At 2:51 p.m. on Election Day, indie rock alternative singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers tweeted, “if trump loses I will cover iris by the goo goo dolls.” Considering I basically only listen to Bridgers’ “Motion Sickness,” and the original 1998 “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls is one of my all-time favorite songs, I was understandably ecstatic. In the midst of a never-ending election week and anxiety about who our president would be, this tweet was the only thing I had going for me.
if trump loses I will cover iris by the goo goo dolls
— traitor joe (@phoebe_bridgers) November 3, 2020
While I continued refreshing election results, my anticipation of this cover intensified when alternative pop-folk singer-songwriter Maggie Rogers responded to Bridgers’ tweet, “u need some harmonies for that special tune ?”
u need some harmonies for that special tune ?
— Maggie Rogers (@maggierogers) November 6, 2020
As a loyal Rogers fan, evidenced by my prized “Maggie Rogers Wants You To Vote” shirt, all I could think about was a potential Joe Biden presidency and the sweet, sweet reward of Bridgers and Rogers’ angelic harmonies. Bridgers answered by paying homage to the lyrics of “Iris,” “I’d give up forever to harmonize with you,” making me lose sleep with excitement.
I’d give up forever to harmonize with you
— traitor joe (@phoebe_bridgers) November 6, 2020
Flash forward to Nov. 13, when Biden’s victory had been official for almost a week and Bridgers and Rogers’ rendition of “Iris” had just dropped for a one day exclusive on Bandcamp. All proceeds from the song went to Stacey Abrams’ Georgia-based Fair Fight, an organization that promotes fair elections, advocates for election reform and works to end voter suppression. Clearly, Bridgers and Rogers know the way to my heart: fighting voter suppression and releasing one of the best covers I have ever heard. In short, this song is nothing but absolute fire.
The cover begins with Bridgers’ smooth alto in a stripped-down and slowed version of the rock classic. Midway through the first chorus, Rogers’ harmonies commence.
I literally screamed.
From there, Rogers takes the second verse, and in her unique yet hypnotizing voice sings, “When everything feels like the movies, you bleed just to know you’re alive.” While I was shrieking just a second ago, now I was crying.
The rest of the verses are sung together in perfect harmony with a passionate instrumental break. Although Rogers usually sings the high harmonies, Bridgers shows her versatility by doing the same.
Since that fateful release, I have listened to this song well over 200 times and I tear up a little during Rogers’ verse each time. Bridgers and Rogers breathe new emotion into the song. Their rendition is something you write about in your college newspaper even though you have three other graded essays to write.
Their version trades the drums and electric guitar of the Goo Goo Dolls for simple acoustic guitar and intricate vocals. Although the cover is less of a rocker and more peaceful than the original, it retains certain moments of the mandolin drama that’s core to the original.
The duo knows how to take risks. When I first heard the starting notes of the song, I was skeptical. I love the original; it’s loud, it’s exciting and although I’m a huge fan of Bridgers’ emo sound, I didn’t know if it would work with the song. But that’s what Rogers adds. Without Rogers’ additions, Bridgers’ style would not fully captivate the essence of the song. However, Rogers brings a complexity that establishes its place as just as good or better than the original. The pair’s executive structure changes are artful, and the fact that Bridgers and Rogers both grew up playing music and are trained vocalists is evident in its technicality.
The cover art is also spot on. Instead of an original photo or art, the duo decided to take a stab at a niche indie meme. The image depicts the two singers feeding the song to “The Revolution.” They obviously know their audience well.
— Maggie Rogers (@maggierogers) November 13, 2020
Their familiarity with their audience paid off, illustrated both by the slew of text messages I’ve exchanged with my other Bridgers and Rogers-obsessed friends and the fact that the song sold over 46,000 copies and raised $173,703 during its single-day release, placing it “in contention to become one of the week’s best-selling songs,” according to Billboard Music.
I also find the song meaningful in the context of their larger musical catalogs.
Because Bridgers and her team are the central creative force behind the cover, the sound is similar to most of her work from her solo albums, “Stranger in the Alps” and “Punisher.” It’s slow, simple and all about the vocals. Part of what I love about this cover is that it’s different for Rogers.
Although I’m as captivated by Rogers’ folk-pop electronica in the same way Pharrell Williams was when he discovered her in a New York University master class, the layers of her original music sometimes overshadow her unmatched soulful vocals. In “Iris,” Bridgers provides a foundation that allows Rogers’ fans to hear how vocally astounding she is.
Bridgers is well known for her slow, addicting and depressing music. She knows how to evoke emotion through song like no other artist I’ve heard before. With this cover, though she’s not writing the lyrics or the melody, she still manages to bring the same heart-wrenching despair into it. I’ve had a lot going in my life lately and this song has been my soundtrack, whether I’m on pensive car rides looking out the window or watching my Zoom lectures. I played it out loud in an airport when my headphones were dead, and I obviously listened to it while writing this article.
I’m no music journalist, I do know that this song made me feel. To be totally cliche, it changed my life a little. It was unsurprising to me that the blend of Bridgers and Rogers’ voices with their generation-defining talent would hit it out of the park, and I’d give up forever for this cover.
Digital Operations & Podcast Editor | Gabriella Lewis (she/her, 23C) is from San Francisco, California, majoring in political science and women, gender and sexuality studies. She hosts the podcast Wheel Talk. Outside the Wheel, she is involved with residence life and voting rights at Emory. She also enjoys national parks, eating ramen and telling people she's from California.