Nao in concert at Berlin Kesselhaus in 2019
Nao live in concert at Berlin Kesselhaus in 2019 - photo by Mascha Lange

Song by song – Getting through the pandemic with music


With the pandemic, days tend to blend into each other – with no major events happening, it can be hard to keep track of time. I felt this most strongly at the beginning of the new year. Time either flew by way too fast (how the hell is it 2021 already?) or crept by way too slowly (when will this pandemic f-i-n-a-l-l-y come to an end?). This fuzzy feeling of time frustrated me immensely, and I wanted to do something about it.

If there’s one constant in my life at the moment, a constant which accompanies both my work-at-home week and my free time, it is music. If I can’t have people around me, I like to at least have some background noise. Because listening to the same songs all over again quickly gets boring, however, I love to explore the “daily drive,” “missed hits” and “discover weekly” lists on Spotify to mix up my playlists.

So, I thought: What better way than to track time with music? Perhaps this would help me stay on top of things. Like a diary, just expressed with music instead of words on a page. I started a list called Track 2021, and I now add a new song every Thursday. It can be a song that I listened to on repeat, a song emblematic of the genre I listened to mostly, or just a song that best represents my feelings towards the week. Six weeks in, it has already become a great mix of artists, genres, and moods, all favs obviously.

Are you curious to see what’s on the list? Here you go:

Week 1: Attention by Tiwa Savage

My first week in 2021 was all about attention. That is to say, Tiwa Savage’s “Attention,” which I listened to obsessively. If you’ve never heard of Tiwa Savage, you’ve missed the “Queen of Afrobeats,” a Nigerian superstar, who has been producing great music as a solo artist for over a decade. But perhaps you do know her from the Beyoncé-produced Lion King soundtrack? It’s only that her latest studio album, “Celia,” which was released in August 2020, is the first to garner a larger international audience. The single “Attention” is by far my favorite from the album. A song that tells the story of a woman whose lover is not paying her the attention she deserves, but instead of sinking into misery, she sings “If you don’t give me quality attention/ I might get it from somebody else.” Tiwa Savage herself has proclaimed the song a female anthem, and I think she’s absolutely right.

Listen to her COLORS rendition of “Attention”:

Week 2: All Alone by Mal Waldron

If I really have to concentrate, I can’t listen to music that includes singing. During week two of 2021 I had to prepare an important presentation and desperately needed some concentration. So I turned to my jazz playlist and listened to old and new tunes. I inherited a taste for jazz from my dad, whose Miles Davis and Chet Baker records I’ve been listening to since I was a child. Mal Waldron, however, was new to me. But my, his piano solo on “All Alone”! The force of it, the shivering. It haunts. “All Alone” is the first track on the album of the same name, recorded in Milan in 1966. If Mal Waldron is as new to you as he was to me, check him out. He was an amazing avant-garde jazz pianist and composer who accompanied the likes of Billie Holiday and played with John Coltrane.

Listen to the full album “All Alone”:

Week 4: Never Come Back by Caribou

“Never Come Back” is the song that makes workouts fun again! At least it did for me in week four of 2021. Do the running (wo)man to this song and you will definitely sweat. Seriously, I’m one of those people who couldn’t get out of their Christmas-slumber, but when I heard this song for the first time I had to get up and move. Now its electronic beat and catchy, minimalist five-sentence lyrics – the title phrase “and you never come back (to)” is repeated more than 50 times – help me do my daily workouts. Every time I complete my routine, it feels like defying the song because I do come back. The single was released on Caribou’s newest album “Suddenly” in February last year. Random fact: Caribou, real name Dan Snaith, holds a PhD in mathematics, which I find both curious and impressive.

Week 6: Drive and Disconnect by Nao

I fell in love with Nao and her music in 2018. Honestly, I think there’s no song she wrote that I don’t like, which is why I revisited her music in week 6 and listened to all her albums again. Back in 2018, I came upon Nao’s work by pure chance but was immediately mesmerized by her airy voice and unique style, which blends R&B, soul, funk, and electronic music, and which she herself likes to call wonky funk. “Drive and Disconnect” from Nao’s 2018 album “Saturn” is a song I like to play when I’m riding my bike home from office. At least it was this past summer/fall when I wasn’t working from home. The song is about a relationship on the verge of breaking up. I like to misinterpret it as me breaking up with my work day as I “drive and disconnect,” calling it a day.

Mascha chose to make Leipzig her home nine years ago and currently pursues a PhD in American Literary and Cultural Studies. She’s an avid reader (and sometimes writer), who loves a good science fiction novel more than anything. When she’s not reading, she likes to keep busy taking cute pictures of her cat, creating colorful handcrafted projects, and dancing Salsa - all while listening to great music.

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