A Pandemic Through Music

The fear, panic, and uncertainty felt from the pandemic left many people searching for outlets. Tune in to discover how lyrical expression portrayed the challenges society faced in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Within this exhibit, you will find a playlist of 7 songs written during and about the COVID-19 Pandemic. These "pandemic" songs vary in expression. Some illustrate the fear, panic, and uncertainty felt when trapped within the boundaries of the pandemic, while other songs describe individuals doing their part to reduce the spread with a sense of hope that this period shall pass. Regardless of the lyrical expression, each song portrays a sense of either trust or concern in the approach of first-hand responders. A lyrical analysis of each song is provided within the content of this exhibit.

Song: When the Panic Sets in
Artist: Dane Clark and the Bathroom Boys

This song illustrates the fear, panic, and uncertainty felt by the public as they’re essentially confined due to the status of the pandemic.

Lyric Analysis

“Folks want their lives back, their nerves are shot.” The phrase their nerves are shot, means that an individual is in a state of mental exhaustion or is emotionally/ mentally strained.

“Incarceration tough to bear.” The line expresses how quarantine is similar to that of being incarcerated--the state of being confined in prison.

“Trust the wisest ones to guide us now.” At this point of the song, the artist is declaring that society as a whole is putting their faith in the “wisest ones”. The wisest ones being medical staff, scientists, engineers, etc.

“For the job-ers there's not much relief, too many numbers way too fast.” This line offers a brief description of the influx of covid patients; the number of patients that needed to be treated by front-line medical staff was too much too fast. Due to the overwhelming amount of cases, there’s not much relief for the staff as they continue to work tirelessly. The phrase “too many numbers way too fast” could also refer to the death of many patients.

“Still trying to catch up as the days proceed.” Again, this line references the impact of the surge of COVID-19 cases. The health care workers are trying to keep up with treatment, but as the days proceed more patients flood in.

Song: Do What You Can
Artist: Bon Jovi & Jennifer Nettles

This song describes individuals doing their part to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Lyric Analysis

“Nothing's the same, this ain't a game, we gotta make it through.” The phrase expresses the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic by stating it’s not a game, the people and the nation have to survive. It can be inferred that both the social and health struggles are both connected to making it through these trying times.

“As we wave outside the window, Older loved ones stay inside, Moms and babies blowing kisses, maybe saving someone's life.” The combination of phrases describes how the restricted contact could potentially save someone’s life, especially the elderly. This highlights both the risk and necessary precautions.

“When you can't do what you do, you do what you can.” A reference to the song’s title, stating that when you can’t do what you’d normally do because of the restrictions of COVID-19, you do what you can to limit the spread.

“The chicken farm from Arkansas bought workers PPE...Not before 500 more had succumbed to this disease.” The two lines tell of an all too common situation; a workplace, in this case a chicken farm from Arkansas, supplied it’s workers with personal protective equipment (PPE). Though this was not before 500 workers on that same farm had died due to COVID-19. This could possibly be due to a lack of urgency, or it could be the result of the widespread shortages of PPE.

Song: This Too Shall Pass
Artist: Mike Love

The singer reveals how people wonder how long the virus and its protocols will last; this song provides a sense of hope that it “shall pass.”

Lyric Analysis

“People are wondering how long it will last, as the saying goes, this too shall pass.” Everyone is wondering how long will the pandemic last? How long will the distancing and containment be? The song emphasizes that no matter what, it will pass.

“First responders and the national guard, doctors and nurses all working real hard.” Quite simply, this line demonstrates a common appreciation for frontline workers.

“Just be cautious, don't be afraid.” The line stresses the importance of not fearing the virus, but taking precaution.

“Do what the doctors recommend, the sooner we do this pandemic will end.” The pandemic and its effects were never anticipated to the extent to which it was experienced. The line suggests that by listening to scholars and frontline workers, the nation will be able to return to normal as cooperation produces results.

Song: Lockdown Part II Artist: The Dirty Knobs

This song delivers insight to life during lockdown (including protests).

Lyric Analysis

“Six months later, it ain't no joke.” This phrase provides a sense of when the events discussed within the song took place. The lockdown has durated 6 months.

“No one's got a clue...Whole system is broke.” From the previously presented line, we can conclude that it’s still the early stages of the pandemic. Society has yet to adjust and gain information. As a result, no one understands how to proceed.

“Sending in the militia, when there's no real need, We got peaceful protestors left in the street to bleed.” The early stages of COVID-19 were also the period where Black Lives Matter protests sparked major involvement nationwide. However, peaceful protestors were being attacked with teargas and rubber pellets.

“Got a COVID patient with a thousand mile stare...A quarter million dead, Does anybody care.” A quarter million people have died from COVID-19; the numbers are increasing too fast.

“No relief anywhere in sight.” This heavy loaded line indicates that this is a point where there has been no progress on vaccines, thus no relief yet.

“Millions are out of work, and the future ain't lookin' bright.” This line shows the state of the nation. People are out of jobs, manufacturing industries have slowed production, and the economy is experiencing the effects of COVID-19.

Song: Life in Quarantine
Artist: Ben Gibbard

This song describes the emptiness and anxiousness of life in quarantine.

Lyric Analysis

“People have a way of getting crazy, when they think they'll be dead in a month.” This line reveals the wave of panic that has spread through society. Panic rises as the death count increases and relief is nowhere to be seen.

Song: Stay Home
Artist: Big & Rich

This song communicates that despite the struggles of doing so, you can do your part by staying home.

Lyric Analysis

“No reason in the world for you to roam... All you gotta do is stay home.” At the stage of COVID-19 when the song was written, staying home was expressed as enough in regards to doing your part to combat the spread of the virus.

“We're all about half crazy, kids are bouncin' off the wall.” This line illustrates pandemic life at home due to in-person school and work being relocated to online settings which can be attended within the “comfort” of one's own home.

“Yoga's done got cancelled, Mama's pacin' down the hall.” Many people’s escape hobby had been cancelled. This contributed to the increase in stress brought by the pandemic.

“Home school's now in session, and I'm pullin' out my hair.” Despite being able to attend school from home, the lack of comfort and increase in distraction proved to be more challenging than ever.

“The shelves are bare and empty 'cause some people just don't care...Got one roll of toilet paper and I'm down to my last square.” Similar to the lack of PPE, stores had a lack of hand sanitizer, toilet paper, etc.

Song: Six Feet Apart
Artist: Luke Combs

This song discusses returning to “normal” life where people no longer have to remain 6 feet apart (physical distancing).

Lyric Analysis

“There will be light after dark someday when we aren't six feet apart.” Throughout the song, the lyrics act as reassurance, as they instil the view of the hopeful future when we don’t have to stay 6 ft apart. The phrase “There will be light after dark” conveys the idea of a light at the end of a tunnel. The aftermath of the pandemic will look brighter.