The past two years have been nothing short of unwanted surprises, from recurrent waves of the coronavirus to the dreaded ‘circuit breaker’ lockdowns. The pandemic has transformed our lives greatly, with one impact being a decline in mental health as we experience heightened social isolation due to rules designed to curb the virus spread.
In view of this, many music artists, local and international, have produced songs to uplift people’s moods amidst the challenges that COVID-19 has brought about to our daily lives. Music transcends space to bring people together, and here, we will take a look (or listen) at just a few of them!
1. Stay With You by JJ Lin & Stefanie Sun
Composed by JJ Lin with lyrics penned by Stefanie Sun, “Stay With You” is a collaboration between the two homegrown Singaporean singers to show appreciation to all frontline workers and also to bring comfort and hope through music.
The song’s message is that love will always prevail no matter how tough challenges may be, and that even though the tough times drive us apart physically, we will find a way if our hearts are near. I liked the mellow addition of the cello which provides a calming accompaniment that complements the melody, especially in linking the verse and chorus of the song together seamlessly.
While the English version is performed as a duet, here is a Chinese rendition of the song which is sung wholly by JJ:
2. Stay Home by ABANGSAPAU, Aisyah Aziz, Alif, Charlie Lim, Dee Kosh, Fariz Jabba, Hashy, Iman, ShiGGa Shay, Shye, Tosh Rock, YAØ, Yung Raja, and Zadon
A collaboration among 14 local music artists, “Stay Home” is a multilingual song released by music label Universal Music Group to bring across the message of strength and unity despite being physically apart. It encourages Singaporeans to stay home amidst the pandemic to support nationwide efforts against COVID-19.
Representative of our Singapore fabric, the song is performed with intermittent code-switches between the four official languages of English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil, woven seamlessly into the indie-electro-pop style and smooth rapping. The artists recorded the music video from their own homes, portraying a sense of realness and relatability as they showcased solidarity and intimacy with listeners through their common experiences staying at home.
The song was inspired by Malaysia’s “#JanganKelaur”, a single created in response to the movement control order in Malaysia.
3. After The Rain by JJ Lin
“After The Rain” is the eponymous song of JJ Lin’s newest album and the title of his charitable concert that happened in November 2021. This gem of a song has a calm and soothing tune, with simple but impactful melody and lyrics, which bring across the message that as long as we believe, we can emerge from the crisis stronger.
Telling of the tales of hope and unity, the song description on YouTube is as follows:
In this ever-changing world
We ride the highs and dip the lows
Bracing through whatever life throws at us
Some may start to doubt
And others may fear the uncertainty
We never get used to it
Yet sometimes, doubt pushes our inner-selves
To go in search of that light at the end of the tunnel
This song is a reminder that
We can always seek solace in music
And together in faith
We will ride out the storm
May this be the voice of assurance
So we can start believing
That we will
After The Rain
4. The Road Ahead by Linying, Sezairi Sezali, Shye, and Shabir
Upon playing the video below, you may find this song familiar, and for a good reason—it is actually our National Day Parade theme song for 2021!
Performed by local artists Linying, Sezairi, Shye, and Shabir, “The Road Ahead” holds the message that while there may be more uncertain times to come, there is strength to be found in unity.
In addition, I like that the music video showcases various iconic Singaporean places coupled with quirky animations to portray unique sides of our country.
While the songs so far have all been local productions, the following are some songs that are composed by overseas and international artists.
5. 你要相信这不是最后一天 (nǐ yào xiāng xìn zhè bú shì zuì hòu yì tiān) by Hua Chenyu
A favourite of mine, this song roughly translates in English as “you must believe this is not the final day”. It was written by Hua Chenyu, a Chinese singer-songwriter known for his powerful vocals, who first performed it at Chinese singing competition Singer (歌手·当打之年) 2020.
Through the song, Hua hopes to inspire feelings of optimism to those who are down with the virus and encourage them to maintain their hopes for the future, no matter how bleak their situation may be.
Personally, I was drawn into the song from its onset, during the piano’s lone opening notes. As it progressed, I particularly loved how the piano’s versatility gave a simple yet powerful tune from start to finish, whether as unadorned chords in the introduction, or accompanied by strings, percussion and Hua’s soulful vocals. I had played it on loop many times during Singapore’s first ‘Circuit Breaker’ in 2020, when we were all stuck at home and only allowed to go out for essential errands, so (unfortunately) this song holds memories of that unprecedented time for me!
6. 平凡天使 (píng fán tiān shǐ) Angels by G.E.M.
“平凡天使” was composed six days after Hong Kong-based singer-songwriter G.E.M. saw a news piece online about a young man delivering 500 masks to a police station in China and then running away. While policemen did not catch up with him, they saluted him from afar.
The song, which translates to English as “ordinary angels”, pays tribute to everyone in society helping to fight the virus, be it the frontline workers or common folk putting in effort in their own little ways.
I found the music video really touching as it depicts footage of ordinary people aiding the battle against COVID-19 through simple ways such as providing masks, hand sanitiser, and food to frontline workers, doing so quietly without seeking any recognition. The messaging is clear—every little effort counts in helping make the world a better place amidst this pandemic.
7. “Life Goes On” by BTS
“Life Goes On” is the lead single for South Korean boy band BTS’ album Be which aims to impart a message of healing to the world by declaring, “Even in the face of this new normality, our life goes on”.
The song captures the emotions that the band members felt while living through the pandemic and encapsulates the stories that they each wanted to tell to listeners.
I liked the catchy tune and uplifting lyrics, such as this section from the middle of the song which translates as follow:
With the “annyeong” that we start and finish the day
Let us thread tomorrow with today
Stopped for now but don’t hide in the shadow
Once again daylight will glow
8. epiphany by Taylor Swift
The song epiphany is one song from American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift’s album folklore. It was actually written from her grandfather’s perspective as a soldier, and also partially based on a story about a nurse in modern times.
According to Aaron Dessner, with whom Swift collaborated on the album, the song’s underlying mission is to portray things that are hard to talk about, such as “difficult emotional” moments in jobs like medical professionals. The song is emotional, but also really soothing and comforting to listen to.
Music transcends boundaries, language, and emotions, and if you are feeling down due to the pandemic, I hope this list brightens your day a little and gives us all hope as we go into the new year!
What are some of your favourite songs to listen to that have cheered you up during the pandemic? Feel free to share it with us at firstname.lastname@example.org