So you thought Dan Levy’s “Zillow” sketch would be THE talk of the town after last week’s “SNL?” It turns out there was another contender worthy of gab: Phoebe Bridger’s performance resulting in a smashed Danelectro guitar.
As a backdrop, Phoebe Bridgers started her career as a busker in the Pasadena Farmers’ Market when she was a child. Her first album release, “Stranger in the Alps” in 2017, gave us profound lyrics surrounded by beautifully-moody scores. “Motion Sickness,” a painfully-biographical song, is beyond wise. It subtly mocks the subject’s musical style, and we can’t help but hold Phoebe’s hand as we see this toxic relationship from her eyes.
It must bring her solace to have not only survived the damage from that relationship, but also thrive on her own while seeing this song become the album’s hit. Her 2020 follow-up album, “Punisher,” lead Bridgers to a slew of Grammy nominations: Best New Artist, Best Rock Performance, Best Rock Song, and Best Alternative Music Album.
When Bridgers was invited to perform on “Saturday Night Live,” many didn’t expect her indie/emo/folk to transition into a complete rock out at the end of her song “I Know The End,” resulting in some very primal screaming and a smashed guitar thrown to the floor.
Everyone is talking about it this week, and some have taken the side against Bridgers. Why are people so upset about a woman smashing a guitar on live TV? As someone who has held hands with this industry for nearly my entire life, I completely don’t understand the controversy here. After all, we have celebrated creativity, honesty and passion from bands as long as we can remember.
If you look at other musicians that have been held in high regard for their “rock god” and high energy stage tactics, look no further than “father of grunge” and feminist, Kurt Cobain. If the objection here has to do with the cost of Bridgers’ $80 Danelectro, Cobain almost exclusively played cheap guitars and smashed guitars probably more often than he’d keep one around. He stated in a 1992 Guitar World interview with Jeff Gilbert, “I use whatever [guitars] I can find at junk shops.” No one seems to fault Cobain for this, in fact, we praise him. It’s rock. It’s raw.
“But Kurt Cobain was angry…Phoebe’s not angry enough” I have seen as a counter. Here are the lyrics to her song, “Kyoto.” They are about a neglectful parent and they seem pretty angry to me:
With my little brother
He said you called on his birthday
You were off by like ten days
But you get a few points for trying
Remember getting the truck fixed when you let us drive it
25 felt like flying
I don’t forgive you
But please don’t hold me to it
Born under Scorpio skies
I wanted to see the world
Through your eyes until it happened
Then I changed my mind
Kind of hard to miss that she was angry as she was ugly screaming that on live TV. I digress.
Recently, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominee Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters commented on Phoebe’s performance and supporter her, not as a woman, but as an artists. Grohl gets it, he knows the importance of being recognized for your work. You know, to be recognized for your talent, no matter who you are. He likened Bridgers’s performance to what the Foo Fighters do “when you watch us jam and freak out.”
Is there a double standard, perhaps… maybe more than perhaps? If we want to talk angry lyrics, currently Ayron Jones is getting much deserved props for his single “Take Me Away.” It’s a great song with honest, inspiring and thought provoking lyrics. The anger police haven’t come after him like they did Phoebe. Keep doing what you’re doing Ayron, just don’t bust up a guitar in 2021.
The truth is we hold certain groups dear as ambassadors of rock when they misbehave; should gender play a role in this vision? The Replacements received instant fame when they were banned from “SNL” for being too drunk to perform. They are still the heroes of Minneapolis for their tomfoolery. Cobain has full museums dedicated to his smashed guitars and the impact his performances made on live music.
Bridgers had a fantastic “SNL” moment and whether you like it or not, it can’t be argued that she made a very smart performance choice resulting in all of us talking about her today.
So is there a double standard when it comes to certain things women do in music? The Magic 8-Ball says … “Signs point to yes.” That’s not a scientific evaluation, but it appears to be a consensus.
And since I mentioned SNL, I have to talk about Zillow… We are all experiencing funny feelings for Zillow this week as well. Please don’t look at my NSFW internet browsing history because it’s full of open floor plans and ramblers. (Ew, David.)