2020 By the Lyrics

The songs that dominated the past year … explained

Written by Molly Liebergall

The past 12 months were a whirlwind of crisis, protest and politics. Coupled with the audiovisual app TikTok’s explosive rise among young people, smaller artists managed to find footholds in the music industry in the viral popularity of their spring and summer singles. Below are a few songs from this year that make subtle or not-so-subtle nods to what life was like in 2020.

Curtis Roach & Tyga: Bored in the House [Explicit] – March 28

The song that became the coronavirus quarantine anthem, “Bored in the House” originally spawned from a 15-second clip the artist posted on TikTok and Instagram of him lying on the floor, bored and mellowly rapping the chorus as he knocked a rhythm with his knuckles. After the song quickly became the top sound on TikTok at more than 4 million uses, Tyga got on board and added his own verse, albeit less family-friendly than Roach’s about cartoons and fast food.

The original TikTok turned into the song’s repetitive, yet hypnotically rhythmic chorus.

Okay, I’m bored in the house and I’m in the house bored (Bored) Bored in the house and I’m in the house bored (Bored)

Bored than a motherf—er, in the house bored

And I’m bored than a motherf—er, in the house bored

Bored in the house, bored in the house, bored (Bored)

Bored in the house, bored in the house, bored (Bored)

I’m bored than a motherf—er, in the house bored

And I’m bored than a motherf—er, in the house bored (Ayy)

Tyga spends much of his verse chronicling the day-to-day quarantine antics that listeners around the world can relate to.

Sittin’ on the couch and I’m going through my Netflix (Yeah)

Bored than a motherf—er, I ain’t even doing s—

In March, social activity came to a grinding halt in states that underwent COVID-19 lockdowns and safety protocols. Though his lofty lifestyle shielded him from many of the dangers of the pandemic, Tyga — like other celebrities — had to stay in. His jewelry may cost more than most people will make in their lifetimes, but if a $500,000 chain falls in Tyga’s walk-in closet and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Neck frozen with nowhere to g, b—- (No)

Pop in COD on the PS4 (Yeah)

In two breaths, Tyga expresses two struggles of the pandemic: one that unites everyone, and one that is unique to performers.

We can heat up some ramen, can’t go to the store, haha (Hah)

Can’t even go on tour (No)

Tyga’s assets undoubtedly cushion him from how quarantine has negatively impacted so many others, but rich and famous or not, isolation gets to you.

So bored, I am losing my mind (Mind)

After another round of the chorus, Curtis Roach, the original mind behind the song, jumps in with a verse packed with humorous cracks and detailed nuances of quarantine life.

Ayy, I’m in the crib like an infant

With some Badu playin’, burning incense

Bottle, tonic, gin mixed in

Snoop house shoes, getting down in the kitchen

Ayy, I’ma socialize at a distance

I’m living my best life, minding my business (My business)

And my antisocials for the win, win

Locked down, I’ma stay stayin’ in, in (In, in)

Ramen noodles every night for my din-din

Hulu, binge watchin’ episodes of Ben-10 (Yeah)

Isolation, Roach mentions throughout the verse, can also have its perks for people who prefer to be a team of one.

In quarantine, I’m the quarterback (Quarterback)

As quarterback, Roach made the executive decision to opt for contactless takeout.

And the food here, shout out DoorDash (Shout out DoorDash)

Where the napkins? I need more of that, ayy (I need more of that)

Roach delivers a lot of wit and transparency in his verse, and just as many pop culture references. Two of my favorites are callbacks to the Disney spinoffs of “That’s So Raven” and “Finding Nemo.”

I’m in the house like Cory

Where you could find me like Dory (Dory)

Lonely God: Sunday – May 7

The Baltimore-based artist Lonely God first gained some recognition from his 2018 single “Marlboro Nights,” which reached millions of listens over nearly 300,000 videos using his sound on TikTok. Lonely God — named as if he knew what 2020 had in store — is the first signee of PizzaSlime Records, a recent collaboration with artist Diplo.

