2020 is a weird year to fall in love. Gone are the opportunities for random encounters in bars or on Craigslist missed connections, you’re either stuck rekindling a dormant flame in the Instagram DM’s or sparking a new connection on Bumble or Hinge. Even if you are able to defy the odds and make a connection with someone, half your conversations will inevitably be centered around the collapse of the United States and the pandemic that is taking so many lives. James Barrett is all too aware of that reality, which doesn’t make the pain he’s feeling over a recently lost lover any easier. Ever the romantic however, James put together “Love Song in 2020” as a way of cataloguing those complex feelings and channeling them into as upbeat a song as he could.
“Love Song in 2020” follows “Oh My God” as the second single of James’ yet to be named successor to The Price of Comfort, his excellent album that dropped a hundred years ago in October 2019. Where much of the music on The Price of Comfort was more aspirationally minded as James tried to sing a better outlook for the world into existence, he is much more grounded in the reality of the hellhole the United States has become on “Love Song in 2020”. He’s honest about his fears for himself and the people he loves. However, even as people are on ventilators fighting for their lives he still finds himself, “Loosing consciousness shopping for food in the Wegman’s that pathetically makes me miss you.” What we learn is that a love song in 2020 is about the loss of love and fear for the future while trying to persevere through it. James sounds absolutely pristine throughout the track. Whether he’s getting quiet and tender or loud and anthemic he has such a clean and vivacious voice, all leading to the track’s monumental chorus, “But I want to feel you against my bones // once more my love // once for us again.” The song has such a powerful energy to it it’ll make you feel a whole lot more hopeful about the state of the world than listening closely to the lyrics would, but that duality is part of what makes James’ music so compelling. We need some upbeat music that still properly articulates our downtrodden times, and “Love Song in 2020” captures that feeling of the present moment perfectly.
“Love Song in 2020” is a beautiful meditation on how everyone is dealing with both the “Death and destruction of the earth,” while also having to navigate the intricacies and difficulties of their personal lives that didn’t go away just because we’re in the midst of a global pandemic. It’s about fear, despair, loss, and fighting to still see hope on the other side of it all. Even as our collective yearning for a better world seems pointless as people in power seem to have no desire to make our lives an iota better, we still have “Our daily duty to combat fear with hope.” Hell, it might be the only thing we got.