Bridgers paints picture of modern anxiety


Allie Karthaus | Senior Graphic Designer

Emory Brown, Diorama Culture Editor

Phoebe Bridgers’s new music video for “I Know the End,” her latest single on her second album “Punisher,” is nothing short of a masterpiece. Debuting on July 29, 2020, Bridger’s production echoes with tension, building from start to finish, while correlating her visuals with her lyrics.

Bridgers is known for her raw songwriting and combining indie, folk and rock into her own stunning, ominous work. After releasing the music video for “Motion Sickness” from her debut album “Stranger in the Alps,” Bridgers proved her creativity and ability to produce unique concepts in pair with her music. Bridgers outdid herself once again with this cinematic music video, as her storytelling evolves frame-by-frame.

“Punisher,” in comparison to “Stranger in the Alps,” stays true to Bridgers evocative lyrics and indie-folk themes, but exceeds previous expectations while expanding her style with eerie humming, synthesizers, horns and an occasional scream. This album shows influence from Bridgers’s favorite artists like Elliot Smith and Joni Mitchell. “Punisher” as a whole perfectly highlights the dreamlike beauty of Bridgers’s music. 

She released this album into the world at just the right time. Bridgers stated on Instagram, “I’m not pushing the record until things go back to “normal” because I don’t think they should. Here it is a little early. Abolish the police. Hope you like it.” 

At the beginning of “I Know the End” Bridgers appears in her trademark skeleton onesie, rising from a dark bathtub in the center of an empty room. Bridgers is seen shedding her dripping wet onesie and changing into another dry one, as she seems to have done every day before. She bites into an apple, given to her by what looks like her younger self, and the tone of the song and video shifts.

As the tension in the song grows and the video escalates, scenes flash of Bridgers battling her anxiety. She is seen struggling for air in the bathtub, strolling through empty hallways, being chased through dark roads and finally escaping to her own show in an empty arena. 

A suffocating feeling of fear is transposed into clips of Bridgers running through the dark and struggling for air in the bathtub. The beat of the song picks up and the uneasiness increases. Shots of panic and struggle strobe across the screen. The raw emotion portrayed in these scenes reflects the feeling of the world crashing in, a feeling that is all too common in current times. 

This is a song that stands face-to-face with the future. The video swells with anxiety toward what lies ahead, making this track a perfect song for quarantine. It is about leaving things behind,  which is effectively portrayed scenario after scenario throughout the video. 

This video can be interpreted as an ode to endings and coming to terms with mortality. Growing old is inevitable and endings will come eventually. These facts become evident to Bridgers as she passes through a dark tunnel into the light, escaping to her own performance and being joined by her band. This may represent the cathartic release that music and performing give Bridgers. She then embraces the inevitability of time passing, climaxing with a kiss of acceptance with a figure that appears to be her older self.

The end of the song, ironically, is the staple of the video. The arrangement of screams, instrumentals and the chord progression rocks the previous vibe of the song. Every line and scene builds up to Bridgers rolling on the ground, screaming and kissing death with a huge metal ending. With familiar voices from Bridgers previous collaborations, including Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus and Conor Oberst, surrounding her own, this song and video screams, quite literally, the intensity that Bridgers is trying to express, ending the album in the most fitting way possible. 

Whether the symbolism throughout “I Know the End” was intentional or the video just so happens to evoke the uncertainty of our current situation, this work stands out as another beautiful, thought-provoking production by Bridgers. And in the midst of this year’s end-of-the-world feeling, something about stress-screaming that the end is near along with Bridgers feels appropriate. Phoebe Bridgers proves herself as the key artist of quarantine, and if the world is ever actually ending, this is the song that should be playing.