New York, NY (Top40 Charts) It would be a natural assumption to think that music streaming would see something of a coronavirus bump (apologies if the wording seems crass) at the moment. After all, so many of us are at home looking for things to divert our attention. But the reverse seems to be true, with the likes of Spotify seeing a drop in the number of streams in March. One theory put forward is that it's the lack of 'blue-chip' album releases, and fewer opportunities to promote them.
Regardless, many of us will be turning to music as a distraction from the coverage of Covid-19. Loneliness is a by-product of the lockdown, but it's also something that touches us when we are in a fully functional society. Below we are going to look at five examples of songs about loneliness, each of which, we believe, takes a different perspective on it.
Robyn - Dancing On My Own
There is always a sense of melancholy hanging over Robyn's music, but few of her songs are as gut-wrenchingly distressing as Dancing on My Own. The singer positions herself voyeuristically "in the corner" of a nightclub, "watching you with her". It encapsulates perfectly the sense of panic of being that can come from a painful break-up, even going so far as to suggest violent retribution with "stilettos and broken bottles". A complex song that tells us so much about the devastating loneliness that comes from being cut off from just a specific person.
A-ha - Take On Me
Cheating a little bit here as the clues to this song's meaning are arguably more prevalent in the ground-breaking video than Take On Me's lyrics. Before the advent of online dating for introverts, the shy among us dreamt of being plucked from our sorrows by the hand of a mysterious lover. It's a trope that crops up again and again in 80s cinema and music, and A-ha pulled it off perfectly with Take On Me. The song has a dual quality of being both sad and uplifting, and if the lyrics don't take you, "shying away, I'm coming for your love, okay?", the catchy synth-pop sound will certainly brighten up your day.
Pixies - Cactus
A complete gear shift from the first two pop-friendly tunes on this list, Cactus is 2 minutes 18 seconds of dark lamentation. Black Francis' lyrics are indecipherable at the best of times, but it's almost impossible to work out if Cactus is a plea for the return of a lover, "Just wishing that I had just something you wore/ I put it on when I go lonely.", or if it's a riposte to the same person, "And a letter in your writing doesn't mean you're not dead." Often overlooked within Pixes revered output, Cactus is a bleak lullaby that has a quiet power that hints at hope.
Bon Iver - Flume
The opening track on Bon Iver's phenomenal debut album (For Emma, Forever Ago), Flume is a haunting masterpiece from John Vernon. The frontman had isolated himself in a cabin in Wisconsin for health reasons, coming up with the bulk of this critically-acclaimed album. There are a lot of persuasive theories on the meaning behind Flume's complex lyrics, ranging from break-ups to maternity and birth. We can agree, however, that the song does deal with connections, "I am mother's only one, it's enough", even if they are damaged or slipping away, "leaving rope burns".
Sting and The Police sure did like to make songs - Message in a Bottle, Don't Stand So Close to Me, Englishman in New York - about loneliness and alienation. Why choose So Lonely over one of the other songs from The Police? No reason. But coming off the band's debut album, Outlandos d'Amour, the song is one of the best examples of The Police's reggae-influenced roots, something they'd start to shed later. The song juxtaposes mournful verse, "Now no one's knocked upon my door/for a thousand years or more.", with the uplifting chorus, repeating "So lonely". The Police were accused of - and later admitted to - basing the song on Bob Marley's No Woman, No Cry. But who cares? So Lonely is a perfect little ditty that can get you out of a funk.