Artists regularly release music videos, but now that we’re decades out from the golden age of MTV and its elder millennial cousin TRL, their impact feels closer to a pebble hitting the window. Don’t get me wrong, there are still grand visions and artistic statements—Childish Gambino’s “This Is America“ and Beyonce’s “Formation,” for starters. And certain videos in recent years have stirred up attention, moving beyond a marketing tool to achieve cultural currency.
But on the whole, it seems as though it’s just an item on the album cycle checklist. Single? Check. Lyric video? Check. Music video? Check. Labels repeat that pattern until the artist tours and eventually begins working on their next album—when it begins all over again.
Every now and then, though, something quirky and quietly beautiful comes along, reminiscent of the visuals that once earned attention for trying something a little different.
That’s the case with Phoebe Bridgers‘ new music video for “Savior Complex,” off her album Punisher. She partnered with her snarky British counterpart Phoebe Waller-Bridge (of Fleabag fame), who directed the visual, and Normal People‘s Paul Mescal. In it, Mescal plays as an emotional conman who finds his match in a wide-eyed and surprisingly evocative pup who doesn’t let him off the hook so easily.
In life, Bridgers and Waller-Bridge share a tender-hearted derision that emerges in their art. The video’s romantic framing (close-ups of the dog, the double capes near the end) and comedic editing juxtapose the song’s confessional solemnity: “Baby, you’re a vampire / You want blood and I promised / I’m a bad liar / With a savior complex.” The end result is oddly spellbinding, a short film that elevates the music video art form.