OPINION: Music survived in 2020, and even found ways to thrive


Image by DarkmoonArt_de from Pixabay

Cody Wagner, Entertainment Writer

The year “2020 has been crappy, distant, grim and depressing because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Major in-person concerts were canceled and have not been hosted since the start of the pandemic with the lockdown that occurred in March earlier this year. I had plans to see Lamb of God, Megadeath, Trivium, Gojira, Deftones, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd and even attend one of Chicago’s biggest music festivals- Riot Fest. But the depletion of live music didn’t cause music to go away completely.

Many bands conducted live streams or used the pandemic to work on their songwriting. The streams represented a way for fans to get the full experience of their favorite band while still following and abiding by the restrictions set in place for public health and safety. This was the only other option available and artists decided to pursue it in hopes of keeping their sound and style of music alive in a period where death is so common.

Artists wanted to channel their creative outlet and present themselves while allowing for a connection as well as appreciation from the fanbase. Even though life seemed hopeless and depressing the sound of music will always stay alive no matter the genre or the artists themselves. This was a new format of obtaining live performances that many were accustomed to centering around the new way of life amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.

While many saw the lack of concerts as the only option for in-person musical satisfaction, it was actually a chance for artists to develop new material and plan for what came next relating to the future. This attainment of extra time gave way to some creative plans that would ignite the fuel in some artists while also giving way to some new releases of music that would help guide humanity through this time of loss and intense struggle.

As much as I desired to get the full, in-person experience, this was the only alternative. It was the only reasonable and safe solution to an extensive and uncertain problem that is still trying to be addressed even now as we near the end of 2020. I miss the humidity seeming off from the bright lights, the smell of cigarettes and beer, the instruments all placed in a specific place on the stage, the compactness and excited crowds.

I missed all of it and still do even today. But despite my growing desire for artistic satisfaction, I always remember that it’s not about me and that we’re facing an even bigger crisis right now. A crisis that determines one’s life and has affected millions upon millions of people. Sure, there are no concerts right now but as time moves on and a vaccine is distributed all we can do is wait and hope that everyday life can resume in 2021, only time and efficiency will tell.

The livestreams captured the bands true onstage talent and what they had to offer while confined in their homes. The streams showed fans musical creation and talent still lived on and the idea that there will always be room for music no matter the circumstance. This brought hope that the music was still alive. Lamb of God, Marilyn Manson, Mastodon and even Metallica were all working on new material for upcoming albums.

With all the time spent trapped in our residencies why not use the extra time for creative thinking and future planning for even brighter and better artistic expression? These bands and many more could have just sat on their asses and done nothing this whole lockdown by either partying, drinking, or just sitting down and watching tv. Instead, a majority of musicians went right to work by creating new ideas such as songs, melodies, sounds, etc to create surprising material that we can hopefully encounter in the near future.

I viewed two livestreams and was satisfied with the performances of both bands. Both centered around the genre of rock and were accustomed to the same instruments but they contained different sounds and styles which brought out unique sounds as well as lyrics and direction of musical creativity. While one was a band that was directly centered around the roots of the 90s grunge era, the other was considered to be the kings of pure, American heavy metal.

Each band showed their unique talent as well as authority representing an attitude that said, “Screw you COVID, our music will live on, and that it did as both the streams gave fans a look at what each band had to offer musically and creatively as well as their appearance and structure on stage. These artists tried their very best to bring the ever sweet nostalgia of concerts to life while also focusing on the health and well-being of their fan base.

The first stream was Lamb of God, a hardcore metal band that performed their newest self-titled album in its entirety. The second band was Stone Temple Pilots, who performed their critically acclaimed sophomore album “Purple” despite the loss of their original singer Scott Weiland(RIP). Livestreams served as the next big thing for artists to enhance their musical talent and bring forth satisfaction and hope for all fans who seemed troubled and saddened by the world’s current state. The streams brought us hope and an image that each band was ready and willing to work, eventually preparing for possible tours that could come our way if the COVID epidemic is resolved.

It personally gave me hope and excitement that even though I didn’t witness these artists in person, I was able to see how they were keeping up after all this time and what they had to offer as well as their current status of health and mentality. Seeing these streams made me even more excited at the idea that I am going to witness one of these bands hopefully this upcoming year so I can be prepared and ready for the thrill and engaging performance that is to come my way in the future. With the use of technological advancements of recording live streams were one way for bands to express themselves but it wasn’t the only way as fans would get a taste for something even better and exciting was to come their way.

Livestreams weren’t the only source of musical experience this year. There were new albums as well as songs from a majority of artists. Some personally and critically acclaimed ones were Marilyn Manson’s “We are Chaos,” AC/DC’s “Power Up,” Lamb of God’s self-titled album, Metallica’s “S&M 2,” Corey Taylor’s “CMFT, Deftones “Ohms,” Ozzy Osbourne’s “Ordinary Man,” Juice Wrld’s “Legends Never Die,”(RIP), Lil Uzi Vert’s “Eternal Atake and many, many more.

