We hurried through dinner, leaving the dishes for later, and huddled around an iPad on the kitchen table. It was time for the Disney sing-along, and my musical-loving family was not about to miss it. The truth is, most days during quarantine, our Amazon Echo devices have been blaring Spotify playlists from Hamilton or High School Musical or any of the Descendants movies. We love music and dance, and our home reflects it, even if there is a battle between our preferences.

There’s something about a song that lifts our spirits in difficult seasons. We’ve seen clips of Italians standing on their balconies, belting out folk songs and operas—and no doubt we’ve seen a few parodies, too! I’m thinking of a scene from an English street where one well-intentioned neighbor tried leading his neighbors in a rousing pub song from his back garden and was greeted with a rowdy exhortation to be quiet. Our impulse when we are feeling blue is to sing, grumpy neighbors notwithstanding.

Sociologist Randall Collins argues that humans are seekers of something he calls “emotional energy,” which he defines as a “feeling of confidence, courage to take action, [and] boldness in taking initiative.” Gaining more emotional energy, according to Collins, is the goal of social interaction. Researchers James Wellman Jr., Katie E. Corcoran, and Kate Stockly-Meyerdirk argue that what Collins calls “emotional energy” may “primarily represent oxytocin,” a chemical associated with well-being. When “oxytocin levels rise, stress levels decrease and the person experiences feelings of love, calmness, trust, and motivation to interact socially.” There are a few human activities ...

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