I’m not exaggerating when I say “Moon Song” by Phoebe Bridgers is one of the saddest songs I’ve ever heard.
I first heard about Bridgers from friends, who joked about how truly depressing her 2020 album “Punisher” is. She is a 26-year-old singer-songwriter from California who, apparently, has a reputation for gloomy music. That was all I knew about her before I jumped into “Punisher.”
Since my first listen, I have fallen down a rabbit hole. Bridgers’ songs are simple and conversational but have incredible depth. I listened to her entire catalog, falling more and more in love with her powerful lyrics and beautiful instrumentals.
Her two studio albums, 2017’s “Stranger in the Alps” and 2020’s “Punisher,” are gorgeously austere, showcasing her gift for creating songs that are deeply emotional experiences.
“Moon Song” is one of the most impressive songs in her discography. The instrumental track creates a bleak and beautiful soundscape, inviting listeners to focus on and truly feel the painful mix of emotions Bridgers describes. It’s simple, and some may call it boring, but it accentuates the entire emotional experience of the song.
It tells the story of a painful, one-sided love, but a love that Bridgers would do anything for. She evokes vivid images and heartbreaking feelings through her storytelling.
In my favorite moment of “Moon Song,” Bridgers uses textual imagery of a dog bringing a bird to its owner to communicate her experience with this unrequited love.
Let’s break this down. A dog sees a dead bird as a gift for its owner, a symbol of its love for them. The dog presents the bird triumphantly and excitedly, expecting gratitude and happiness in return. However, what usually happens is the opposite. The owner is disgusted and reprimands the dog.
Bridgers compares this to her own experience, saying she sees her own love as a beautiful gift to someone, but they retaliate with hostility and disgust, to her confusion. She even closes the song with this idea, singing “When you saw the dead little bird, you started crying. But you know the killer doesn’t understand.”
That image of a dog with a bird always strikes me, even though I’ve listened to that song more times than I can count.
In the heartbreaking chorus, Bridgers is choked up, promising “If I could give you the moon, I would give you the moon.” Her emotion cracks her voice, driving home her pain and despair. Even if you haven’t experienced this same situation, you can still see how deeply Bridgers is affected by it.
If you’re looking for a song to blast on those late nights where it just feels like love is dead, “Moon Song” is perfect.