I first came across Jensen McRae on my TikTok feed. I was entranced by a series of her videos where she would flip to a random page in one of her journals and write a song based on that page.
I fell in love with her raw and authentic lyrics about family, past love and friendship.
Later on, I saw McRae’s joking tweet about a song Phoebe Bridgers would probably write about hooking up in a car with someone while waiting in line for the COVID-19 vaccine. McRae then took it upon herself to write a verse of the song and posted it on Twitter.
These tweets garnered tens of thousands of likes, with people creating their own verses and choruses for this imaginary song.
McRae went on to complete the song, fittingly titled “Immune,” and release it in January of this year.
I am a huge Bridgers fan, so I was extremely excited to check out “Immune.”
The first time I heard the song, I was struck by its simplicity. It truly focuses on storytelling and vocals, McRae’s voice full of anticipation and anxiety.
“What will we say to each other/when the needle goes in?” McRae asks her lover. “What will we be to each other/ if the world doesn’t end?”
She wonders whether this person will stick around after the isolating pandemic ends. If the threat of COVID-19 is no longer on their minds, will they still love each other?
It is a question we do not get a clear answer to, but it’s one that we all think about in one form or another.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we were all tested in ways we never expected. From being separated without our family and friends to learning a radically different way to attend college, we have all had to grapple with changes that come at us very quickly.
However, after more than a year in the pandemic, the end may be in sight. COVID-19 vaccinations are being distributed, and the process will likely get more and more efficient. President Joe Biden even stated that he will require states to make all adults eligible for the vaccine by May 1.
McRae looks at this time and wonders about what happens after. Do we continue as if nothing happened, or do we acknowledge these new relationships and see how they grow in a time when the world isn’t frozen?
Will they even survive in a world gone back to normal?
McRae has an impressive talent for creating vivid images with her lyrics, which is reminiscent of Bridgers, the song’s inspiration. It feels as if she is telling you a story — for example, when she says “Traffic from the East side got me aggravated/ Hotter than the day my brother graduated.” Later, she sings “I’m not scared of dogs or getting vaccinated.”
She conveys the feelings of these moments in simple and seemingly random descriptions. The combination of all these statements shows she is not scared of the vaccine itself but rather what comes after.
The vaccine is a symbol of the end of the pandemic, and McRae anxiously awaits the moment “the needle goes in.”
It’s strange to think about the world without COVID-19, because it’s so ingrained in our daily lives at this point. McRae seems to think the pandemic is keeping her and her lover together, wondering where they will stand after the threat ends.
“Immune” invites us to consider what the world and our personal lives will look like after COVID-19 is under control. It seems like a far-away dream, but hopefully it’s closer than we think.