The Experience Magazine playlist for our Pandemic issue leads off with songs of resolve amid hardship. Gloria Gaynor’s 1978 disco hit “I Will Survive” isn’t just one of the all-time-great breakup songs, it’s become an anthem of uplift and perseverance. The song made an online viral comeback in March when Gaynor appeared on TikTok, washing her hands to her signature song for the CDC-recommended 20 seconds. Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” from his 1989 solo album Full Moon Fever, might be classic rock’s ultimate song of defiance in a crisis, especially after its resurgence in 2001, when Petty performed it on a tribute special 10 days after the 9-11 attacks.
From there, our playlist moves to songs whose lyrics seem newly relevant to our stay-at-home season. The Police’s “When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around,” finds Sting in isolation, eating canned food and re-watching James Brown in the 1964 all-star concert film The T.A.M.I. Show (a great desert-island choice, actually). Also sheltering in place, and holding up better, is the couple in The National’s “Apartment Story,” resolved to “Stay inside ’til somebody finds us/Do whatever the TV tells us,” and “Sleep in our clothes and wait for winter to leave.” They’ve figured out what Flo Rida knows in “My House”: “Sometimes you gotta stay in.” (It helps that Flo stocked up on vodka and champagne.)
“Such Great Heights” by The Postal Service is a love song for couples who can’t connect in person right now. “The freckles in our eyes/Are mirror images/And when we kiss they’re perfectly aligned,” sings Ben Gibbard, the vocalist and songwriter from Death Cab For Cutie — a thought that “catch[es]/My troubled head when you’re away.” Soulja Boy has his own solution to his long-distance relationship: “Kiss Me Thru the Phone.” Aretha Franklin’s 1985 comeback hit “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?,” about competitive flirtation, takes on a new meaning 35 years later as we try to read subtle human interactions over video-conferencing apps. Our final track, The Kinks’ “Better Things,” acknowledges days of doubt and sadness before looking to the future with a hard-won optimism.
Listen to the playlist as you read this month’s stories about humanity’s efforts to fight the pandemic and stop the next one before it starts.