It all started with a tweet. On Nov. 3, singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers sent a promise out into the digital ether — “if trump loses I will cover iris by the goo goo dolls.” Following the results of the presidential election, the tweet caught the attention of fellow artist and musician Maggie Rogers, and she offered up some musical assistance — “u need some harmonies for that special tune?” to which Bridgers replied “I’d give up forever to harmonize with you.” Thus the perfect indie duo was born.
“Iris,” featuring both Rogers and Bridgers, was released at midnight Friday. The cover was available for purchase only for a short time — there were just 24 hours to pick it up on Bandcamp, an online music platform that allows artists to circumvent the standard middle-men in music distribution. All proceeds from the track’s Bandcamp purchases will go toward the organization Fair Fight Action — which works against voter suppression and toward election reform in Georgia and across the country.
Bridgers and Rogers — though sometimes confused simply for the phonetic similarity of their last names — are two prominent artists on the indie scene, each offering refreshingly new and distinctive musical styles. Bridgers, usually occupying the indie-folk and indie-rock space, is a master of uncanny lyricism and haunting vocals. Her bright, light voice sings about such macabre subjects as death and depression — a repurposing of a wholesome, acoustic folk tradition to fit Bridger’s unique darkness. Rogers, on the other hand, is equally distinct but situated at the opposite end of the spectrum. Her music is indie-folk infused with vigor and dance synth, grounded by lyrical images of nature. Bridgers is the dark side of Rogers’ moon.
So what happens when the two powerhouses collide? Sheer magic ensues. The acoustic “Iris” cover is a perfect blend of each artist’s style and sound — Rogers’ soulfulness balancing equally with Bridgers’ shadowiness. The first verse is purely Bridgers, a melancholic crooning that sounds like it was plucked right from her sophomore record, “Punisher.” Once the familiar “I don’t want the world to see me” ushers in the chorus, Rogers joins in, and the resulting harmony is cathartic and resonant. Their voices blend with a certain sweetness that feels reminiscent of Bridgers’ collaborative effort with fellow musicians Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus — the “Boygenius” EP from 2018 gave Bridgers the opportunity to show off her skills in collaboration with others. The second verse, however, is reserved for Rogers, and it is there that her earnest folk roots take hold of the song.
The song choice of “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls may have been proposed merely as a joke on Bridgers part — the musician is known for her sarcastic antics on Twitter, as well as having plenty of ironicism in her lyrics — but the 1998 track turned out to be the perfect throwback choice, invoking a comforting nostalgia. Following one of the more tumultuous and emotionally draining weeks in recent memory — not a small feat, considering how 2020 has been going — music once again flexes its healing powers.
Bridgers and Rogers took one of the most well-known alternative rock songs of their childhood — an arguably overplayed track — and breathed new life into it by stripping it bare. While the original maintained an upbeat, steady rhythm, the cover brought the song down to its lyrical roots, producing an ethereal, moving rendition. Rogers acts as the soulful backbone to the beautiful, fleeting quality of Bridgers’s vocals. The result is heartbreakingly good.