1 Year Later: A Pandemic Playlist Of Pick-Me-Ups And Songs Of Joy

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Carl Bilek / CPR News

Music has been a source of comfort for many during the pandemic. As we approach a year of living with the coronavirus, Colorado Matters is asking DJs around the state to share songs that have brought them — and their audiences — joy amidst the anxiety and uncertainty of pandemic life.

AJ Battalio hosts mornings on New Country 99.1 FM in Windsor with Shelby "Maxx" Cohen. "It's been nice talking to (listeners) and hearing, you know, some of the things they've been going through and just knowing that we as a radio station, as a morning show, we're kind of like their comfort zone, and a lot of time their ‘go to,’ their little escape," said Battalio, "So it's nice to know that we've been an outlet for people during this crazy year."

Here are a few of his ‘pandemic playlist’ recommendations:

Justin Moore - "We Didn't Have Much"

"I'm a big fan of Justin Moore and all the stuff that he does, and his latest single, 'We Didn't Have Much,' talks about growing up and you know, not having all the stuff, all the bells and whistles that you know, a lot of kids have now and even grown-ups for that matter, you know we didn't have much but we had each other, and that was enough. It's always been enough and it always will be enough. That's something that I know for a fact that got me through an entire year, my family, because all the time we spent together, all the stuff we did together, all the moments we shared together, the good moments, the great moments, and you know even the tough moments we've grown through. And that's what that song is about. Every time I hear it, it hits home and it really gets me a little emotional."

Thomas Rhett - "What's Your Country Song"

"It talks about a lot of the songs we grew up with throughout the song and it kind of just takes you back to like, 'yeah, you know what, that was my Country song when I was ten, that was my Country song when I was 15,’ and it kind of goes through a timeline of all these different classic artists and songs and it brought me back to a lot of neat places in my life."

Luke Combs - "Six Feet Apart"

"Luke Combs is like the Garth Brooks of 2020, really for the past couple of years, I mean everything he touches is golden, literally. He's got like 10, 12 number one hits and he's only been doing this for a few years. Really, anything from Luke Combs."

Tim McGraw & Tyler Hubbard - "Undivided."

"That's been a big song, and that's kind of like my theme song from the last year. No matter what we go through, no matter all the craziness that goes in the world, at the end of the day, we at least need to be cool with each other, be kind with each other, choose our words wisely and regardless what someone looks like for believes, you know, we're all in this thing together and really need to be undivided. It's such an important message and I think the song hits home and I don't think they could have come out with that at a better time.”

Vicky Gregor is the music coordinator and evening music mix host on KRCC 91.5 FM in Southern Colorado. Her show airs weeknights from 8:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m.

“Some of these are songs that I just would love anyway, no matter what,” Gregor told Colorado Matters about what she chose to include in a pandemic escape playlist. “I appreciate when you're being uplifted and there's so many bands who commit themselves to that.”

“What's also been very poignant about this last year is I'm going to be leaving come the end of June. So I have a few more months left doing this radio show, this incredible show that has defined my adult life. I have two daughters and it's defined them growing up,” said Gregor about her upcoming retirement. “But I'm in a place where there's something else waiting for me and I'm going to go off in that direction. So when I play music, now it's doubly poignant because I have a sense of, these are my final statements, I guess, or I think in terms of, these are the bands who are doing the songs that maybe I haven't even found out yet, that are going to kind of define the end of my playing music five nights a week.”

Here are a few of her ‘pandemic playlist’ recommendations:

March 25 Pandemic Escape Playlist Vicky Gregor

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings - “Just Dropped in (To See What Condition my Condition was In)”

Django Django - “Glowing in the Dark”

“They make incredibly melodic, uplifting music, and they just happen to do a new record called “Glowing in the Dark. It's just all about we're going through a shared experience. Here's all the things we're pushing against that maybe we're struggling with, but ultimately we're glowing in the dark and the song lifts up with those lyrics and bounces around and you can't help, but smile and be taken away for a few minutes into a really happy space.”

