In 2011, much of America’s musical bubble was bursted when a relatively little known band, Arcade Fire, won a Grammy for their album, The Suburbs. While they were a big thing on the indie circuit, chances were that if your listening pleasure was tied to Clear Channel’s whims, you were in the dark when it came to the band. So it was a considerable amount of glee with which I greeted their win that night. And what made it even better was the #whothefuckisarcadefire trending topic.
Although not an identical story, a recent event reminded me of the Arcade Fire situation where an under-the-mainstream radar performer being highlighted on a cultural touchstone. In this case, it was Phoebe Bridgers performing two songs on Saturday Night Live. One of the songs she and her band performed was “I Know the End,” a beautiful song that begins as barely a whisper and, eventually, climaxes in a cacophony of horns, a group chorus, and a cathartic scream. During the performance, Bridgers slams her guitar into a replica monitor created by Saturday Night Live.
The social media response was, for me, concurrently depressing, predictable, yet surprising. Many criticized the guitar slam as contrived and derivative. Some gave her shit for not actually breaking the guitar. Some actually cried out about the act’s white privilege. Bridgers seemed to take it all in stride, explaining that she warned the guitar company in advance, with them wishing her luck as the guitar was notoriously hard to break.
I like her music. I liked her performance. And that song is one of only a few new songs I’ve heard recently that really elicits a strong emotional response from me. I think that most of the people’s takes on the performance are at best, short-sighted, and at worst, misogynist garbage. Men have been smashing guitars and other equipment for 50 years. Let the artist be an artist. If you don’t like her music, go find some you do.
Anyway, here are the original version of the song and the SNL performance, both of which are worth a view.