In Bridgers' latest offering, she retells the unrepairable mistakes made by her adoration for another
As another snippet of her upcoming sophomore album Punisher, Phoebe Bridgers has released a 3-minute track of drum domination with ‘I See You’. Bridgers has garnered an increasing following of devoted fans since her debut release Stranger in the Alps in 2017, which captures the intimate pondering of her past and present experiences. Rather than disregard them as lessons to learn of, we join Bridgers in the midst of slow realisation. The third single of her debut, entitled ‘Motion Sickness‘, transformed into a wider discourse with the media who noted its retelling of her relationship with singer-songwriter Ryan Adams – who has since been accused of sexual misconduct by several women. Bridgers uses her lyrics to reflect through times in their relationship and create a clear vision of where she had been emotionally abused, letting listeners join her at a vulnerable stage.
Never shy to get personal with the public, ‘I See You’ reveals an intense romance with her drummer and the rare aliveness that Bridgers feels when she sees them again: “I’ve been playing dead my whole life / And I get this feeling whenever I feel good / It’ll be the last time / But I feel something when I see you now / I feel something when I see you.” Her lover temporarily cures her of the doomed life outlook which she had previously sung about on the first album with track Funeral: “Jesus Christ, I’m so blue all the time / And that’s just how I feel / Always have and I always will / I always have and always will.” The theme of an underlying sadness lingering, no matter what she is faced with, is reminiscent of Country singer Kacey Musgraves’ song ‘Happy & Sad‘ which also focuses on the constant melancholy of life. Phoebe Bridgers effortlessly encapsulates the modern-day feeling of unfulfillment and discomfort.
However, ‘I See You’ is not a song to dedicate to a past lover who managed to make her happy when nothing else could. The pattern of rattling bass drums that speed and slow down leads us to the second verse, where the cracks begin to appear. She sings “If you’re a work of art, I’m standing too close / I can see the brush strokes.” Bridgers has stumbled upon the issue of idolizing her partner so much, as a ‘work of art’ – something than has been perfectly crafted. She is enthralled, gravitating further into him before realising that this closeness is dangerous and ‘too’ much. The reference to an artwork is further reminiscent of the distance one is expected to be from art in a gallery, as its artistry and quality are special and delicate. As Bridgers ignores the art gallery behaviour, she gets close enough to see the imperfections through brushstrokes that emboss a once-smooth painting she saw from afar. Simply, Phoebe Bridgers admits that she became too close with her lover that the imperfections take over the admiration she pedestalled them with. The drums become more assertive and full, replying to each lyric as if the drummer themself has their own voice to respond.
In the last verse, Phoebe Bridgers bares all responsibility onto herself: “I used to light you up / Now I can’t even get you to play the drums / ‘Cause I don’t know what I want / Until I fuck it up.” A shift of tense and now it is evident that the idolisation and intensity she felt of her lover was what ultimately broke them apart. Her voice goes down in tone, hope decreased with her reality. This reality is referred to by Bridgers in the last line of the song as “the dystopian morning”. In her post-relationship reality, Phoebe Bridger’s environment has been tinted by the heartbreak.
Phoebe Bridgers’ ‘I See You’ is out now via Dead Oceans.