Our Favorite Music in Quarantine
The CommRadio Arts & Entertainment department revisits some of the music their favorite music that they listened to during quarantine.
The Strokes — “The New Abnormal”
“The New Abnormal” was my first introduction to The Strokes. While I was lying in my bed, wondering when the invisible barriers we call social distancing would open up, I put on this album, unaware of what was to come.
Hearing lead man Julian Casablances without the auto tuned vocals from Daft Punk’s “Instant Crush” combined with a mixture of old and new production created a sense of nostalgia I had never felt — as if I had aged 15 years and heard a song that reminded me of my youth.
Take the track “Bad Decisions,” for example. Upon first hearing, you might confuse the guitar chords playing for the Modern English song “I Melt With You.” Playing this track for my mother was quite the treat, as the same feeling of nostalgia came over her, bringing her back to her days as a kid.
Despite the sounds of preceding times, The Strokes don’t spend the entirety of the record reminiscing. Closing track “Ode to the Mets” acts as a perfect curtain call, embracing a sound similar to that of Radiohead and creating a melancholy tone thanks in part to Casablancas’ somber lyrics.
“The New Abnormal” could not have come at a better time. With everyone stuck in their homes, the band delivered listeners a project full of lively instrumentals that proved that The Strokes haven’t forgotten about the sound that got them to where they are now. — Joe Eckstein
Billy Joel — “Vienna”
In a world that never stops and is constantly evolving, “Vienna” gave me a new perspective about how I sometimes need to slow down and take a look at what is right in front of me.
While the stay at home order was not ideal, the second verse in “Vienna” allowed me to understand that taking a break would help me not get overwhelmed or forget my goals and intentions in the first place.
“Slow down you’re doing fine/you can’t be everything you want to be before your time/Although it’s so romantic on the borderline tonight, tonight/Too bad it’s the life you lead…”
Before the pandemic hit, I was balancing a lot on my plate — from schoolwork and extracurriculars, to spending time with friends and participating in the events leading up to the Pittsburgh St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
I was extremely upset when I could not return to activities and see my peers nor my professors in school, but I came to terms that I was beginning to lose sight of what was important.
I realized after listening to “Vienna” that a quarantine was not the end of the world. Instead of focusing on the negative, I changed my thought process.
The Capital of Austria is Vienna and is nicknamed “City of Dreams.” So, if you are patient enough, “Vienna waits for you.”
Whatever it is I aspire to be in life will be embraced if I limit the stress endured and take a day off once and awhile. By bettering myself, I will see my full potential. — Courtney McGinley
Selwood — “Miss Daisy”
Like most people during quarantine, I found myself aimlessly scrolling through TikTok, trying to fill time. One day in early April, I stumbled upon a young artist promoting a single he had recently released and decided to give it a listen, which led me to discovering “Miss Daisy,” a soft alternative single.
One of the main reasons I continue to listen to this song is because of how much it reminds me of summer. Though this year did not provide a regular summer, listening to “Miss Daisy” in the car, shower or virtually anywhere made me forget that the circumstances were different.
I could close my eyes and imagine this song blasting out of the car windows at night while laughing with my friends, even though we never had the chance to make it a reality. In other words, it reminded me of the summer that could have been, which made it all the more important to me in quarantine.— Megan Kelby
Pearl Jam — “Ten”
When looking back at quarantine, Pearl Jam’s “Ten” stood out to me for how much I listened to it.
Filled with now iconic songs like “Alive,” “Black,” “Jeremy” and “Even Flow” to still great, although not as popular songs like “Why Go” or “Release,” the album has something for everyone.
While I love every song on this album, one of my favorites is easily “ Jeremy,” a song based on the true story of a young man who shot himself in front of his classmates. The song is so distinctive from Vedder’s impassioned screams, to Ament’s bass lines and McCready and Gossard’s guitar interplay, all backed by Krusen’s drumming. I would often play this song on my drive home from work.
