An image of Phoebe Bridgers performing
Bridgers was nominated in four Grammy categories, but she did not win any awards. (Image via Google Images)

Phoebe Bridgers and Her Musical Journey To the Grammys

The American singer-songwriter’s honest and intimate music is exactly what indie-folk rock needs, even if the Grammys failed to recognize this.

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An image of Phoebe Bridgers performing

The American singer-songwriter’s honest and intimate music is exactly what indie-folk rock needs, even if the Grammys failed to recognize this.

Phoebe Bridgers was nominated in four categories at the 63rd Grammy Awards: best new artist, best rock performance for “Kyoto,” best rock song for “Kyoto” and best alternative music album for “Punisher.” However, she did not win in any of her categories.

This came as a shock to Bridgers and her fans. Bridgers was active on Instagram after the Grammys, posting three pictures on Feb. 14 in the outfit she wore to the ceremony. She wrote, “me holding my grammys.” It appears that the post was made in jest, yet fans were disheartened by her lack of wins.

Elton John, a well-known musician and fan of Bridgers, remarked in an interview with her that if she didn’t win a Grammy, he was going to hit someone. In the same interview, he stated, “Your album is like an old friend. It’s like a ‘Tapestry.’ I have records in my life that are reference points and I think ‘Punisher’s’ one of those reference points. I can’t pay you a bigger compliment than that.”

Bridgers has received perpetual praise for her artistry, particularly for her latest album, “Punisher,” which features the hit “Garden Song.” Her music has been categorized as indie rock, indie folk and alternative. Her sound highlights acoustic guitars and other atmospheric strings, as well as live production and electronic instrumentation. Her complex storytelling and evocative lyricism have been praised repeatedly, but “Garden Song” in particular has received a considerable amount of such praise.

“Garden Song” is a reflection on lost time and nostalgia, while doubling as a hopeful look to the future. Bridgers sings, “And when I grow up, I’m gonna look up / From my phone and see my life / And it’s gonna be just like my recurring dream.” The song encapsulates an understated moment of release, favoring a finger-picked melody and graceful string crescendos over intense instrumentation. It’s reminiscent of Bridgers’ past rock hits.

The song is simply a reflection of the skilled lyricism, musicality and production that Bridgers is known for, but has now been denied a Grammy.

Bridgers’ Musical Journey

Bridgers was born in Pasadena, California in August 1994. She began her music career as a child when she would perform at the Pasadena Farmers Market to make extra money, and she eventually graduated from the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts.

High school is when Bridgers began collaborating with other musicians as a member of several bands, including Einstein’s Dirty Secret and Sloppy Jane, while also playing solo shows around Los Angeles. After high school, Bridgers went on to study music at the Berklee College of Music before dropping out shortly after freshman orientation.

At 20 years old, her career began to take off when she met singer-songwriter Ryan Adams, who produced her EP, “Killer,” which was released on Adams’ record label, PAX AM, in 2014. Bridgers then accompanied singer and instrumentalist Julien Baker on her East Coast tour in 2016.

In June 2017, Bridgers signed to the independent label Dead Oceans, which produced her debut studio album, “Stranger in the Alps,” the following September. The album was a critical success, with songs like “Smoke Signals,” “Funeral” and “Motion Sickness.”

Bridgers revealed that “Motion Sickness” was about her ex-lover and ex-collaborator Ryan Adams, who she stated emotionally abused her when they were in a relationship. The song is another reflection of the straightforward lyricism she brings to her music.

In the chorus, she sings, “I have emotional motion sickness / Somebody roll the windows down / There are no words in the English language / I could scream to drown you out.” Adams has Meniere’s disease, which causes symptoms similar to motion sickness. Bridgers flips Adams’ physical ailment on its head to illustrate the emotional torment that he put her through.

Besides the reference to Adams, Bridgers uses colloquial, direct language in a way that gets a very evocative, emotional response. “Motion Sickness” is just a small example of the nuanced work Bridgers incorporates in her music.

Bridgers teamed up with Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus to form the group boygenius, and in 2018, they released their debut EP for which they received widespread fame. In 2019, Bridgers and singer-songwriter Conor Oberst formed the band Better Oblivion Community Center, and they later released their debut album through Dead Oceans.

Bridgers released her second studio album, “Punisher,” in June 2020, and it has led her to be recognized by the Grammys.

In a Variety cover issue, Bridgers revealed how she feels about her Grammy nominations. She said, “Of course, it’s a dream, and the most special part to me is to be nominated this year, with so many artists who made the records that got me through the pandemic.”

In the article, Bridgers reflects on some of the artists she was up against, She is a massive fan of Megan Thee Stallion, who beat her out for best new artist. She is also a big fan of Fiona Apple, who was up against her and won in both the rock and alternative categories.

Even though she didn’t win any awards, the Grammy nominations were huge for Bridgers; it reflects her mainstream success despite being in the music scene for only four years. Bridgers has been able to reach a wide audience due to her multi-genre appeal, referencing Elliott Smith, bluegrass roots, Tom Waits and Avril Lavigne as some of her greatest influences.

Bridgers’ music is honest, almost brutally so, and highly evocative. Whether by comparing the emotional turmoil of an abusive relationship to motion sickness or using an imaginative future garden as a cornerstone for a better life, Bridgers’ music needs no grandiose explanation. She is a clear force to be reckoned with in the music industry.

Writer Profile

Kieran Benson

Luther College
Communication Studies and English Writing

I’m a senior at Luther College studying Communication Studies and English Writing. I enjoy writing about media and music, and Study Breaks gives me a great opportunity to write about topics that I am interested in.

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