Can you imagine the harrowing history module future GCSE students will have to study all about 2020? If you told me 12 months ago that Brexit wouldn’t be the major story of the year I would’ve been relieved. But the leave/remain headlines were replaced with protests and pandemics, cancelled concerts and Christmas, natural disasters, the loss of loved ones and legends. Across the Atlantic, Nashville has faced tornados and a bizarre bomb.
Yet here we are, cowboy boots on and still standing (or perhaps kneeling). While the ‘coronacoaster’ of emotions has sometimes been impossible to express, Country Music has never failed to put the whole messy human experience into words. So this year, more than ever, we’ve used music as medicine.
Some songs have said exactly we’ve felt, others have helped hope rise, and others have managed to make us laugh despite the headlines.
1. Brad Paisley, No I in Beer
This uplifting release (dare you not to smile) was first written way before we knew Corona as anything other than a beer brand, but with a couple of clever lyric changes Brad captured the spirit of the world with his typical humour. While we were all suddenly working and meeting on zoom, so was Brad Paisley – from crashing random people’s zoom meetings to having his own with Darius Rucker, Tim McGraw and Jimmie Allen. And it’s all captured in this brilliant video that is Peak 2020.
2. Miranda Lambert, Bluebird
Here’s another B.C. (Before Covid) song that seemed to come into its own this year. This song about keeping the ‘light on in my soul’ when ‘life keeps giving you lemons’ was already a catchy, easy listen. Now, perhaps because of the melancholic tinge or perhaps because the video features Miranda in a birdcage, it really resonated during lockdown.
3. Tim McGraw, I called Mama
Clearly I have been softened this year because – shock, horror, I’m the one person who didn’t particularly like Tim’s chart topper Humble and Kind. But this equally wholesome song gets to me. With another video-call video, Tim sings about loss and how it leads us to reflect and appreciate the loved ones we still have with us. No, I’m not crying, you’re crying.
4. Lee Brice, Hey World
Who hasn’t needed to put themself into a time-out and detach from news feeds or social media at some point this year? This stripped back soulful tune is the definitive soundtrack of a duvet day. “Hey, world, Leave me alone, I don’t wanna turn on the TV, Ain’t nothin’ but bad news on…”
5. Kelsea Ballerini, Hole in the Bottle
This year we learnt the word furlough and shortly after day drinking in pyjamas lost its stigma. Kelsea’s playful song with 90s country vibes, describes a scenario where the bottles of wine keep ‘mysteriously’ emptying. And according to our nations lockdown recycling bins, it’s a common phenomenon.
6. Mickey Guyton, Heaven Down Here
In the wake of BLM protests a lot of Nashville began to reflect on why county music seemed to have barely moved on since the days Charley Pride’s race was hidden on his concert flyers. It meant this black female country singer got a lot more attention. This song, wiht Mickey’s usual strong vocals, feels like an earnest prayer. It’s one to be sung along with, hairbrush-microphone in hand, probably between some Carrie Underwood and some Martina McBride.
7. Old Crow Medicine Show, Quarantined
Let’s wave goodbye to 2020 with a bit of comedy. We’ve got the bands signature bluegrass style coupled with cheeky lyrics specially pertinent for anyone who’s been single / trying to date through 2020. “I’d like to kiss you but I’m quarantined…“
8. Maddie & Tae, We Need Christmas
While many festive albums do little to refresh the usual old Christmas songs and often smell of cinnamon mixed with desperation, this original track included in Maddie & Tae’s EP sums up the mood of winter 2020. It became all the more poignant when the period of Christmas bubbling was cancelled and Tier 4 was introduced in England meaning none of our team could travel home for Christmas.
9. Brothers Osborne, Hatin’ Somebody
Just in case we think this year was all about isolation and disease, there was also the (latest) explosion of America’s racial divisions which sent an Atlantic tidal wave over here, plus the conspiracy theory riddled U.S. election campaign and bitter ongoing British politics sagas. It seems a great time for this anthem of unity…
10. Luke Combs, Six feet Apart
Make it 2 Meters to us Brits. During the first lockdown many of our favourite singers penned on-the-nose songs about what we were all going through. Most were first performed in the facebook livestreams which brought us right into their homes, before being release into the music world. Luke Combs’ offering was one of the most iconic.
What’s been your anthem of the year?
Here’s hoping for a happy, music-filled 2021,
Brits in Boots