Another song, “Even Flow,” has a much more “hard rock” style to it with a slightly higher energy than “Jeremy.” The song tells the experience of a homeless man who is possibly mentally ill.
This album, with its distinctive energy, got me through quarantine and made me want to pick up a guitar and jam along. I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you’ve never heard it before, give it a shot. — David Fortunato
Dua Lipa — “Future Nostalgia”
Every single song on “Future Nostalgia” has a replay factor and each song made me feel as if it were actually a normal summer.
Although I was stuck at home, the great vibes this album created made me feel hopeful and it made me enjoy my time at home more. This album was so bright and although there was so much tragedy going on in the world, I felt happiness while listening to this album.
Although this was a pop album, it felt so unique. The instrumentals felt retro, and Dua’s voice is so special. She created a breathtaking album with insanely catchy choruses and each song was very danceable.
Dua created a truly one of a kind album that defied the rules of mainstream pop music. Some standout tracks included: “Hallucinate,” “Love Again,” “Good In Bed” and “Break My Heart.” I love this album, as it’s certainly my favorite of the year so far. — Jack Freiser
Taylor Swift — “folklore”
The release caught everyone by surprise, and it further proves that Taylor Swift is still the best artist in the music industry.
The whole album is a lyrical masterpiece, as one would expect from Swift, but folklore could easily have the most mature and poetic lyrics she’s ever written.
The production fits perfectly into all the songs, and it’s nothing like Swift’s ever done before. The indie sound Swift took on really allowed her lyrical prowess to shine through, and the whole album tells a story from multiple perspectives, which is also something she’s never tried before.
Swift abandoned all the glossy, shining pop productions and made an album that you can play while you’re stuck at home with a cup of coffee. So rarely do we see pop icons like her switching into different genres so seamlessly, without sounding like she doesn’t fit in, and it further proves why Taylor Swift is probably still one of the best artists in the industry right now. — Jimmy Lu
Taylor Swift — “folklore”
Of all the different music genres and songs I listened to during quarantine (and believe me there were a lot), I always came back to “folklore” by Taylor Swift.
I’m a fan of Taylor Swift’s music, but “folklore” took everyone by surprise. After Swift’s upbeat and vibrant sounds from “Lover,” the chill indie and alternative vibes of “folklore” made this album stand out from the rest.
“Folklore” is a unique album because the songs are indeed folklores. They are a collection of stories, not personal accounts of past relationships that fans are accustomed to.
Swift described her own album as “wistful and full of escapism.” When listening to this album, it is easy to get swept away by the low, melancholy sounds of “my tears ricochet” and “this is me trying.” A few tears may have been shed when I first heard these two songs.
Hidden in this album is also a love triangle contained in three different songs, so cleverly constructed it could be missed if you don’t listen to the lyrics closely. “Betty,” “august” and “cardigan” each contain a perspective from a lover involved in the triangle. These three songs are wrapped in the themes of loss, romance, mistakes and memories.
In contrast with Swift’s most recent albums of contemporary pop, “folklore” is a more conceptual album because of its story-telling elements. It reflects Swift’s thorough and genius song-writing process seen through the lyrics of every song. No one knows if Swift has drifted away from the pop genre just yet, but the relaxing indie vibes were perfect for a few months in quarantine. — Grace Muratore
Kid Cudi and Willow Smith — “Rose Golden”
I did not think Kid Cudi and Willow Smith would prove to be one of the best duos that I have ever heard on any song.
When people are listening to most songs, they usually care about the lyrics and what they mean. This song has a lot of meaningful lyrics, with a good example being “future in my hands, God she had a plan.”
Hearing that lyric over and over again, especially during quarantine, gave me much more hope in what I can achieve in life. The future is always something I think about and put 100% of my effort towards so I can assure I will live a life that I know I would not regret living.