Happy Mondays - “24 Hour Party People”

“It's been really great to put some volume on something from the Brit pop era, something like “Happy Mondays.” But it does remind me of a very cool time period that was a whole different life and those songs sounded so good. You know, that just reminds me of a time when people go out and they could dance and they were getting together in all kinds of ways.”

John Prine - “In Spite of Ourselves”

“Listening to John Prine always was an incredible experience, you know, stories to get lost. And so it's really poignant to keep playing some John Prine and really listen to what he left us with. I mean, what a great storyteller in that voice.”

Toots & the Maytals - “Time Tough”

“Toots & the Maytals” has been on my mind because, you know, talk about uplifting… being able to look at life and political situations and what he came up through. But boy, talk about joyous music. You know, that was a flame I really felt go out, so every time I play “Toots & the Maytals” now it's got a little bit different feel to it.”

Laura Recendez is a DJ and host of “Moviditas de Laurita” on Tigre FM, a Spanish language station serving northern and southern Colorado. Laura’s show airs on Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. - noon and Sundays noon - 4:00 p.m. on 102.1 FM and 1450 AM in Greeley and Fort Collins.  Starting the week of March 22, Laura will also be heard Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. - noon on 103.1 FM in Colorado Springs.

Laura spoke with Colorado Matters about how she’s approached her listeners during the pandemic – and what she’s heard back from them.

“We are really trying to do our part to make them get their feelings out,” she said, “you know, that pain, maybe that anxiety that they're feeling at the moment, that connection with their own senses, even with their memories.” She thinks it has helped “because they call me and they always bless me,” she said.

Here are a few of her ‘pandemic playlist’ recommendations:

March 16, 2021 Pandemic Escape Playlist Laura Recendez

Agresivos De La Sierra - “El Baile Del Conejito”

Laura plays lots of upbeat cumbias. She speaks directly to the moms and dads in her audience and tells them, “let's go ahead and get the kids to start dancing, or even the broom, if the kids are not there!” “I just try to make it a little bit, fun and entertaining,” she said.

Marco Antonio Solis - “Viva El Amor"

“Viva El Amor” is one of Laura’s favorite songs and she often plays it at the end of her show. She admires the singer, Marco Antonio Solis. She called him a “great guy full of light.”

Montez De Durango - “Vive"

“Vive” is an older song by Jose María Napoleón that was recently covered by the band Montez De Durango. “It's a very beautiful song,” Laura said.  “It says, ‘live life right now, because maybe tomorrow you're not going to be able to wake up.’ It's kind of like a sad song, but it's a truthful song. I want to incorporate it because I think that our people are going to connect with that song because of what we're going through.”

Kurt Neuswanger is the longtime music director at KJOL, a nonprofit, listener-supported Christian radio station is based in Grand Junction. He shared songs of praise that have resonated during the pandemic.

3-10-21 Pandemic Escape Playlist Kurt Neuswanger

Sinach - "Way Maker"

The video has more than 20 million views as of this writing.

Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes - "The Blessing"

“I think the song struck a chord with people everywhere who, you know, were feeling afraid and worried.”

Chris Tomlin - "Our God"

“Tomlin is without doubt the best known worship leader in America. I like the song because it reminds us that no matter what troubles we're facing, God is greater.”

Bruce Trujillo
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Bruce Trujillo

Bruce Trujillo is assistant program director for Indie 102.3. She hosts weekday evenings and Especial, a weekly show focusing on new, independent, and local Latin music.

Bruce spoke with Colorado Matters about three songs that have been especially uplifting for her over the past year.

March 1, 2021 Pandemic Escape Playlist Bruce Trujillo

Chicano Batman - "The Way"

"It's just a reminder of the things that are important. The chorus is: 'Live and love ... Laugh and play, smile all day.'"

La Dame Blanche - "Cogelo Con Calma"

"Favorite song of 2020, hands down. I listen to it ALL the time."

Lido Pimienta - "Nada"

"She integrates so many different sounds. ... It keeps you enraptured, and the music video is so hypnotizing."