Nostalgia in Music: A COVID Era

Arsene Ngongang

I’d like to dedicate this piece to my fellow students of the class of 2023. We’ve arguably gotten the worst end of the stick with COVID of all the classes so far. Despite this, and without trying to sound overly corny, I think it has made us who we are. I also like to think that it’s also gotten our class a lot closer. With so much time taken from us, we’re now juniors. Time flies. What doesn’t kill us has made us so much stronger.


Keywords: Evoke, Present, Self-reflection, Experience, Positivity



What prompted me to write this was first, my love for music. I know many people say they love music, and I get it—who doesn’t love music. I would just say that I’d consider myself an avid music listener. I’m not sure how much music the average person listens to, but I have been listening to music every single day for as long as I can remember. What I find so appealing about it is just the number of emotions it can evoke. It communicates messages in ways that words alone can’t, which is funny to think about because songs are full of words. Even still, words in music are just so much different than regular words. I resonate with music a lot more than I resonate with some of the people I have had many conversations with. The other reason I wanted to write this was because of how nostalgic of a person I am. I know that many people like to think about the past in a “I was born in the wrong era,” or “these times were better than today,” but I don’t see it like that. As much as I miss my times growing up as a child and all the experiences that I will never forget, I don’t think I would necessarily want to revisit them. I wouldn’t want to revisit them in the sense that if someone gave me the choice to go back in time and live it over, I would say no. I’m very much a present person, and I think I find joy in the fact that memories are just memories. I just think some people sometimes romanticize their memories too much, to the point where they would prefer to go back in time than to live in the present moment.


With that being said, one of my favorite times to revisit in my mind is the original COVID quarantine of 2020. For the many people my age, the pandemic definitely came at a bad time in our college lives. There was not only being in lockdown for the majority of 2020, but attending school just felt like a surreal experience—waking up 2 minutes before class just to log on virtually from your laptop in the comfort of your bed, not knowing what anyone looks like without a mask, and several other things that we all had to get used to. The lockdown was an interesting experience for me; I can’t say I hated it, but it was ideal either. Luckily for me, I enjoy all things television and cinema, so most of my days in lockdown were spent watching TV after I would workout in the morning. Another thing that caught steam quickly was the app known as TikTok. I had downloaded the app in the summer of 2019, but it got rapidly popular in 2020. The pandemic was perfect timing for the app to “blow up.” Much of the content on the app features songs and sounds that users can make videos to, many of which are either dancing or lip-syncing. I personally enjoyed the former, as I like to think I’m somewhat of a good dancer. The way the algorithm of the app works is that every few weeks or so, a set number of songs and sounds go viral and appear all over the app—it becomes repetitive. Then, when you feel like you’ve had enough with a song or sound, a new batch of them start going viral, cycling out the old ones. That is essentially how the app has been since its existence. Many musical artists first gained popularity through the app. Once we got back to school in the fall, with the pandemic came the infamous Best Western hotel where the school would send students who tested positive or got contact traced. I found myself staying there at one point during September after I got contact traced from my suite. In total, I ended up doing 12 days in there—worded like a prison sentence because that’s what it felt like at times. It was definitely an experience I never had before. All my meals were delivered to my room, and I practically never left my room besides getting tested and visiting my friends’ dorms once in a while. In hindsight, however, I like to look back on my time in the Best Western as more positive than it was negative. Of course, I naturally made my fair share of TikToks during my stay as well, but there was a lot more good than I thought. For starters, I am a big proponent of self-reflection and being alone with your thoughts. As extroverted as I am, I recognize that I need my alone time every now and then. What I love about alone time is that it makes you reflect. When you are forced to spend an allotted amount of time in the Best Western alone, you are also forced to be alone with your thoughts. Much of my experience in the Best Western was a well-needed period of self-reflection. I also found that I was more productive in my schoolwork due to the limited distractions. After I got out of the Best Western, there were times throughout the year where I would miss the time I had to myself and the chance to get myself together.


Fast forward to now, and it’s been over a year since I did my time in there. I am certainly more than happy with the fact that things started to open up more COVID-wise. The social distancing guidelines were lifted, and classes were finally in person again, which was huge for someone like me who lives off as much human interaction as I can get. I could also finally start giving tours again, after a year of them being suspended. In regards to my TikTok habits, not much has changed—I still find myself trapped on the app for long periods of time. What I’ll see now is a lot of recaps from TikTok of 2020, that features all the popular songs and sounds from that year. I hadn’t heard many of these since the original quarantine, so hearing them recently has really taken me back. Not only do I like hearing them because some of them are good songs, but also because of what they represent. When I hear some of these songs, I’m taken back to my time spent in the Best Western that featured a lot of self-reflection and thought. I was also in a healthy and good place mentally, which many people understandably were not given the circumstances of the Best Western. Basically, hearing these songs give me the same emotional response I get when I hear a favorite song from my childhood—it reminds me of and takes me back to a time where I was in a good place in my mind and I found a way to have fun.



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Feeling Rhetoric Copyright © 2022 by Arsene Ngongang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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