Photo: Olof Grind
The Phoebe Bridgers Songs That Helped College Students Through Tough Times
In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, folk-rock singer/songwriter Phoebe Bridgers is sitting down for an open and honest conversation about mental health with GRAMMY U, the Recording Academy’s university network, and MusiCares. Bridgers will touch on her journey with mental health, how her experiences have inspired her music and how music itself has helped her get through it all.
While music has helped Bridgers with her mental health wellness, her music has also inspired fans in their journeys. In anticipation of the discussion with Bridgers streaming on May 27 on YouTube and Facebook at 4 p.m. P.T., fans within GRAMMY U opened up about the Bridgers songs that have helped through their times of need.
Victoria, a GRAMMY U Member in the Philadelphia Chapter, shares that she has a personal connection to "Steamroller" off Bridgers’ 2015 Killer EP. The melancholic song about being in love with your best friend but being afraid to ruin the friendship makes Victoria feel a part of a collective grief. "[The lyrics] helped me be able to grasp my sadness [and] that other people are also dealing with what I’m going through," she tells GRAMMY.com. Whether about struggles stemming from the pandemic or other problems that life throws her way, the song acts as a safe place for her to express her emotions. She adds that many of Bridgers’ songs make her feel understood as they express similar feelings she has; While Victoria may not release those feelings out into the open, Bridgers does, and that gives her hope it will make others feel like they’re not alone either.
A GRAMMY U Member in the Nashville Chapter, who wishes to remain anonymous, agrees with Victoria. When discussing Bridgers’ song "Chinese Satellite" from her Punisher album, which describes her lack of faith and struggles of not feeling able to, the student says it helped them "understand my own mental health while also making me feel like I’m not the only one going through these things." The past year, especially, has been hard for students—remote learning has many feeling isolated amid an overall atmosphere that has disconnected people from each other. The pandemic has really taken a toll on college students across the world, and Alonda, a GRAMMY U Member in the Los Angeles Chapter, having been personally affected by COVID, including the loss of a close relative, was soothed by the same track. "'Chinese Satellite' [eased] my pain from all the trauma my family and I went through," she shares. "Her song was basically like a detox of releasing my emotions."
Aryana, a GRAMMY U Member in the New York Chapter, appreciates the brutal honesty Bridgers features in her tracks. She accredits her breakup anthem, "Motion Sickness," on the Stranger in the Alps album about her emotionally abusive ex-boyfriend "for getting [her through] some of the toughest moments," even considering her music to be a form of "free therapy." After going through her own breakup and feeling some of the same emotions that Bridgers’ sings about, the song really acted as a comfort in her time of need.
James, a GRAMMY U Member in the New York Chapter, talks more about appreciating the honesty that Bridgers provides through her lyrics in songs like "Kyoto" which appears on Punisher. Like most of Bridgers’ songwriting, he says "‘Kyoto’ is brutally honest, demonstrating her frustration with a person in her life as well as feelings of dissociation." It’s for this reason, he notes, that he believes her music to be refreshing. In a world dominated by happy pop, Bridgers chooses to be vulnerable and extremely literal in most. Her fanbase definitely reflects this and can celebrate her music on a whole new level, digging into their deepest emotions to truly appreciate it.
Although Bridgers is known for her sad songs, which seem to revolve mostly around death, they still bring joy to listeners. Liz, a GRAMMY U Member in the Los Angeles Chapter, touches on this concept within her song "I Know the End," also on Punisher, saying, “I find a lot of joy in the dichotomy between a not-quite-obsession with death, or in this case the end, and yet an obvious love for life.” What started as a breakup song about the depression Bridgers was feeling turned into a song about the depression she had from touring, ultimately resulting in screams about the entire world needing to end and wanting to visit her grandpa up north. This song is cathartic to Liz, especially while screaming along to it during the peak of COVID in Los Angeles, when she says it truly did feel like the end.
Each of these fans show just how much Phoebe Bridgers’ music touches each of them in a special way—whether it helps them feel like they’re not alone or shows them that it’s okay to not be okay. "That is what I love about Phoebe's music," Allison, a GRAMMY U Member in the Chicago Chapter says, "It can really transcend every listener's experience."
Tune into Mental Health and Music with Phoebe Bridgers, presented by GRAMMY U and MusiCares, on May 27 at 7 pm ET/4 pm PT to hear more about her own journey.