists taking control of their own PR and marketing via social media. Though she still continued to share promotional photos via social media, she used other promotional mediums to focus on the importance of unity and kindness during this time.
A Twitter user came upon a billboard in Los Angeles that was originally intended to promote Gaga’s album. It read: “You Are Essential: we had previously reserved ad space for Lady Gaga’s upcoming album. But her message to you today and everyday is kindness rules all.” It also contained a message warning non-essential workers to stay home, and “we will get through this.” In early May, Gaga announced that the new date for the album is officially May 29th. Despite the delays, we are confident that it was fueled by Gaga’s compassion for others and awareness of the depth of our situation.
— 🐝 Gaga Daily (@gagadaily) April 18, 2020
The British pop-rock band, The 1975, postponed their fourth EP titled Notes on a Conditional Form, at first from February to April, and then again to May 22nd. Rolling Stone reports that the first postponement was due to production delays, and the second was in response to COVID-19, wanting to avoid release at the peak of global panic. But since the original announcement of Notes, the band has continued to release a total of eight singles from the anticipated album. This includes the first track, “The 1975,” which is a call-to-action speech from teen climate activist Greta Thunberg set to ambient music. The political content of their namesake track speaks to the band’s essence, a mouthpiece for the youth through cultural commentary. With lyrics like “truth is only hearsay, we’re just left to decay, modernity has failed us,” it’s no wonder they have acquired the adoration of the dubbed “activist generation” of Gen Z’ers whom wish to change these cultural shortcomings.
The 1975, over the past few years have also mastered the art of fan engagement via social media, which has only spiked during quarantine. Every Friday in May leading up to Friday, May 22nd (yes, tonight!), the band have hosted synced listening parties of their past albums through Spotify and Twitter, sharing behind the scenes stories and swapping opinions on tracks. The 1975 exemplify the way that social media can be used to unite musicians and fans alike and turn it into a quarantine- activity that everyone can look forward to.
The electro-pop artist Charli XCX took her fan engagement a step further, asking fans to submit lyrics, artwork and ideas to help create a new album in quarantine. The collaboration style really grounded the project; the artwork for the first single, “forever,”(always stylized in lower case), was chosen by fans via a twitter poll. And the accompanying music video was comprised of video submitted by fans of their pre-quarantine memories and adventures. Charli also shared the files for the music video for her second single, “claws,” so that fans could edit the green screen behind her silly dancing.
Charli empowers her fans through this crowd-sourced collaboration at a time when most feel powerless. And through her daily Instagram lives, she was able to document the ins and outs of album production in real time. Charli is reclaiming the definition of the term “unprecedented” for herself. The complete album, how I”m feeling now, was released swiftly on May 15th and is already receiving many upstanding reviews from the likes of NME and Pitchfork. With themes of boredom, loneliness, and love, Charli perfectly captures the now, without sounding rushed. In addition, she has announced that all profits from her merchandise will be donated to LA Alliance to protect the Los Angeles homeless population. Charli XCX has shown that in order to get through isolation, we all have to get creative and work together .
Having exciting plans to look forward to is sometimes the only thing that motivates one to get through monotonous days. The cancellation of concerts and music festivals due to the virus can feel like an overwhelming disappointment. The infamous Coachella has been moved to October, tours were cancelled before some even started. Locals are mourning the loss of New Orleans’ own beloved Jazz Fest. However, there are more artists and organizations attempting to make up for it.
Back in April, New Orleans native Aaron Neville went on Facebook live to sing some spirituals and bring us peace. Our favorite Charli XCX hosts regular “zoom raves,” DJ-ing while strangers and celebrities alike dance in their little camera squares side by side. Niall Horan, Miley Cyrus, and John Legend are all known to perform mini concerts via Instagram Live. While the singer-songwriter Ashe hosted a mini festival on her Youtube channel featuring FINNEAS, MAX, Bishop Briggs, and friends to raise money for MusiCares’ relief fund. And on May 18th, Meryl Streep, Dolly Parton and Bon Jovi performed via Broadway on Demand’s livestream for a benefit.
Whether its just to raise spirits, or to raise money, it is refreshing to see artists not on stages or in theaters, but in their own homes likes us. These are not just empty gestures spearheaded by Gal Gadot, like the “Imagine” incident. These are true acts of unity and humanity through artistic expression. And who doesn’t want to see Dolly Parton in her natural habitat?