Music is known to get people through tough times—both the people making it and the people listening.
With the toughest times in, uh, the last century hitting America currently, it’s like the Bat-Signal for musicians. Whether the urge to perform stemmed from an altruistic duty to comfort fans, or the Blair Witch Project mode of “I can’t die if I’m still filming,” the early days of the quarantine in America saw an immediate wave of virtual performances.
When these couch concerts first arrived, they mostly trickled out through Instagram Live or Twitter.
*corona chaos ensues*
*toilet paper is now currency*
*frozen burritos for the rest of my life possibly*
“anyway, here’s wonderwall…” pic.twitter.com/rYbuNc7E8M
— hayley from Paramore ???? (@yelyahwilliams) March 14, 2020
These performances were more relaxed and intimate, raw and stripped down than artists could manage in live venues. And they helped cement the idea that we’re all going through this pandemic together, although another musician, Lady Gaga, would go on to correctly acknowledge that wealthy musicians are not exactly going through it in the same way as everyone else.
The next wave of quarantine tunes saw musicians migrating to Zoom.
The Roots performed this way on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon: At Home Edition, for instance, in late March.
More recently, the performers from Broadway musicals have been coming together on Zoom, from around the world, in an attempt to inject the medium with some razzle-dazzle. John Krasinski brokered a Hamilton original cast reunion on his social media show, Some Good News, while the cast of the Carole King musical, Beautiful, performed the song “You’ve Got a Friend” to raise money for the Actors Fund.
Now we are witnessing an evolution of this trend.
The initial shock of lockdown is, for the most part, over. Virtual performances are getting better coordinated, and for more reasons than comforting fans, promoting safety, and fundraising relief efforts. In the next wave, we’re going to be seeing more and more artists making music because they are either bored, feeling inspired, or simply fulfilling the need to keep their careers moving by rolling out new material. In any case, the first major music video made entirely on Zoom dropped this week, and it is a banger.
“Phenom” by poppy psych-rockers Thao & the Get Down Stay Down finds the nine-person crew working through meticulous choreography in their individual spaces. They take advantage of the Brady Bunch opening credits squares setting and interact with each other throughout. At one point, everyone turns their cameras sideways, and time their movements to appear as though a body is falling through the screen.
It’s a fantastic video all on its own, but it’s even better as a harbinger of what’s to come. Thao & the Get Down Stay Down have thrown down the gauntlet to all comers. If you’ve got new art you’d like to put out creatively, you may have no resources but you also have no excuses.