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The Chronicle

“Savior Complex” provides an anthem for complicated relationships

Phoebe Bridges (Wikimedia Commons)

Phoebe Bridgers is a singer-songwriter from California who is influenced by quiet musicians such as Elliot Smith and Joni Mitchell. She made her debut on September 22, 2017 with her album “Stranger in the Alps,” setting up her soft-spoken style with angry messages.

“Savior Complex” is a song written by Bridgers on her Grammy-nominated album, “Punisher.” Released at the height of the pandemic, it encapsulates some of the sadness of that time. In my opinion, it is one of the best songs of the decade.

“Savior Complex” is a showcase of everything great about Bridgers’ songwriting and style.

As soon as you turn it on, you’re met with a quietly strummed guitar and strings that swell in the background. Then, you hear these steel guitars far in the background, soft vocals, and occasional grainy static noises that are all put together with a reluctantly plucked bass, pushing the song along.

So, what does a song with such a strong title mean?

As the name suggests, it details a savior complex. A savior complex is when someone feels compelled to assist someone else.

In the song, Bridgers describes her attempt to support a person she loves, even when that person might not want to be helped.

It is about wanting to show emotional intimacy. That is why one of the biggest moments of the song is the hook, “All the bad dreams that you hide. Show me yours; I’ll show you mine.” Bridgers wants to resolve all her lovers’ problems by just opening up.

As the song continues, she reveals that the relationship might not be that simple.

Phoebe Bridgers, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Bridgers is drawn to her love because he seems hurt, and she wants to save him. She reveals in the first verse that he has “crocodile tears” as the problems run deeper. But the whole time, he was faking his problems. So, she calls him a “vampire,” which is a metaphor for how exhausting he can be. At the same time, Bridgers calls herself a “bad liar” because she never let him take any blood.

This blood could refer to her emotional intimacy, which is giving into what he wants or having fights with him. Regardless, either interpretation foreshadows the ending of this relationship.

Bridgers mentions fighting quite a lot in this song. She keeps making a call back to a fire. Using a fire as a metaphor for their love, where their love burns bright but can be deadly As she says, “smokin’ in the car, windows up.” She also alludes to fights that have been happening, describing them as a “big fire” in a “one-room apartment.”

This song depicts a very cinematic representation of what drifting apart from someone is like. The fire slowly burns down the house, or the other person feels like a vampire. This means fights are slowly increasing, and your view of the other person is exhausting. These are all signs of a declining relationship.

The music video for “Savior Complex” presents the song fantastically. It displays a dog following a man who pretends to be hurt as the man takes advantage of people’s kindness, while the dog witnesses this but stays regardless. Eventually, the dog leaves and takes revenge on him.

The dog represents a metaphor for the relationship with Bridgers, as she always refers to herself as “a dog being faithful to her owner in many songs.”

Another instance of this is seen in another song entitled “Moon Song,” where there is a fine line between hate and love.

“Savior Complex” resonates so much with me because it is difficult to support someone you love. It is common to help someone, but how far should you go? When they are repeatedly self-destructive, do not change themselves, and never reciprocate love, how much can you help them?

My favorite part of the song is the start of the second verse, “Call me when you land. I’ll drive around again. One hand on the wheel, one in your mouth”.

These are my favorite lines because they fully encapsulate what it feels like to be waiting around for someone. You might take a drive or maybe go for a walk. Whatever you do, you’re constantly waiting on their words, trying to make them say what you want to hear. It’s almost poetic.

This song reminds me of “Creep” by Radiohead, which has something similar with the chord progression that evokes a melancholy feeling with a relationship that is one-sided and dysfunctional being the subject matter. However, in Bridger’s case, both individuals have contributed to this confusing relationship. Both of these songs seem to be a sort of anthem for people who feel left behind.

“Savior Complex” also reminds me of “Something Stupid” by Frank and Nancy Sinatra. The song is about two people who lack communication and aren’t vocal about their love for each other.

Both of these songs start off by switching between two chords and then progress to these more major shifts, with string swells in the background.

These are similar to “Savior Complex” because those songs are anthems for people who have had complicated relationships.

I think that’s part of the reason why “Savior Complex” is so special. It’s relatable to everyone because everyone has been in a complicated relationship.

With its intentional writing, production, and mixing, it is a wonderful song that feels cinematic and pop-like while also being depressing and acoustic. It perfectly encapsulates this waiting-around feeling of hopelessness and isolation. This song is the perfect song for when that first snow falls and you watch snow cover the houses, which is great timing for the upcoming winter season.

Make sure to check out “Savior Complex” if you want to hear a song that was masterfully crafted. If you want to hear something similar, make sure to check out her other songs on the album, “Punisher.”

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