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Corona lockdown? Play the WhatsApp Jukebox game

Words by Rob Chilton

Stay motivated and keep in touch with the outside world by listening to music suggested by friends

Working from home? Going out of your mind with boredom? Us too. Why not play the WhatsApp Jukebox game and liven up your #stayhome work day with some music you may have forgotten you had, or just haven’t listened to in a while? It's something I invented with all this spare time on my hands and it's keeping me entertained.

Here’s how it works. You will need a music library (digital or analogue, it doesn’t matter) a speaker, or headphones if you don’t want to disturb anyone in the house, and some friends on WhatsApp.

Ask a friend or one of your group chats for a letter from A-Z. Scroll – or flick, if you’re using vinyl – to the category of artists of the corresponding letter. Then ask for a number and count through the artists until you land on that number. If the number you have been given is greater than the number of artists in your library, just go back round to the beginning of the category and keep counting.

Here’s what I've been listening to this week...


Matt on WhatsApp suggests R44. After careful counting, I land on Want One, Rufus Wainwright’s album from 2004. Wow, it’s been a long time since I played that one. It kicks off with the title track and its opening line: “Men reading fashion magazines, oh what a world it seems we live in.” It also contains a ‘sample’, if that’s the right word, from Ravel’s great classical piece Bolero.

Next up, John in self-isolation in JVT suggests N31 which means I’m now listening to another 2004 album: Fly or Die by N*E*R*D, aka Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo. I skip to the energetic title track and it propels me through my next batch of work.

Laura in The Greens jumps in and nominates C19... The Coral! I love that Liverpool band and their sea shanty, 1960s, indie rock. Again, it’s been too long since I rattled through their back catalogue. Let’s play their superb self-titled debut album from 2002. It’s only 43 minutes long, but what a belter. Dreaming of You, Waiting for the Heartaches and the epic closer Calendars and Clocks – love it.

Pharrell Williams from N*E*R*D

I get more friends involved on WhatsApp and soon I’m skipping around genres and decades. Kelis and her amazing 1999 album Kaleidoscope is next, thanks to my mate Joe in London. Caught Out There, the hit single, still sounds fresh. Jamiroquai is a band I’d forgotten about but Jon’s J11 message takes me to the 1996 album Travelling Without Moving (appropriate for the Dubai corona lockdown) and the singles Cosmic Girl and Virtual Insanity. A quick Google tells me Jay Kay and his band sold more than 25 million albums around the world and I remember how ubiquitous they were in the 1990s, largely thanks to his fast car collection and party lifestyle that was scrutinised by the tabloid press. He also made some darn good pop tunes.

Chemical Brothers

More messages from friends arrive and take me to some music legends: Madonna, Bryan Ferry, Neil Young and Grace Jones, all of whom never get old. I’m then sent back to the dancefloor by my brother-in-law with Chemical Brothers, swiftly followed by the 2005 self-titled electro album by Norwegian duo Lindstrom and Prins Thomas – thank you Laura and Dina who are holed up in their apartment in Abu Dhabi. Pearl Jam’s 1991 album Ten, I know, is a biggie for rock fans, but there’s a reason I’ve never listened to it properly. Apart from the second track, Evenflow, it’s not my cup of tea, but thanks anyway to my wife for nominating it.

Neil Young

Other artists I’m led to by the WhatsApp Jukebox include British indie band The Hours and their 2007 album Narcissus Road. My colleague Nathan then gives me F7: Fine Young Cannibals and I'm reminded what a unique voice Roland Gift has. Fiona, also working from home in Dubai, pushes me unwittingly into the world of Welsh choir music (I’ll try anything).

West Side Story

Wrapping up the week with a flourish, courtesy of my sister in Devon, England is Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s masterful score for West Side Story. How’s that for a playlist? It’s the best thing to come out of the corona lockdown.

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