The outbreak of the coronavirus has changed a lot in life from school, work, grocery shopping, and everyday activities. What also has changed is an individual’s perspective on common practice prior to Covid-19. Moreover, pop culture has been given a new meaning in movies, songs, and books that were once just fantasy but now a reality. According to Wired, many people have been taking the time to watch both old and new movies about outbreaks like “Outbreak” and “Contagion”. While the situations those movies depict are not complete replications of real-life events, they are used as an escape and a comparison to better comprehend the new events, especially in a new perspective of people currently living in a pandemic.
Much like movies, well-known songs have also gained new uses and meanings. Though the REM song “It’s The End of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” was one of the first songs that played on the radio when the first social distancing orders were announced, it does not have a new meaning in today’s context but a more appropriate theme applied to recent events. There are other songs whose original connotations and meanings can be taken into a new interpretation that was not intended by the artists.
One particular song has the greatest message for today’s world in its title while not even talking about an apocalypse, doomsday, or pandemics: “Don’t Stand So Close (To Me)” by The Police. The song actually details the temptations of lust between a young teenage girl and her teacher and the repercussions from acting on the feelings. Given the chorus out of context, though, and the song sounds like an anthem for those practicing social distancing.
Sting pleads for people to stop standing close to him, becoming the master of staying at least six feet apart from everyone. Though the verse detailing the exact situation the narrator is in may not be the best song to play when out in public, the chorus’ chants of “please don’t stand so close to me” is definitely fitting as one shops in gloves and a face mask.
The Animals’ song “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” is another song that takes on a whole new meaning throughout time. The song’s literal meaning is about getting away from the working-class life where he has seen many fall into the trap of working to death. The song was soon adopted during the Vietnam War as an anthem for the soldiers abroad, taking the title to heart during some of the harder times of war. The song is not full of aphorisms that can be reused for recent time, but the title lyrics are really what places this song appropriately.
This song has nothing to do with staying at home or going away, but the resentment in the singer’s claim that “we gotta get out of this place/if it’s the last thing we ever do” cements the universal restlessness felt by those staying home.
Finally, the Kinks’ “This Time Tomorrow” also takes a new meaning in today’s world. While the Kinks’ song is about traveling on tour, the words somehow give a feeling of both anxiety and hope. Sailing over “empty seas” and overlooking a “field full of houses” does bring images of traveling on an airplane, but the narrator also claims he is in “perpetual motion” and the world doesn’t really matter to him.
At this point in quarantine, these words seem more and more relatable. Every day feels like it’s the same day and the more that time passes, the less likely it seems that this thing will end, forcing many to feel numb to everything that is going on outside. Where will we be this time tomorrow? The narrator doesn’t care, he just wants to keep going.
At the same time though, the uncertainty of the song can be seen as hopeful. There are references to spaceships making the song not only about what will happen tomorrow, but what will happen years and decades from now, wondering what will change or stay the same over time.
Though our lives have been completely derailed because of Covid-19 and social distancing, there is still hope in escaping through any sort of entertainment and comfort in the relevance of unrelated music.
Wired.com, Genius.com, Billboard.com