“Survival was all that mattered”: the songs that got us to 2020


Isaac Hayes – Moving in Loops There was a particular appeal to the lush symphonic soul of artists like Teddy Pendergrass and the Delfonics when it came to listening to cozy songs.

But there was one record I kept looking for, Isaac Hayes’ Black Moses, and the tunes arranged by Dale Warren in particular. Their version of Close to You by Burt Bacharach (They Long to Be) is an epic, transforming the original classic into a nine-minute dose of saccharine soul.

But their cover of Going in Circles is their masterpiece, another Warren exercise in expansion. With sweeping strings and blissful background vocals, the original Friends of Distinction becomes a seven-minute arrangement, building into a tale of lost love that transcends the genre’s normal parameters.

For the endless lockdown blues, a fine, if somewhat meta, balm.

Lanre BakareDaniel Avery – Lone SwordsmanThe 2020 activities have me revisiting albums more than normal from my memory.

I guess I was searching for a nostalgic indulgence, stuff that reminded me of times that were less complicated or difficult.

But nothing that I pulled out of the dusty corners of my collection had an impact on me as much as the tribute of Daniel Avery to his friend and sometime DJ partner, Andrew Weatherall, released in September as a B-side.

It is an incredibly beautiful, simple piece of music – a high keyboard line faintly reminiscent of the 1991 Orbital chillout classic Belfast; atmospheric synths wafting in the background, their chords changing the mood of the track from sad to wistful to gently uplifting – and as it played, it produced a kind of calm, reflective silence.

Listening to it felt meditative – with the pause button mercifully switched on for four minutes.

I just wish it had been longer and came out earlier in the year.

Alexis PetridisLady Gaga – Rain on Me ft Ariana GrandeThe Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande are hardly strangers. To inoculate the soul against Covid-19, the pop survivors together launched an early dose of club candy. I’d been in solo lockdown for months, dealing with an adolescent fear of the unknown, except that the future was much less assured, the night “Rain on Me” was released. The implacable height of the track set me free.

My only disappointment was that there was no club at which to party beyond Zoom. “Rain on Me” blasts off depressions like a confetti cannon at a funeral even without a dance floor: “I’d rather be dry, but at least I’m alive!” they intoned.

At that moment, all that mattered was survival. Eve BarlowSnoop Dogg – Did anyone say anything? In addition to the obvious, for me, 2020 was characterized by two things: TV and takeout.

So it makes sense that the song that cured me was the velvety rework of takeaway overlord Just Eat, a one-minute G-funk masterpiece rivaled solely by Stephen Mulhern in terms of ITV ubiquity, by Tha Shiznit hitmaker Snoop Dogg.

Its release in May coincided with the collapse of time, as the weeks rapidly coalesced into one after another existential crisis.

Suddenly, it seemed monumental to get a weekend snack: an excuse to get out of Zoom or avoid scrolling to doom. “chicken wings to the crib”chicken wings to the crib”Your KFC order will be with you at 6:38 p.m.”Your KFC order is going to be with you at 6:38 p.m.

Jane McDonald’s Michael Cragg – Jai Ho! (You Are My Destiny) 2020 felt oddly bland and featureless for such a historically important year. A numbness settled in as I got used to the surrounding gray, and I found myself fighting with my boyfriend just for something to feel. Then, in October, Jane McDonald released a cover album that felt like a colonic irrigation to the brain, flushing out all the gnawing fear and replacing it with utter wonder while listening to it. Their Jai Ho rendition! It’s so noisy that the result is disorienting; I was overwhelmed with a sense of weightlessness the first time I heard it, like floating outside of time and space.

It’s an ayahuasca musical equivalent, a 3-minute-45-second vacation from life, and a broken-spirit balm. Joe StoneBeverly Glenn-Copeland – Colour of Anyhow For this year’s tearful catharsis of claustrophobia, just w w


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