I am still reflecting on 2020 and the best way to do that, for me, is musically. These two songs in two different genres with opposite intentions somehow summed up my 2020 perfectly. Both with the name “Sunday Best”. I love this contrast and how it helps comprise a full picture of 2020 for me.
Neither of these songs are directly about dealing with the mental effects of the pandemic. Not directly, but you might be able to draw some implications. I think these two songs could apply to my life regardless of that though. I don’t want to imply I wasn’t affected by the pandemic. Far from that. But these two songs stuck out above all else and transcended the pandemic to help me through all the ups and downs of 2020.
If you skip to the end, you’ll get a glimpse at the song I heard at the end of 2020 that I think could easily sum up last year, as well. But I didn’t hear it until late in the year and I think it would be equally suited as a “recovering and surviving” vibe that I hope 2021 is about.
I’m no snob; I enjoy lots of pop songs, especially in 2020, my God (“Blinding Lights”, every Dua Lipa song, “Stupid Love”, “Supalonely”, I could go on and on). And this song pop song is no stranger to the Top 40. This one stuck out to me because of the infectious beat, gospel-tinged piano, and positive lyrics. The song is about having a good attitude, no matter circumstances, aka wearing your Sunday Best.
I’ve been in need of a good vibe a time or two, and this song has been my pick-me-up many times. I try my best to handle bad situations and unfortunate circumstances, but so much is out of my control. This is true even in years without a massive, deadly virus sweeping the globe. The only thing we can focus on is our responses, our behaviors. Our feelings might be valid, but our reactions aren’t always appropriate. So I’m learning to process my feelings, however negative, in an effective way.
This song speaks to me about making the best of things, inspiring me not to give up and be defeated. In a world full of so many bad things happening, both internationally and right in our own homes, we would do well to hold on to the moments that make our lives a little brighter. This song is one of them.
If I were reviewing the song for some reason, I’d point out that the vocals are uninspired and monotone and the lyrics aren’t winning any songwriting awards, despite their positivity. I’m well aware of these traits of the song. But since this is about 2020 anthems and what they mean to me, I’m not going to hold that against “Sunday Best”. It’s a 2020 anthem because of the message behind it: doing your best, overcoming challenges, living your best life no matter what. I want more of that in my life.
Here are the verses and chorus to Surfaces’ take on “Sunday Best”:
Everyday can be a better day despite the challenge
All you gotta do is leave it better than you found it
It’s gonna get difficult to stand but hold your balance
I just say whatever ’cause there is no way around it’
Everyone falls down sometimes
But you just gotta know it’ll all be fine
It’s okay, it’s okay
Feeling good, like I should
Went and took a walk around the neighbourhood
Feeling blessed, never stressed
Got that sunshine on my Sunday best
Somedays you wake up
And nothing works, you feel surrounded
Gotta give your feet some gravity to get you grounded
Keep good things inside your ears
Just like the waves and sound did
And just say whatever ’cause there is no way around it
Even though it’s a mere 2:39, Surfaces’ “Sunday Best” has had a big impact on me in 2020.
On the other side is the roots-y and blues-y Lainey Wilson take on what “Sunday Best” means. This one packs a punch lyrically and musically. I actually completely misunderstood the meaning to be about a morally conflicted person who feels like they’re broken and “bad”, juxtaposed with going to church and being a “good person”.
However, it’s actually about getting cheated on and wanting to pull up to the church for revenge…possibly? Or perhaps just wanting a refuge after getting your heart broken but being too hungover and not wanting to run into your ex. It’s definitely very different than Surfaces’ version of “Sunday Best”, but I love to acknowledge that life is not always sunshine and rainbows. Bad stuff happens, too. This song isn’t about making the best of it. It’s about how things just kind of suck. You can still see my original interpretation though of looking good on the outside, but feeling like you’re “bad”.
Here are the lyrics to Lainey Wilson’s “Sunday Best”:
I pulled up
to that Church of Christ
With a broken heart and bloodshot eyes
Too hungover to go inside
So I hung my head
And drove on by
I don’t feel like Hallelujah
With this aching in my chest
So here I sit on some backroad with a paper sack and Marlboro reds
Drinking in my Sunday Best
Thought I really
Really knew him well
He was the one, far as I could tell
But last night I caught him with somebody else
And that preacher’s son can go to hell
I know that I’ll get over him in time
But right now forgiveness ain’t something I can find
It’s a really well-composed song that has great guitar pickin’ and good vocals from Lainey. While it’s structurally and musically a great song, that’s not why it’s here–it’s on the 2020 anthems list because I relate to the original message of feeling not good enough, of feeling like you don’t fit in. That might not be the core message of the song, but the contrast of smoking and drinking in your Sunday best clothing is a metaphor that I’m sure many of us can relate to. It’s a concept I’ve related to my whole life.
My early contender for 2021’s song is “Making Do” by Lake Street Dive. I heard this song late last year, but it might be on repeat quite a lot this year. I’ll save my breakdown of it for a year later, if it ends up being my anthem of 2021. Either way, it deserves its own post at some point.
Stay safe, my fellow students of music. Go put on your Sunday Best!