I Know the End

Phoebe Bridgers, 2020

Based on your reading of the lyrics, what do you think this song is about? Taken in a literal sense, this song is about a breakup.

Can the breakup be interpreted as representative of something larger? In other words, is the breakup a metaphor?

What was occurring when this song was released in June 2020? The Covid-19 pandemic. Many countries and localities had instituted lockdowns and issued stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of the disease.

Even though this song was not intended to be about the pandemic, the song resonated with audiences living through lockdowns and stay-at-home orders. How do you think the lyrics spoke to people living in these situations?

"I Know the End" performed by Phoebe Bridgers on Punisher, © 2020.

Rights have not been secured to reprint the words for this song. Please consult the following online resource for lyrics:

https://genius.com/Phoebe-bridgers-i-know-the-end-lyrics

Indie-rock singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers is known for her songs of disenchantment and melancholia. Following the success of her first album, Stranger in the Alps (2017), she teamed up with two other young singer-songwriters, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus, to form the all-female supergroup boygenius. With Conor Oberst of the band Bright Eyes, she then formed a duo, called Better Oblivion Community Center, with whom she released a self-titled album in 2019. Bridgers’s sophomore solo album, Punisher, was released amid the Covid-19 pandemic in June 2020. Punisher’s lyrics of loneliness and isolation struck a chord with listeners living in a time of lockdowns and social distancing.

Phoebe Bridgers

Although Bridgers wrote “I Know the End” prior to the pandemic, the song’s resonances with people’s experiences during lockdowns launched it to widespread renown. On one level, the song is about two people going separate ways because they want different things, and Bridgers has said that the song was originally written about her breakup with drummer Marshall Vore. During the pandemic, however, many listeners related to Bridgers’s conflicting thoughts about being at home. In the first verse, she longs to be home—"there’s no place like my room," she sings. But on the other hand, what drove her and Vore apart was the disconnect between his desire to "hide under the floor" and her avowal that she's "not gonna go down with my hometown in a tornado / I’m gonna chase it."

The song’s apocalyptic descriptions also resonate in the pandemic era. Bridgers refers to government warnings—“the sirens sound”—that could be heard as alluding to the government-issued stay-at-home and mask-wearing orders. As the nation and world debated how to balance addressing the threat of the virus with the threat of lockdown-exacerbated economic collapse, Bridgers sings about whether the greatest threat is “a government drone or alien spaceship”—in other words, a threat from outside (perhaps the virus), or a threat from inside (perhaps the government’s response to the virus). Struggling to comprehend the threat, Bridgers, like many Americans in 2020, desires “a new place to be.”