Last week, as the coronavirus outbreak tipped into a pandemic, R.E.M.’s 1987 classic “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” unexpectedly re-entered the singles charts. Now, with everyone settling into the realities of self-quarantine, “End of the World” has continued to see a surge of singles purchases, alongside other songs with vague corona connotations.
According to Billboard, “It’s the End of the World” was the 22nd most purchased song in all-genres last week. That, combined with 1.7 million streams, was enough to push it to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot Rock Songs chart. But while R.E.M. have seen the biggest gains in the American charts, they aren’t the only bands receiving a pandemic bump.
Disturbed’s “Down With the Sickness” and Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” are both popular at the moment, as is The Knack’s “My Sharona”, just because it rhymes with “corona.” Weird Al” Yankovic’s “My Bologna”, a parody of “My Sharona”, is also doing well for the same reason.
Telecommuters the world round are popping tracks called “Work From Home”, most especially the versions by Tim Heidecker (up 66% in U.S. streams to 7,000) and Fifth Harmony featuring Ty Dolla $ign (up 11% to 1.2 million). Finally, riding the COVID-19 wave are songs with especially thematic titles, like Shwayze’s “Corona and Lime”, The Minutemen’s “Corona”, “Isolation” by Joy Division, and “Quarantined” by At the Drive-In. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from this week in the American charts, it’s that Americans love to be on theme.
Last week, R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe shared his four rules for surviving the end of the world, including the hand-washing tip, “Don’t sing happy birthday twice. It’s too depressing.” Stipe recently revealed that he once told Donald Trump to “shut up” because he was talking during a Patti Smith concert.
Drummer Bill Rieflin, who played with R.E.M. from 2003 through 2011, died earlier today.