• Mark Mathews

Hobo Johnson and Phoebe Bridgers: Two sides of the same coin? (A musing)

Most of you are well aware of my intense love for L.A songstress, Phoebe Bridgers. A love that is pure and just because, quite frankly, her gorgeous fragile vocals and dark, twisted folk songs are that of absolute genius and I refute ANYONE that denies this fact.

However, another Californian that I absolutely love is that of, Frank Lopes Jr. better known by his pseudonym, Hobo Johnson. I happened upon Hobo when he performed his (now infamous), NPR Tiny Desk session, and it blew me away with the originality, infectious melodies and of course the charismatic, anti-hero frontman himself.

If you've not watched it, you will not regret spending the next fifteen minutes checking out the below video. Feel free to thank me later.

Hobo and his band, The Lovemakers, make music that is one part slam poetry, and two parts hip-hop and rock - with a seasoning of folky-ness to keep those musical taste buds really popping!


"Cool, Mark. But Why are you telling us about two totally different artists that you like?"

Well, my dearest reader, truth be told, I'm a little bored right now as I take a break from mixing a track I'm working on. Well, more to the point, my ears are taking a well-deserved break to freshen themselves up so as I can listen to this track for the forty millionth time, hoping that when I go back to it I will be able to hear if that kick drum is sounding juuuuussssttt right!


It's a long process this producing music lark.


Anyway, so I'm sitting in silence right now doing nothing and I suddenly felt like writing something for you guys.


So, as if this was a term paper for some imaginary university that I was at, I shall try to argue the case that both Hobo Johnson and Phoebe Bridgers are infact very similar artists. Sure on the surface they may sound totally different, but underneath it all they are in fact cut from the same cloth.


I will be doing this for no other reason than it being something for me to do. A completely pointless exercise, for sure, but aren't we all just running down the clock of life in any way we can?


Something to think about.


But for now, hold tight, because here comes the bollocks!


The title of this imaginary essay shall be:


Hobo Johnson and Phoebe Bridgers: Two sides of the same coin? (A musing)

*It is "A Musing", as I shall muse on this topic, not "AMUSING". Although who knows, what kind of bollocks I come up with here. It could, in fact, be amusing, we just don't know yet, kids.


Hobo Johnson and Phoebe Bridgers make two very distinctive styles of music that on first listen you would be forgiven for thinking are totally at odds with each other - much like the warring sides of Brexit. Bridgers makes soft, beautiful, calming folk music, whilst Johnson makes loud, brash, schizophrenic tunes.


However, with closer inspection, it becomes apparent that there is simply no Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn within this musical landscape and Nigel Farage is but a distant memory. What actually becomes apparent is the coming together of two great nations of song-smiths, building a land of their own. A safe, green and beautiful land where everyone is welcome and the drinks are free...


...Oh no, sorry I've just got word that that is actually Club Tropicana where the drinks are free. My apologies.


But the rest stands.

Phoebe Bridgers and Hobo Johnson fly their flag proudly; The flag for 'new-emo's' everywhere!


Yeah, I made that term up. You just wait and see. The NME will be calling everyone 'New-Emo's" soon.


Johnson raps, rants, raves, and rasps, whilst Bridgers sings, serenades and soothes, but it's the subject matter of their respective songs that show the correlation and special connection that these two have. Songs or fragility, death, falling in and out of love and living within this millennial, technological landscape of 2019 are what these two little wonders put into their musical melting pot.


Hobo Raps/Slam Poets (is that a term? It is now!) these lines on "Typical Story":

Whilst Bridgers sings on "Funeral":

"Jesus Christ, I'm so blue all the time And that's just how I feel Always have and I always will I always have and always will"

Both songwriters, in their own formidable ways, are writing heartfelt lyrics about their insecurities and mental status and doing so with such alarming honesty that you can't escape the impact and immediacy it has on your own soul. It is this kind of magic, that both of them wield, that proves them to be a musical force shooting from the same hip; They are the voices for the disenfranchised, the lost and the broken.


Their writing similarities don't end their either, oh no. Both Bridgers and Johnson write stories and tales, within a dark unforgiving universe filled with death.


In her song, "You Missed My Heart", (One of my favourites) Phoebe sings:

"He gave her a reassuring look, said he wouldn't leave But I asked him one more time, this time pulled out my shiv Struck him in the back and I pulled it out slow And I watched him fall down, and as the morning sun rose"

Whilst Hobo gives us this, from his track "Romeo & Juliet":

"I brush the bangs behind her lovely little ear, as she describes in detail how the end is truly near. Wow, and I'm sure that we can do this for forever or until we drink the poison, 'cause she sees some cloudy weather."

There is a softness and a beauty in what they are communicating, that dances with the macabre morbid thoughts of death and loss. This juxtaposition adds a black humour to each song and again shows them to be picking from the same creative dinner plate.


Odd metaphor, huh? I dig it though, so it's staying in.


Their geographical origins being similar and the fact that both acts have their friends in the bands they tour and perform with, adds something to their similarities too, but that is all a top-level sheen really.


Now perhaps it could be argued that they had to come from the West Coast of America to make their individual styles of music, I don't know, but let's not go down that rabbit hole as it will sporn more bollocks for me to consider and right now we don't need that.

Both artists do have these slight fringe personalities, that have often been successful in music. You know, the 'outsider' types who are perhaps a little awkward and uncomfortable in real life, but at the same time have this quiet confidence and strength that does manage to shine through. It often makes them very witty and cutting in interviews. Kurt Cobain had it as does Thom Yorke. Perhaps it is the knowledge that their insecurities and social unease are what enables them to create beautiful pieces of art and that is what makes us love them even more? Who knows, but this similarity, though apparent, is also not what makes them so intertwined.

No, what makes these artists two sides of the same musical coin, is the way in which they connect with audiences (and my God do they connect; each respectively having a hugely loyal and ever-growing fan base across the globe).


The raw, unashamed honesty that they put into their songs is what connects them with us. These are artists that bare all of their pains and insecurities, as if allowing us to pour over their diaries, letting us rush to the juicy parts to read about their deepest, darkest thoughts and feelings. THIS is why they are two sides of the same coin and THIS is why I ( and many others) love them both dearly.

So, there you have it. Pretty convincing stuff, huh?


Hmmm, yeah, I'm not sure I'm totally convinced either. Perhaps I should have compared and contrasted Billie Eilish (who I am also digging massively at the moment BTW) with Hobo Johnson?


Or maybe I should have contrasted all three of them?


Alas, I have no time as I need to get back to the old mixing. But it was a valiant effort wouldn't you say?! I also enjoyed writing it, as it allowed me to chew over and think about their music, which I adore, and so at the end of the day, it was all worth it, huh?!


And make no mistake, these two artists are incredible. My talking bollocks about them being the same or not is of little consequence. What is important here is that there are two artists that are creating fantastic music, that every one should let into their lives.


And that is perhaps how I can successfully prove that Hobo Johnson and Phoebe Bridgers are of the same ilk - because their wonderful pieces of music brings great joy and cathartic release to any listener out there, and it is NOTHING like Brexit whatsoever.


Hey do you know one of the best things you could do for me and my music is to follow me on Spotify?! Click HERE and give me a lovely follow and if you fancy adding some of my tracks to a playlist of yours, even better! xxxx



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