Staff pick: Phoebe Bridgers at Express Live
A very good singer and songwriter is coming to town this weekend
One of the pleasures of Phoebe Bridgers is her tendency to concisely explain lyrics when asked. While some might argue the explanations ruin some of the mystery of the creative process, or that they remove the ability to personally relate to a lyric, to me, it only deepens my appreciation for one of the best songwriters working today.
"I've been running around in circles/Pretending to be myself/Why would somebody do this on purpose/When they could do something else," Bridgers sings on "Chinese Satellite," one of the best (and underrated) songs from one of the best albums of 2020, Punisher (it's also the perfect precursor to Punisher's next track, “Moon Song”). The song is a meditation on identity and the simple, inborn pull toward something bigger out there in the universe, and the complicated way that tug can play out in our lives.
But when someone on Twitter asked Bridgers about those opening lines of "Chinese Satellite," she responded, "I tried to be a person who jogged once," which transforms the stanza into something much more literal (and relatable and hilarious).
In the chorus, Bridgers aims to wish on a star, but none of the stars are visible, so she finds a Chinese satellite instead. “I want to believe," she sings, evoking a sincere desire to find something benevolent outside of this world, and also the "X-Files." "I look at the sky and I feel nothing/You know I hate to be alone/I want to be wrong."
In Bridgers' world, things can be earnest and authentic and heartbreaking and laughably absurd all at the same time, which sounds like the world I live in, too. Much of Punisher, in fact, feels both timely and timeless, like this line on "ICU" that succinctly sums up much of the American discourse from the last five years: "It's amazing to me how much you can say when you don't know what you're talking about."
None of those lyrics would hit home, of course, without Bridgers' ear for a perfect pop melody and her silky, melancholy-soaked voice that can put you under a spell just before she hits you with a primal scream (see "The End").
On Saturday, Sept. 18, Bridgers will perform on the outdoor stage at Express Live. You should go if you can.
Still thirsting for more Phoebe content? I've, um, mentioned her a few other times in Alive: