In Loving Memory: The Crowdsourced Time Capsule Of The Songs That Got Us Through 2020

2020 IS A SONG is a crowdsourced musical time capsule designed to capture the joy, the pain, and the in-between that made up each of our years. Created by an Australian ex-pat and a couple of friends, it is a crowdsourced playlist made up of “the music that got us through 2020, as remembered by you.” The project has quickly traveled around the world, receiving submissions of music (and accompanying memories) from England, India, Nigeria, Argentina, the United States, and many places in between. Cell Vision co-founder Mattie Safer spoke to project creator Marisa Aveling to find out what inspired her to create this visionary project.

words and interview by Mattie Safer

At the turn of December, a friend of mine sent me a link labeled 2020 IS A SONG and said, “This is a project my friend launched, thought you might appreciate.” The link took me to a beautifully designed website featuring a single musical playlist—a musical time capsule designed to soundtrack the joy, rage, hope, anxiety, sadness and fear that rode shotgun to our lives in this unprecedented fuckstorm of a year. 2020 IS A SONG is a collaborative, crowdsourced playlist, made up of the songs that answered the question for hundreds of people from around the world—”What one song got you through this crazy, heavy year?” Each song is submitted with an accompanying mood (by which the playlist can be sorted) and an associated memory. The result is not just an eclectic, tasteful playlist made by music lovers from around the world, but a window into the psyche of the most singularly unique year of our lifetime. I had a conversation with project creator Marisa Aveling about what inspired her to create the project, the overwhelming response, and her hopes and dreams for the coming year.

CELL VISION: A worldwide collaborative playlist for 2020 is such a wonderful idea. What inspired you to put this project together?

MARISA AVELING: Aw, thank you! Like a lot of people, I felt numb this year, and the only thing that shook me out of that was music. It was these 2 songs that made me feel something in the space of 24 hours actually. I thought surely other people must be having the same experience.

"Free" by SAULT

"Time For Love" by B. B. & Q Band

CELL VISION: Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? Who are the other people helping you with this project? What are your relationships to each other and to music? Do you have a favorite sound or style?

MARISA AVELING: I'm from Perth, Australia, and have been living in NYC for the past 10 years. My two genius collaborators are designer Naomi Abel and our other old friend and UX/Tech Guardian Angel. Naomi says, "Music is my life, bro," and I feel the same way. My own personal preference tends to skew anything with a soul, and I have also been listening to a lot of jazz in my old age.

“The most therapeutic thing I did this summer was an impromptu road trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons—though it's a bit on-the-nose, this song evokes the feeling of being soothed by the great expanses of prairie, desolate deserts, and majestic mountains in the West—while also being a bit dark like the year overall…” - Adrian, Santa Barbara

"No Glory In The West" by Orville Peck

CELL VISION: Has 2020 changed your relationship to music at all? How did music help you get through 2020?

MARISA AVELING: I don't know if it's changed my relationship as much as fortified it. It helped me feel and process things that needed to be felt and processed instead of just swallowed.

CELL VISION: How many people have contributed to the project so far?

MARISA AVELING: In the first four days, we're up to 850 people from around the world and counting. The word has spread super organically, and we're so happy that this seems to have resonated with folks the way it has. We've had contributions from Malaysia, France, Australia, Canada, England, Singapore, Netherlands, Scotland, Switzerland, Serbia, Italy, New Zealand, Taiwan, Indonesia, Germany, Portugal, Italy, Brazil, Ireland, Nigeria, Argentina, Ukraine, India, Spain, South Africa, Belgium, Kenya, Turkey, Hong Kong, China, Belgium, Panama, and, of course, the US. It's crazy.

“Happy for my friends, and all the wins they've copped this year.” -Chibuzor, Lagos

"No Fit Vex" by Burna Boy

CELL VISION: I like that you can sort this playlist by mood; what mood are you most connecting with at the moment?

MARISA AVELING: The mood thing has been really interesting. Most people have been tagging hope, joy, or love, which makes me think that perhaps we are all just naturally resilient and positive creatures. Joy has been one that's come up for me, particularly after November 7 ;)

“It's obvious.” Lynsay, Austin

FDT by YG and Nipsy Hussle

CELL VISION: What is the furthest place that a contributor has come from?

MARISA AVELING:It's been so amazing/astonishing where contributions have been coming from. Two locations that I got excited about were Lagos, Nigeria, and Chandigarh, India.

“Chalna tu bombay, maa se milata hun, haath se kilata hun! Love in time of COVID” -Paul, Chandigarh

"Mirchi Mirchi" by DIVINE

CELL VISION: Have you put together other time capsules before? Musical or non-musical.

MARISA AVELING: Does this count?

CELL VISION: Are there any submissions that have been particularly memorable?

MARISA AVELING: So many! But what I've really been struck by is not just the music but the memories. My friend described it as a music livejournal, and I love that. People have commemorated real loss and raw vulnerability and also an overarching sense that we will prevail. I also thought "both dating the fuckboi and being the fuckboi" from Sara in Los Angeles was pretty funny.

"Both dating fuckbois and being the fuckboi" Sara, Los Angeles


CELL VISION: Have you discovered any new music that you love (or hate) through this project?

MARISA AVELING: It does make me think that we listen in our own little bubbles sometimes, as there was a ton of music I'd not heard before. "The Sun" by Secret Night Gang was a really nice contribution from Duane in NYC, and I was glad to be reminded of "It Never Entered My Mind" by the Miles Davis Quintet thanks to Mike in Brooklyn.

"7 minutes of organic transformative UK soul with one of the best vocal performances put on tape from a young unknown singer. It was the soundtrack to many summer long walks alone and makes one feel above the clouds. Didn't know how much I needed it until I heard it" -Duane, NYC

"The Sun" by Secret Night Gang

"A soothing song for for moods of melancholy, contemplation, and quiet happiness alike." -Mike, Brooklyn

"It Never Entered My Mind" by The Miles Davis Quintet

CELL VISION: Are there any songs that have been submitted A LOT (and what are they)?

MARISA AVELING: There have been a few unexpected doubles so far, like "Ease Yourself and Glide" by Parsley Sound from both Thomas in Perth as well as Abby in Brooklyn. Phoebe Bridgers has come up quite a bit as well as Jessie Ware, BTS, and Taylor Swift. Also more ABBA than I expected, but this year, people have been reaching for things that comfort them, so it makes sense.

"Ease Yourself and Glide" by Parsley Sound

CELL VISION: What is your time capsule song for 2020, and why?

MARISA AVELING: Mine is the first entry in the time capsule, "Free" by SAULT. I think SAULT was on top of a lot of people's lists this year.

“It was peak lockdown and Bill Withers had just passed. I had been alone for two weeks without seeing anyone, and then I heard this song—it was fate. While I felt more alone than I've ever felt before, I would often listen to it on repeat, just looking at the wall, feeling the tender hope of the lyrics and melody, it helped me process a lot during that time.” -Nathan, NYC

"Make A Smile For Me" by Bill Withers

CELL VISION: Do you have any hopes or dreams for 2021? And is there a song that you think exemplifies them?

MARISA AVELING: Wow, after all of us having no mental and emotional brainspace to think hardly a week ahead in 2020, it feels luxurious to be able to look to the new year. I'd say my baseline hope for 2021 is "normal" and my dream is to be able to dance in a room with all the people I love. As for the song, I'll have to get back to you on that!

You can check out 2020 IS A SONG and submit the song that helped get you through 2020 via the link below.