As the COVID-19 global pandemic has turned us all into hermit crabs, amusing ourselves has become more important than ever. So, because I’m kinda bored and I want to see what people have created, let’s check out the coronavirus-related playlists on Spotify and see what kinds of songs are on them.
My Spotify playlists have become even more important to me now that I’m basically at home all the time — I’ve scored almost all aspects of my life just to make up for the fact that I’m seeing the same four or five rooms most days. And because a substantial amount of the population are now in the same boat as I am — sheltering in place, working from home — I imagine we’ll all be listening to more tunes.
If you search “coronavirus” or “COVID-19” on Spotify, you can find several playlists. Most have a roughly similar collection of songs, and similar themes. They even have the same titles — I’m using three particular playlists as examples for this article, and every single one is titled some variant of “Coronavirus Quarantine Party” (though the creator of this playlist has coined the delightful term “Quarantunes” and we really need to adopt it from now on).
At first blush, the song selection is exactly what you’d expect. Top of almost every list is “Toxic” by Britney Spears, “Down with the Sickness” by Disturbed, and “Toxicity” by System of a Down. You know, the standard 90s white kid playlist. It’s thematically appropriate, but that doesn’t make it interesting. I was kind of hoping one of these playlists would throw me a quarantune I could laugh at.
The first song I chuckled at was “U Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer. That’s the kind of song we need: a tongue-in-cheek reference to an appropriate precaution, and also something worth listening to. And while I’m not a Fifth Harmony fan, I can’t deny the appeal of “Work from Home” at a time like this. And as macabre as it may be, the songs that reference the coronavirus‘s symptomatic cough — “Harder to Breathe” by Maroon Five being my favorite of the bunch.
I’m honestly not a fan of how many songs in here are so apocalyptic. I mean, so far we’re not quite to Spanish Flu levels of terrible (and hopefully won’t reach them), and while I don’t mind hearing R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It” every now and then, it seems a bit melodramatic for the circumstances.
That said, there are some genuinely inspired picks on the list I wouldn’t have remembered: “You Sound Like You’re Sick” by The Ramones, for example. “Fever,” by Peggy Lee. “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” by The Police. The playlists I’ve found don’t really have a lot of genre consistency — they’re tied together by a theme unrelated to the music, so they’re pretty uneven when you listen to them. I think I enjoyed about one in every three songs, and on balance I’m fine with that.
Overall, the coronavirus playlists I’ve listened to seem to exist more to have amusing lists of apropos song titles than to be an actual listenable playlist. But heck, I won’t lie: I can’t stop listening to them. Everyone is sick and we’re all stuck indoors. At this point, I’ll take these silly songs if it takes even a little bit of sting out of the situation.