A Smashing Controversy


(Image credit: Phoebe Bridgers / Instagram)

Cameron Antonakes, Journalist

Guitar smashing has always been a rock and roll staple, but apparently women aren’t allowed to smash guitars. On Saturday, February 7, 2021 Phoebe Bridgers performed two of her songs on SNL: “Kyoto” and “I Know The End”. You might also have heard of her due to the recent controversy of her smashing a guitar live on SNL.

First, she played a beautiful rendition of her hit song, “Kyoto” which was nominated for two Grammys. After a few more skits from the SNL cast, Phoebe Bridgers was reintroduced to play her intense song “I Know The End.” The ballad was played wonderfully by Phoebe and her band; however, this performance has become subject to controversy because of the events of the instrumental solo at the end of the song. After the final verse, Phoebe and her band moved into an instrumental solo containing trumpets, guitars, drums, vocals, and a violin. At the end of the incredible solo, Phoebe starts to scream into the microphone and then proceeds to smash her guitar on a fake amp. This would become controversial due to a very divided reception of the performance.

For the following few days the internet was in a frenzy over Phoebe Bridgers’ performance of “I Know The End” on SNL. Fans and the majority of the younger generations absolutely loved the performance. There was also a great outpour of support and love from the LGBTQ+ community. However, the older generations and typically right leaning people disliked the performance a great deal. Some people were calling it “extra”,  “disappointing”, and “an unjustifiably awkward display of white privilege.” The main basis for their opposition was the fact that guitars are expensive and they shouldn’t be wasted or mistreated. Although that does hold some merit, it isn’t really justified because of the meaning of the song.

In my interview with my brother, music aficionado and Phoebe Bridgers fan, he stated, “The song in which she did this (smash the guitar) was about the end of the world. The song is deeply cathartic and existential. The guitar smash, like it or not, adds an extra layer to the performance.” This statement makes the point that since she was performing this song live instead of showing her feelings about the song’s meaning in a music video, she had to be able to show the intensity of this song in some way shape or form. That form being screaming and smashing her guitar. She also had the courtesy to tell the guitar company she was going to smash the guitar; when asked on Twitter she said, “I told Danelectro I was going to do it and they wished me luck and told me they’re hard to break.”

Later that night after SNL, a fan asked David Crosby on Twitter what he thought of the performance. Crosby responded with one word, “Pathetic.” The next day this tweet somehow made its way to Phoebe which prompted her to comment on the post, “little b—-.” The fun was not over though. Later on, Crosby tweeted again in response to guitar smashing; this time saying, “it’s what you do if you can’t write.” This tweet didn’t just make Crosby look like a fool; it also attracted the attention of another rock legend, Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Flea responded to Crosby’s tweet by saying, “Hendrix couldn’t write?” 

This controversy put reality into perspect for many. Some people can’t handle the fact that a woman smashed a guitar and looked cool while doing it. Those people will have to face the harsh reality that music is changing for the better. Phoebe Bridgers was nominated for four Grammys, including Best Rock Performance, Best Rock Song, Best Alternative Music Album, and Best New Artist. Best New Artist. Unfortunately for those people who disliked her performance on SNL, she is only just beginning.