Artists also wrote new music as well. This brought even more fulfillment to fan satisfaction as they were going to get the next best thing to a live performance… new music. Everybody loves it when their favorite artist comes out with a new album. Whether it be pre-recorded tracks created by deceased rappers or a hard sounding, heavy, fast-paced metal band, everyone loves something new. These newly released tracks were able to show fans what the band has been up to throughout this pandemic and what they plan to create as a result.

I feel that artists create the best music in times of darkness, and hopelessness as it brings out their true emotions and reflects upon them. This element of emotion creates evolutionary and truthful perspectives relating to problems that many struggle with and allows for a connection of feelings within music heard and displayed for individual satisfaction. These artists shared something new with the people but also used the time they had to express themselves and relate to their audience providing sounds and lyrics of hope and admiration rather than destruction and deterioration.

Metallica is one band writing new songs related to another album. Mastodon recorded and released their album “Medium Rarities” and are working on even more material at the moment. Even Ozzy Osbourne said he would like to make another album with the amount of time he has.

With the releases of new songs and albums, there were also ceremonies to honor musicians and the legacy that they hold within the world of music and creativity. Despite having little to no audience members for a full-on live performance, The Grammys, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Billboard Music Awards and The Country Music Awards all pushed forward events even provided webcams for artists to perform their material live while still abiding by the guidelines needed for individual health and safety. It was still sad and extremely different to not see the full experience with audience reactions and a full-fledged stage providing sounds of musical appreciation and diverse creative expression. The industry made the best of a terrible situation.

Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, Amazon Music etc. were of vital importance this year. These services contributed as the main source of acquiring music for people everywhere. Even before COVID, streaming has become the biggest source now in this day and age of obtaining and listening to music as each service has a variety of options and genres to choose from.

At the end of every year, Spotify gives its users a tally of the top five most-listened-to artists along with your top 5 songs, the total amount of minutes listened, and even your top genre of music. My top 5 artists were Alice in Chains, Tool, Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, and Marilyn Manson. My favorite songs were “It Ain’t Like That” by Alice in Chains as part of the deluxe version to the “Singles” soundtrack, “Spoil My Night” by Post Malone featuring Swae Lee, “What’s the Difference” from Dr.Dre’s 2001 album and “Junkhead” from Alice in Chains ’”Dirt” album. My total number of minutes listened was 60,091, and my top genre was rock, of course.

Even amidst all the different approaches to musical expression, we lost some of music’s biggest and most talented icons. These artists passed on from a variety of causes, but despite their sad and tragic downfalls, they will always be remembered for their hard work and influence within the world of music based upon sound, songwriting, style, and creative expression. Some of these musicians created sounds that changed the way people interpreted and valued music on an intellectual and emotional level. Below is a list of some of the biggest names in music that are gone, but their art and creative talent will always live on.

Eddie Van Halen (Jan. 26, 1955 – Oct. 6, 2020)

Little Richard (Dec. 5, 1932 – May. 9, 2020)

Kenny Rogers ( Aug. 21, 1938 – March. 20, 2020)

Neil Peart ( Sep. 12, 1952 – Jan. 7, 2020)

Amongst all the dysfunction, irritability and torment, this year showed the importance of music and its impact, especially in times of uncertainty and overwhelming irritability. Even with all the extra precautions, the music industry found a way to bring love and appreciation while still following guidelines taken for public health and safety. Music fans, despite the disappointment, were able to receive some hope due to events such as livestreams, artists’ online Q&As, and even new music.

Sure, this year created a major depletion in concert attendance but the sound and energy of the music itself remained intact and ready to take on any situation that arrived at its path. Some would argue that this year despite the troublesome effects of COVID would say that it was a great year for music, others would say that it was the worst, in my opinion, this year brought both sentiment and value as music itself was tested and put in an extreme situation with necessary precautions that needed to be taken in place.

This year was a test to see if music could go on, if artists had the ability and creative drive to create something unique in a time of darkness and uncertainty. These are the times where music helps us the most, as it connects to us and speaks to us letting us know that everything will be alright and to live through another day. It’s times like these that we need music in our lives to help us overcome and adapt to the uncomfortable and discerning situation that COVID has presented.

I and other music lovers are very upset about the decrease and deterioration of live music, but hopefully, with the distribution of a vaccine, concerts can start back up again in 2021, and the world can return to some form of normalcy while also keeping public health as a top priority.

This year has truly sucked the life and patience out of everyone, myself included, but we all need to remain strong and help each other as we all try to endure this deadly and destructive battle we find ourselves in at the moment. I believe music is the best source for encouragement and is the ultimate savior in times of distress Only time will tell us what 2021 will bring. All we can do now as a society is be good to ourselves, one another, and keep the love of music in our hearts and minds.

If you would like to share what your most listened to artists were as well as share new artists for me to explore email me at [email protected]. You can also follow me on Twitter @CodyWagner4 AKA Record Check, as well as Instagram @cj_wags.