Kid Cudi is one of my favorite musicians to listen to at any time and he really helped make quarantine not as bad as it could have been. — Mike Merendino
Every summer I try to choose one band to binge their entire discography. This summer, I chose to go through the Smiths’ four studio albums.
I had always been a huge fan of many of their hits, such as “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now,” “Panic” and “There is a Light That Never Goes Out.” However, I never really checked to see what some of their deep cuts had to offer.
I discovered that I enjoyed their earlier work the best. Their self-titled first album had some decent tracks beyond just “This Charming Man” stemming from “Reel Around the Fountain,” “Miserable Lie” and “What Difference Does It Make.”
I found that the Smiths stood out early on because they already had a firm grasp of their style. Their second album “Meat Is Murder” drifted away from the aesthetic I enjoyed so much on their first album. I did, however, enjoy the tracks “Well I Wonder” and “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore.”
One of the best aspects of the Smiths’ sound is how they are able to blend bittersweet themes with easy, upbeat listening grooves. “I Know It’s Over,” for example, felt like the perfect Smiths track. It flawlessly blends the iconic melancholy lyrics with the slow empty dance floor feel they became famous for.
Overall, I found that a lot of the Smiths’ music helped me to find comfort in all of the sadness surrounding me during the pandemic. If the Smiths’ music teaches you anything, it’s that all sadness eventually passes if you are willing to let it. — Scott Perdue
The Weeknd — “After Hours”
Back in March when the pandemic initially struck and everyone had to quarantine, the world seemed cold, empty and lifeless. Life as we know it was slowly wilting away along with the hopes of summer vacation plans everywhere.
But on the bright side, what better way to waste the days away than listening to new music that artists were pumping out due to the newly acquired free time?
One artist that came out firing during quarantine was The Weeknd. He introduced us to “After Hours,” an album he had been working on for quite some time which proved to be the sound of the quarantine for millions of fans - including myself.
In my eyes, this album was truly a work of art. From the first song “Alone Again” all the way to the last song “Until I Bleed Out." I was truly amazed. It seemed that every tune had potential to be the top ranked song on Billboard’s Top 100.
The ability that The Weeknd possesses to consistently release masterpieces is spectacular, and "After Hours” falls nothing short of that.
“Blinding Lights” emerged as the song that set this album apart from others. Even though it’s a headbanger that’s probably the widespread favorite, I personally loved “In Your Eyes.”
This album was really what I needed to help me pass the time during a period in which time seemed to move slower than normal. — Nick Mancuso
Doja Cat — “Hot Pink”
One album in particular that got me through quarantine was “Hot Pink” by Doja Cat.
I had been familiar with some of her music for a couple of months and even remember when she performed at Penn State last November in the HUB-Robeson Center. However, I never really got into her music until quarantine rolled around and I was spending all of my free time on TikTok.
There is something so powerful about female rappers and the energy they bring to the music industry. That feeling is the main reason I really connected with Doja Cat’s album during this period of our lives.
Her music inspires women everywhere not to treat their sexual desires and femininity as a taboo subject. She is very open about sex and the female body throughout all of her music.
During a time when people all over the world felt alone and isolated, “Hot Pink” was inspiring and uplifting to me. Listening to Doja Cat’s music as a woman, I felt empowered to be more comfortable with my body and sexuality.
However with that said, I think that men can still enjoy listening to her music as well because she always provides clever lyrics paired with a catchy hip-hop beat.
“Hot Pink” was a really fun album to listen to during quarantine, and I’m glad I was exposed to it and the empowering themes present in Doja Cat’s music. — Sarah Simpson
Luke Combs — “Six Feet Apart”
Quarantine was hard on everyone. Whether it was not being able to see friends and families, missing out on school events or sports being put on hold - times were tough.
For me, music has helped me the most through those difficult times.
One of my favorite quarantine songs was “Six Feet Apart” by one of my favorite singers, Luke Combs. He sang this song on his Instagram live as something he just pulled together, but after an abundance of positive feedback and demands from fans, he released it on all streaming services.
