2020 sure has been one dumpster fire of a year, and even though it’s pretty easy to think of what went wrong, I think that a lot of good came out of the flames. I’ve spent the past few months focusing on some of the best things to come out of the chaos. As much as I miss the in-person concerts, conventions, and “normal life,” this year was full of opportunities and experiences that I never thought possible. From never-before-heard music performed live and free conventions to watching new blockbusters like Wonder Woman 1984 from the comfort of your living room. With these tiny glimmers of excitement in mind, I am going to be taking the next few posts to highlight some of the bright spots for geeks within this horrid year…
To kick things off, I am going to start by highlighting the astounding amount of musical releases and surprising drops from artists of all genres across the globe. As a self-proclaimed music fanatic, I loved the variety in the lyrical content surrounding the pandemic and looked into how artists are dealing with the current lifestyle. I think in general music is one of the most personal things in someone’s life, from both the perspective of the creator and those who listen to their work. One of my favorite things about music is that it allows so much room for individual interpretation and relatability. The versatility of music has always been something I admire and has drawn me to an interest in a variety of artists. I love the idea that the platform as a whole gives the artist a place to capture raw feelings or indescribable ideas that can’t be expressed in any traditional sense. As a visual artist, I can find a lot of comfort and relatability in that.
The music industry jumped at the opportunity to use their time in quarantine to pour their creativity into new music and share their experiences with the public. From some of the largest artists in the world like Taylor Swift to up and coming singers releasing their first single, 2020 has been an incredible and unprecedented year for all music genres, reshaping an industry.
Music has been one of the most impactful and influential parts of my year, and for that, I will forever be grateful to all of the artists and creators who made that possible. In a time of such deep self-isolation, it feels nice as a listener knowing that we are not alone in our emotions and our desire for a distraction/ creative outlet during these very strange times.
Here are some of my favorite music highlights from this year…
Taylor Swift: Folklore and Evermore– Two sister albums that jump-started a new Swiftie era.
As a longtime Swiftie with a deep love of indie, folk, and alternative, these two surprise drops from Taylor felt like a dream come true. Folklore and its self-described sister album, Evermore, provided fans all over the world with some new gems for our playlists and a good excuse to cry. As I’ve grown older, my enthusiasm for pop music has faded, and began to feel very one-dimensional next to a lot of other genres that made their way into the spotlight. So this new era of storytelling caught my interest.
One of my favorite parts of the albums, Folklore especially, is the strong voice that carries the listeners through the overarching narratives. Although powerful on its own, every song connects, unfolding into a lyrical journey, unlike anything I’ve ever heard.
These albums felt so human, it is really easy to lose yourself in them and connect with them in one way or another. It also makes me genuinely happy to see other artists branch out this year and create what they love. Taylor and her creative team also have done an amazing job giving fans exclusive looks into BTS of her latest creations under COVID restrictions. You can find all of that and more on her website and Youtube channel.
Another great place to find out about her creative process is with Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions on Disney Plus if you are interested in the creative evolution of her music or just want to hear some exclusive acoustics. You can find out more here.
I am so excited to see what lies ahead in this new era of her music, and if you haven’t already, give Folklore and Evermore a listen out now on all streaming platforms.
Gorillaz: Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez– An iconic band bringing some excitement to 2020
As the British animated band, Gorillaz celebrates their 22nd anniversary, Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett put out Song Machine: Season One, Strange Timez, an album to remember comprised of a multitude of beautifully crafted animation, an extensive list of unexpected guests, and music that I can only describe as extraordinary. One of my favorite aspects of the band are the surprises that come with all of their releases. The best example I can think of is the 6th track off the record, The Pink Phantom, featuring 6LACK and Elton John (yes, the Elton John). If you would have told me a few months ago that Elton John would be a collaborator on a Gorillaz song, I don’t think I would have believed you, let alone have expected how well their styles mesh together. Now I am writing about it as one of my favorite songs off the album and is quite honestly one of my all-time favorites from them. If you haven’t had the pleasure to experience that song and its subsequent video, please do.
