Nothing has made sense for over a year, so it makes perfect sense that Mick Jagger would be the one to give us our first rockin' COVID-19 anthem.
Jagger, who cannot be measured by mere Earth cycles but has nonetheless made 77 trips around the sun, last month released "Eazy Sleazy," a fiery collaboration with Dave Grohl in which he grits his teeth and grouses about a year of quarantine, crazed conspiracies and global depression. It's like your Gen-X older brother teamed up with your Boomer father at an open mic night and laid down a one-take ripper without giving it a second thought.
"We took it on the chin, the numbers were so grim/ bossed around by pricks, stiffen upper lips," a ticked-off Jagger spits over a propulsive riff. "Yeah, pacing in the yard/ trying to take the Mick, you must think I'm really thick!"
He goes on to wax about lockdown annoyances such as canceled tours — the Rolling Stones were due to tour in 2020, including May 16 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis — fake applause at sporting events, viral TikTok dances and Zoom calls. Even the good is laced with bad: "shooting the vaccine, Bill Gates is in my bloodstream," Jagger says, making fun of one of the more ludicrous theories pertaining to the COVID vaccine.
It's funny, it's raw, it's direct. And it works, which is more than can be said for most attempts so far to frame the pandemic in an artistic context.
Musicians have had a rough path. Lyrical references to quarantine and social distancing tend to be cringey because of their specificities, and it's hard to make them sound cool. That's why the best musical reaction to the pandemic came courtesy of Taylor Swift, who rather than writing about the global shutdown, wrote about the feeling of isolation it caused, scaling way down and embracing quiet and loneliness on her 2020 "Folklore" and "Evermore" releases. The former earned her Album of the Year honors at this year's Grammy Awards, largely because of the way it spoke to the moment without speaking about the moment.
But here comes "Eazy Sleazy," which unapologetically takes the pandemic head-on. It's anthemic, a fist-pumper, a song which automatically rolls down the windows of your car and makes you go about 10 mph faster. In lesser hands it might be embarrassing — Twenty One Pilots probably couldn't pull it off — but at this point, what's Jagger got to lose?
The best songs take the specific and make them universal. This song doesn't do that. It's about right now, this very moment in time, and it's even written with an optimism that feels a little more last month than this month, now that the vaccine is facing more opposition than anticipated.
But we'll take it. Jagger sounds alive, vital, and practically sneers his lyrics. And he sums up the feeling of the pandemic by saying "it'll be a memory you're trying to remember to forget." It may not be a memory quite as soon as we hoped, but "Eazy Sleazy" will help us remember how it felt.