The song talks about the struggles that everyone is going through during this pandemic and how he can’t wait until we all no longer have to be “six feet apart.” I personally loved it because of how relatable the lyrics were.
It made me happy to be reminded that I was not the only one going through this difficult time. It was comforting to know that everyone in the world is going through the exact same thing - having to stay at home to protect themselves and others.
This song is going to be played in 50 years from now to show others what it was like to have to go through this pandemic. Music unites us, no matter your race, gender, or religion. It has helped me and many others get through this tough time. — Payton Steckroat
Johnny Cash — “The Legend of Johnny Cash”
At home, one of the activities that helped me stay sane was driving around listening to my favorite compact disks. Out of those available to me, I listened to one in particular more than the others. This album was “The Legend of Johnny Cash.”
When I turn on the CD player in my car, there is no real reason to interfere with the volume while driving. All the songs are mixed well, and there were a few live recordings included but it never was a problem.
My view of Johnny Cash’s work expanded since I purchased this collection. Before, I only knew him for “Ring of Fire” and a select few songs. Now that I have listened to this at least five times, I have found myself humming tunes from it all the time.
A few of my favorites include “Get Rhythm,” “Highwayman” and “I’ve Been Everywhere.” The songs reflect a time when everything was not alright, which is very similar to our situation today.
Every time I listen to this album, I get the feeling that we will pull through the tough times. However, the journey is like life. It is difficult, but you have to soldier on. — David Myers
Kanye West, timeless artists and TikTok songs
Just like quarantine, my music taste is a mess.
I did not have one specific album or artist that I listened to during those four months. However, I did go through three phases: Kanye West, revisiting old albums by classic artists and TikTok songs.
One of my best friends is infatuated with Kanye West and she got me hooked. I listened to every album from start to finish and on top of that, I watched mini YouTube documentaries about how the albums were made.
“808s and Heartbreak” was on repeat for a week, as well as his collaborations with the Sunday Service. A couple of my favorite songs were “Heartless” and “Father Stretch.”
Additionally, I jumped from Sam Cooke to R.E.M. to Bill Withers as I listened to some timeless artists. I watched a lot of movies during quarantine and most of the songs on my playlist would come from the soundtracks.
My dad also expanded my taste with some of his favorite artists like The Corrs, Simon and Garfunkel and the Allman Brothers Band.
Just like every teen, I was on TikTok for a lot of the day. I hate to admit this, but some of the songs and artists I discovered on the app, I started to get into.
Specifically, I really got into Surfaces, Billie Eilish and DaBaby. “Falling” by Surfaces is a great driving song and I would drive around at night listening to it. During those sad nights, I would listen to Billie Eilish’s song “come out and play.” My DaBaby phase did not last long because I would listen to him when I worked out and I did not do that for long.
The one thing I will miss about self-isolation is being able to practice my hobby - finding new music and organizing songs into perfect playlists. I set a foundation for Spotify to recommend music to me and now I will never not have music to listen to.
I am currently trying to find ways to still listen to music while in college. I will never forget quarantine and how the artists set the stage for my days. — Emily McGlynn
Real Estate — “Atlas”
Real Estate’s “Atlas” could very well be the soundtrack to days with perfect weather. The New Jersey based band has always had a knack for crafting explicitly breezy music but this is the album where they hit on all cylinders, with every band member getting their time to shine.
When quarantine started, I remember spending a lot of days inside my room, wondering when life would return to normal. The first day of weather that was too good to pass up, I grabbed my headphones and went for a long walk.
I played this album in its entirety and felt as though there were no problems in the world.
Walking the streets of my hometown, I heard Courtney’s nostalgic croon for simpler times. In the aptly titled “Past Lives,” Courtney sings ‘I cannot come back to this neighborhood without feeling my own age’ and for a second I felt as though Courtney was reading my thoughts aloud.
