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How “People, I’ve Been Sad” Became the Perfect Anthem for Quarantine

“In French, we have an expression, ultra-moderne solitude,” says Héloïse Letissier, the introspective pop provocateur known professionally as Christine and the Queens, or simply Chris. “It’s like the gathering of the screens. ” She is referring to the diffuse spectacle of 110,000 or so lonely souls, gathered in self-quarantine isolation and staggered across time, poorly lit by their respective laptops or smartphones, watching as she gazes forlornly out a bright, tall window and, at Stephen Colbert’s request, sings a heartbreaking and emboldening song called “People, I’ve Been Sad. ” “People, I’ve Been Sad” is my favorite song of this year, by a huge margin; it’s among the precious few 2020 songs blunt and incisive and vulnerable enough to effectively describe this awful year. It is a synth-pop power ballad that combats that awfulness with an exquisite gentleness; released in February and part of that month’s luscious six-track EP La Vita Nuova, it’s a plea for togetherness all the more painful, and all the more necessary, given that the COVID-19 pandemic made togetherness so elusive for so long. The profound yearning of that song title alone, of the word people alone, of that comma alone.

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