I applaud artists who use their music to make sense of 2020 and give us hope while moving into the new year. It’s what we need right now — great, timeless songs and a big hug. It’s been a dreadful year for many reasons, and music can help us cope by providing perspective and an escape.
Music can make us feel less alone by acknowledging the feelings of loneliness and isolation. But music can also help us distract from the bleak news headlines by just being happy-go-lucky, no fuss, escapist fare to give the soul a break.
I’m a little surprised we haven’t seen a whole lot more music directly inspired by the pandemic. Songs that address the loneliness, the absurdity of it all and commemorate the people in our community we lost. It’s a delicate balance for artists to figure out the right story tell. Plus, they have been severely impacted themselves. Artists have not been able to play shows and had to come up with novel new ways to organize writing sessions in quarantine.
Alexander 23, Alec Benjamin, Twenty One Pilots, BTS, Luke Combs and OneRepublic are a few artists who did put out music pretty early on during the pandemic to comfort fans. And of course Taylor Swift went on a binge to create an introspective folk-pop sound that honestly defines how all of us felt in 2020 (and it will likely garner her a few GRAMMYs later this year, I’m sure of it).
Jack Newsome’s “The Year The World Stood Still” can be added to the list of notable lockdown-induced releases. It’s unlike any other song on that list. It’s not a sad or sentimental song — it finds a happy middle between bright and gloomy.
The best way to describe it is that “The Year The World Stood Still” sonically feels like gently gliding down the end of the tunnel, towards the light. Positivity dominates while it also acknowledges the hardship we’ve all felt. It’s an incredibly tough balance to pull off, but Newsome did it perfectly, which is a testament to his songwriting savvy. In fact, there’s a playful quality to the song along with Newsome’s soothing vocals that make it deliciously pleasant to the ear and genuinely timeless.
“The Year The World Stood Still was produced to perfection by Cambo. Newsome’s knack for melody and gorgeous harmonies combined with Cambo’s crisp, fizzy production is a slice of pop magic. Everytime I listen to the song it sparkles. There’s a glossy veneer applied to the track that amplifies its optimism and forward outlook. Newsome and Cambo are a perfect pairing.
The song’s hopeful sentiment is not only captured by its vibrant melody. Newsome also shares very specific and poignant observations in his lyrics that make light of of a rough situation.
Lyrics like, “we grew apart, six feet between us, boy, if looks could kill.” I can totally relate. Or how about, “When you’re waving your goodbye, underneath the blue-ish skies,” which is a reference the cleaner air in Los Angeles due to the lack of traffic. Newsome faces 2020 hardship with a smile in an effort to cope.
It’s an exciting moment for Newsome. He shared on Instagram that he feels mixed about 2020. It’s been an awful year, but personally he reached some big milestones, including signing to his label, 12Tone, a home for exciting new talent that pushes frontiers. It’s a big deal for the young singer who first emerged on my radar after he participated on NBC’s Songland and collaborated with the great Shane McAnally on music.
McAnally knows how to spot talent from miles away so it came as no surprise that he signed Newsome to SMACKSongs, the publishing and management company he helped co-found. Newsome is surrounded there by people who care deeply about music and so his career is in good hands.
I’m excited to see and hear where 2021 will take Newsome. “The Year The World Stood Still” is a perfect song to help mentally close a chapter and start writing a new one. If Newsome keeps up this pop brilliance with strong melodies and thoughtful lyrics, we’re in for much brighter days.