While I thought Real Estate may be my soundtrack for days when the weather is just right, it was during quarantine that I realized that wasn’t the case. Real Estate is a band that can make you feel as though the weather is perfect and life couldn’t be better, and it doesn’t get better than "Atlas.” — Paul Martin
Soulja Boy — “Kiss Me Thru the Phone”
I do not know what it was about quarantine, but for some odd reason all I wanted to listen to was throwbacks from the early 2000s.
All I could think about this summer was that I wanted things to go back to normal so badly. So, what did I do to cope? I listened to my favorite song from 2008, from when the biggest problem in my life was trying to color inside of the lines in kindergarten art class.
Listening to music from the past is always fun, but quarantine made me miss the days when life was simpler. So much that I could not help myself from blasting my childhood favorites in my bedroom.
I even went as far as digging up my iTunes library from elementary and middle school that I listened to on my iPod Shuffle. After uncovering all of those old memories, I got stuck on one song in particular: “Kiss Me Thru the Phone” by Soulja Boy featuring Sammie. It became my ultimate anthem throughout quarantine, and it is still a song that I listen to almost every day.
“Kiss Me Thru the Phone” not only gave me nostalgia, but it was also relevant to the situation we were all facing in quarantine. The song is all about missing your significant other and only being able to communicate over the phone.
I was not able to see my friends and a lot of my family members from other states for a very long time. Zoom and FaceTime became the only ways that I could connect with the people I love, much like Soulja Boy could only kiss his girl “through the phone.”
I also missed the end of my senior year, prom and a proper graduation, so the relatable yet upbeat tempo helped me keep my spirits high.
The song made me feel better just because it brought back so many good memories from my childhood. My music taste definitely did not mature over quarantine, but the throwbacks brought some comfort back into my life for which I am entirely grateful. — Courtney Benedetto
Joe Eckstein is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at email@example.com.
Courtney McGinley is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Megan Kelby is a freshman majoring in communications. To contact her, email at email@example.com.
David Fortunato is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jack Freiser is a freshman majoring in either media studies or telecommunications. To contact him, email email@example.com.
Jimmy (Chien-Hsing) Lu is a senior majoring in telecommunications. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grace Muratore is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email email@example.com.
Michael Merendino is a junior majoring in telecommunications. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scott Perdue is a senior majoring in secondary education. To contact him, email email@example.com.
Nicholas Mancuso is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact, his email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Simpson is a junior majoring in film-video. To contact her, email email@example.com.
Payton Steckroat is a freshman majoring in journalism. To contact her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Myers is a junior majoring in telecommunications. To contact him, email at email@example.com.
Emily McGlynn is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paul Martin is a junior majoring in telecommunications. To contact him, email at email@example.com
Courtney Benedetto is a freshman majoring in print/digital journalism. To contact her, email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Senior / Secondary Education
Scott Perdue is a student studying secondary education at Penn State University. He is passionate about voice and conversation mediums. He believes that music and film are an important form of communication and enjoys constructively criticizing an artist’s work.
Fourth-year student / Telecommunications
David Myers is a fourth-year student from Watsontown, Pennsylvania. He is a member of the student-run radio station CommRadio at Penn State. He is in the arts & entertainment department.
Senior / Broadcast Journalism
Junior / Broadcast Journalism
Jimmy (Chien-Hsing) Lu
Senior / Telecommunications
Junior / Broadcast Journalism
Nicholas Mancuso is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism.
Courtney McGinley is a Sophomore from Pittsburgh, PA, and is majoring in Broadcast Journalism with a minor in Business. She serves as a News Reporter for CommRadio. In addition to CommRadio, she is a Field Reporter for PSNtv and an Entertainment Reporter for the Nittany Lion Red Carpet Network. Her twitter handle is @court_mcginley.
Second-year / Broadcast Journalism
Senior / Telecommunications
Senior / Film-Video
Freshman / Print/Digital Journalism
Fourth year / Broadcast Journalism
Freshman / Telecommunications
Second-Year / Journalism