The evolution of Gorillaz throughout the years has always amazed me, and even for those who don’t know or aren’t interested in the lore behind the animated band members, Gorillaz has something for almost everyone. Their music is so unique and their narratives are powerful enough to connect with countless different audiences from across the world. Even for those who only know some of their infamous songs (like Feel Good Inc.), Song Machine is a great album to dive into if you have an interest in their music. For every Gorillaz album, Jamie’s music videos bring the story to life and encapsulate who they are as a band.
Alongside their revolutionary album, they also released the 2020 Gorillaz Almanac, an extensive collection of original art and concepts spanning over two decades. For any hardcore Gorillaz fans, this is a must-have. You get yourself a copy on their website, or Amazon right now.
In addition to all of that, they performed live for millions all over the world with their virtual tour Song Machine Live. As someone who has the honor of attending, I can proudly say that it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen or been a part of. I know that I probably will never be able to see them in person since they rarely come to the states, so getting to see them on stage, even from the comfort of my room, made it even more unforgettable. You can find out a bit more about the concert here.
AJR: Singles and Upcoming Album
AJR, the brother pop trio, has had quite the year all around. As a long-time fan of the band, it was exciting to see their fanbase grow alongside the success of all of their 2020 singles. From Bang! (released pre-pandemic) to their more recent release of Bummerland, one of many quarantine anthems to hit airwaves this year. In addition to these two hits, they announced that over their time at home, they wrote and produced their next album, OK Orchestra, releasing in March of this year. As with various other artists, upcoming and out now, people from all over the world poured all of their time into new music for the year ahead. You can pre-order the album now on their website here and pre-save wherever you stream music.
To kick off the hype for OKO, they released one of the singles and corresponding video, My Play, going into the holidays. Shortly after, on the 26th they performed a live show unlike anything ever attempted on stage, testing the limits of a virtual show. I’ll be talking more about One Spectacular Night later, but right now, I’d like to highlight the innovation and creativity that came in 2020 as artists adapted their craft to an online platform. Again, this year has provided so many once in a lifetime opportunities for fans new and old. Even if they can’t be with musicians and artists in the traditional sense, as a fan, since the beginning of COVID-19 I’ve developed a new appreciation for these bands.
Tiktok- A platform of possibilities
TikTok is one of the most popular social media apps in the world, making it the perfect place to launch a music career and grow a platform. Smaller artists took advantage of the social media site this year, grossing millions of listens not only on the video app but hopping on platforms like Spotify. With billions of users, the unpredictability of TikTok is very prevalent in the music community, but for those who took a shot and were fortunate enough to have their song blow up, 2020 presented itself as a life-changing year.
Towards the beginning of quarantine, like many others, I had not planned on downloading it, but once I did, there was no turning back. I can proudly say that I discovered hundreds of new artists and musicians trying to make it big and now have oodles of songs a part of my permanent playlist rotation. It is a great way for artists to introduce themselves, and if you are looking to broaden your musical horizons, you may be surprised by what you find on TikTok.
If you’ve jumped onto the For You Page at any point this year, you may have heard Overwhelmed, one of Royal and The Serpent’s first big hits grossing over 50 million streams across listening platforms, or pop group Avenue Beat’s hit song F2020, another quarantine anthem. Maybe you heard Billie Ellish’s new catchy song, Therefore I Am, or up and coming artist, Mothica’s single Vices, a song showcasing the struggles of addiction. No matter the genre, there always seems to be even more artists stepping into the limelight to bring their new music to the scene. Through different dances and trends, songs blow up sometimes out of nowhere presenting some life-changing steps in an artist’s career. In a digital world, it seems only fitting that so many artists have been launched into stardom through apps TikTok, and I’m excited for more.
I know that this barely scratches the surface of the content that came out in the past year, but I am excited to continue to share some of my favorite highlights. I’m eager to see the impact of 2020 on this year’s new music. I am so incredibly grateful to be able to experience this new wave of musical exploration alongside the rest of the world. There is something so surreal yet comforting about all of it, and I hope that more people realize the impact and connection that music has on others, and artists will continue to grow going into 2021.
That’s all for now! Be sure to check back for part two and hear about some of my best concert and convention experiences of 2020 and the up and coming virtual tours and cons that await in the year to come.