Music that got me through 2020

Music is basically how I feel things. If I’m not listening to something, then I can’t be entirely sure if I”m really here. Some playlists are great for expressing a feeling, and some great for changing feelings. My personal Don’t Panic playlist comes to mind as one I designed to help me avoid spiraling into anxiety, for example. I usually make playlists for my birthday parties which later turn into wonderful documents of the energy I brought into that year.

2020 was one of the worst years I lived through. It was challenging on both a personal level and a societal one. And of course there was no birthday party for me. But it would have been even worse without great music to help me experience and express my feelings. Here are some of the playlists that helped me make it through last year.


At the very beginning of the year I attended the wonderful Creating Change conference. Creating Change is one of very few places where I have experienced feeling seen as the unique queer person that I am. I started this playlist as I was getting excited to travel to Houston for the conference, and invited other participants to add tracks as well.

In March, my brilliant friend and comrade Liza Sabater started a Twitter thread of COVID survival songs. I compiled them into a playlist so we could enjoy them on Spotify.

Liza’s playlist (and my continued freaking out at the lack of any necessary action to prevent a genocidal pandemic) inspired me to make my own playlist about what I knew was going to be an extended period of isolation and suffering.

I was inspired by this summer’s uprisings against police brutality and white supremacy. Even though it’s tragic that it seems to require so much suffering for people to wake up, I’m at least heartened by the increasing realization that police and prisons as we know them are only perpetuating cycles of personal, institutional, and societal harm. They can never be a path toward a world with less suffering.

Almost all of my socializing in the past year has happened online, and so it only made sense that a group of friends compiled this playlist for a fabulous, free, and feminist friend’s Zoom birthday party.

And in a year when mental health and stability has been such a challenge for so many of us, we also collaborated on this playlist to facilitate a friend’s healing process.

I wasn’t at all sure that a free and fair election would even be possible, but the period leading up to it was such a nightmare that all I could hope for was to make it to November so that at least the electoral season would end and we could move to the next phase of the struggle for peace and justice.

And after surviving that tense moment I was grateful to one of my favorite authors and thinkers adrienne maree brown for understanding how small and incremental yet important that victory was.


Header image credit: “Music Note Bokeh” by all that improbable blue, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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