While she may have failed to demolish her instrument, Phoebe Bridgers succeeded in crafting a song that perfectly encapsulates the world into which it was released. The prophetic singer-songwriter attempted to smash her 6-string on Saturday Night Live, inspiring waves of criticism across the internet from cranky old musicians like David Crosby and their constituents. Those waves will soon crash and melt on the shore, leaving behind a song that merits a destructive response—whether it’s deemed appropriate or not.
Much of the backlash Bridgers received came from pundits unfamiliar with her music prior to the performance. One spin through her sophomore album, Punisher, makes it seem inevitable for such an ominous crescendo to culminate in this sort of sacrificial ritual. From its cinematic intro to the cataclysmic ending, the LP traverses a spooky atmosphere landmined by heartbreaking lyrics and mournful melodies. The darkness cultivated by this carefully woven patchwork of songs has found unfortunate serendipity in a global pandemic and unparalleled political strife. Pushing the record aside, Bridgers’ performance made an equally timely statement, reminding us of what an impact live music can have on an audience.
In a time when our country is divided by insurrections, mask mandates, and disputed death toll estimates, it’s refreshing to see people polarized by a single act of catharsis on a New York City stage. Bridgers’ two-song showcase may have been the closest thing to a concert her twitter critics have experienced in a year. Maybe they were appalled by the gimmick. Maybe they sympathize with her spark-spewing monitor. Maybe they’re ready to anoint her as the next Goddess of Rock. Only one outcome is undeniable—they now have an opinion on Phoebe Bridgers.
If you’ve yet to give Punisher a listen, it remains a fitting soundtrack to the times—for better or worse. Zip up your skeleton onesie, turn the lights off, and wander into the world this album wraps around its listener. By the time you reach the climax of “I Know the End”, you may very well find yourself ready to destroy whatever’s within reach. You may no longer have to wonder what the end of the Earth as we know it will sound like. You, and the hair on the back of your neck, may be forced to face a reality where the very means of creation are being obliterated. And you’ll be better off for it.