His pandemic song, “Sunday” has a clear message: nothing is the same when every day is the same.

Still spendin’ all my days inside

Still lookin’ at the birds in the window

Still thinkin’ I’ma lose my mind

Still starin’ at the trees when the wind blow

Not the same life we had as before

So you miss all your friends, well, you don’t say?

Nothin’ really feels the same anymore

Sunday isn’t fun when every day is Sunday

Lonely God yearns for the time “before,” when people didn’t have to spend neverending days alone watching the world creep by from inside. Meanwhile, as he watches the birds fly freely outside, Lonely God poetically longs for social interaction.

Still dreamin’ of the social climb

Still thinkin’ that I’m dead in the water

Still breathin’ in the fumes I find

Still after every day, there’s another

Aaron Taos, Lonely God and Huron John: Control (Remix) – July 8

Though the original track by Aaron Taos came out in 2018, Lonely God and 20-year-old Chicagoan Huron John added their own verses to “Control” in their July 2020 remix. The song’s central themes — staying home, losing control and living every day the same — apply nicely to the pandemic, but Taos wrote the lyrics long before the first COVID-19 case.

His original opening verse remains the same in the remix.

Sitting here thinkin’ bout society

Do you wanna hear some irony?

I don’t like going out

But I don’t wanna stay at home

Laying here thinkin’ bout the things I hate

Staring at a screen til my mind goes blank

It’s the same every day

When you know you’re not in control

Lonely God steps in first to share some sentiments of instability and insurmountability — both common feelings amidst the uncertainty of the pandemic.

I been feeling like I lost my mind now

Every mountain that I had to climb I’m

Bonafide I’m dying every day

(See the worst hasn’t come around)

Had enough of the suits and parents

Feel like I’m never allowed to stand I’m

Losing all my self determined fate

I’ll never never never never be

In control

In control

In control

In control

Huron John hops in last, with a dense verse that lyrically intermixes metaphor and pop culture to add some contemporary poeticism to the track. At the time of the song’s release, millions of people hadn’t seen anyone but their households in the four months since March and relied on technology to stay connected. Almost as if in response to this predicament, Huron John expresses how disenchanting it can be to interact on social media with “friends” when you haven’t interacted with loved ones in person for so long. 

Fitted up with Doctor Martens

Suit of armor in the cut

I’m a mystery to all the doggies in the pound – I’m a mutt

Sick of tossing hearts to passive folks

I haven’t seen in months

Orchestrating the butter cup

I need control I buckle up

Cruising with my silver sprocket

Gnarly on the dirt trails

Air balloon – I make it hail

Tidal wave I make us sail

Getting agitated like Napoleon when Kip is home

Siri interrupt the music

Guess I gotta toss the phone

Saiah: (BLACK)PLANET – Aug. 28

Arizona-based artist Saiah dropped “(BLACK)PLANET,” emblematic of his typical upbeat rhythms and melancholic lyrics, at the end of the summer. The song’s release on Aug. 28 came in the midst of months of Black Lives Matter protests over police killings of Black Americans. 

The song features vocals from small-time artist Plantedherb, who echoes Saiah’s lines in the intro chorus.

I’m gon’ be alright (I’m gonna be alright)

Not wasting no time in the ocean

I’m gon’ be alright (I’m gonna be alright)

Not wasting no time in the ocean (Yeah, yeah)

The song picks up, and Saiah pivots from reassurance to pride. In a stanza inked with Black joy, he fights racial profiling and police brutality with self-love.

Focus on my brain, not my color, let’s get it

I love myself so much (I love myself so much)

My skin makes cops go nuts (My skin makes cops go nuts)

I love myself so much (I love myself so much)

My skin makes cops go nuts (My skin makes cops go nuts)

In a quick bridge, Saiah slows down the tempo to take the high road over an oppressive enemy.

You can try and take it all away from me (All away from mе)

But I am better than you, it’s you this world don’t need (It’s you this world don’t need)