As the coronavirus evolved from a slight concern to a global pandemic, local dreamhop musician Emily Plazek didn’t know what to do with the panic growing inside her. It wasn’t until her mother reminded her to channel her feelings into music that she sat down at the piano and wrote “Pandemic,” a song inspired by her response to the crisis that reexamines her thoughts on death.
In the face of so much uncertainty, Plazek, whose stage name is Millaze, said it’s important for people to use things like songwriting as catharsis.
“It just made me feel better that night,” Plazek said. “You get the traumatic energy out, and you feel like the world isn’t so chaotic for a moment.”
Plazek said she used to be comfortable with the concept of death, but recent events made her feel sad about it in a way she’s never felt before.
She said she’s especially troubled by the possibility of people dying before she can tell them how she feels. That is the focus of many of the lyrics in “Pandemic,” which illustrate her realization that someday it might be too late to say what she wants to say, she said.
"My paper and my ink, finger and my screen,” Plazek sings. “You're gonna die with this. Are you gonna die with this?"
Plazek said she regrets not saying certain things to people in the past, and the virus puts into perspective how important it is to do so while you still can.
“It’s really just a song that’s supposed to be a slap in the face,” Plazek said. “Why were we holding back saying things? Just say what you need to say.”
To encourage other artists to make music during the isolation of social distancing, Plazek created “The Quarantine Challenge.” If any artist covers or remixes “Pandemic,” Plazek said she will publish the song on Spotify and promote the song for free.
“It’s a win-win,” Plazek said. “They get to have a little more music in their catalog, and we all get to think about this concept a little more.”
Andrew Haran, who produced “Pandemic,” said he wanted the instrumentation of the song to reflect the effects of social distancing on musicians. To represent how musicians are suddenly unable to perform their music for a live audience, he said he edited the song’s reverberation in a way that makes Plazek sound like she’s singing in an empty room.
“If any musicians are playing music right now, they’re playing it by themselves,” Haran said. “All of the production was meant to make it sound more real.”
Haran said his favorite thing about “Pandemic” is how Plazek’s melody ascends, making her sound like she’s looking for answers. The song begins with a string of questions, which he thinks reflect the uncertainty people are experiencing.
"Can we slow dance 'til my bones can't take it?" Plazek sings. "What if I don't know when I'm dying?"
Haran compared the lyrics to a recent experience he had standing in line at beer distributor that would close that day for social distancing. The people in line were all asking the clerk when the store would reopen, but he had no idea whether it would be a couple weeks or months, Haran said.
The melody and pacing of "Pandemic" reflect the uneasiness people everywhere are dealing with in the face of the unknown, he said.
“It’s so fitting for what the words are saying,” Haran said. “No one really knows what’s going on. It’s that prolonged sense of waiting for an answer.”