If you get to live long enough, you’ll find that one of the few certainties is that we all have an expiration date. The randomness of it feels like a double-edged sword — on the one hand, life’s volatile nature drives you to experience all its spoils to the fullest. At the same time, the sudden blow of loss can suspend you in time — either impeding your ability to move forward or causing you to look into the past, ruminating about all the time you missed with that person. The video for Bishop Briggs‘ single, ‘High Water,’ focuses tight on the singer’s face as she sings in a desert.
There’s a beautiful yet sad contrast between the visual against the lyrical content of the song. After losing something or someone, it can feel like you are traveling down a barren land by yourself. In the song, Briggs mentions the loss of her sister Kate to ovarian cancer leaves her fighting against the wave of harsh emotions which has come over her. Simple guitar chords act as a current taking us into Briggs wearing the song’s emotional strain—even pausing to wrestle with tears. It’s hard to see one of your heroes become weakened (I wasn’t the strong one/Till we were falling apart) and when the loss is fresh, memories both hurt and heal (I’m tired of replaying/memories in my head Replaying everything/Everything you’ve ever said). Every family photo or video can feel like a dagger dancing to the beating of your heart and the lump forming in your throat. We will never know Kate the way Bishop does, but the brief laughter of them as children illuminates the light Bishop misses.
Her powerful vocals turn into a rush to exhale right at the end of “High Water,” as if her unbridled honestly and vulnerable in this song is a much-needed release. It contrasts how Briggs uses water in her 2016 song, ‘River,’ where she beckons to the wave of intimacy to wash over her. The dualistic nature of water is that it can nurture and drown us. But, there’s the other side of grieving when you take the brave step to mold that experience like clay. It’s not that you don’t feel the void of that person’s presence or the sting of memories, but you decide to feel the fear and live, anyway. That’s where Briggs’ ‘Art of Survival‘ comes in.
She acknowledges that depression and isolation can change your thought process (“Dreams get poisoned in your brain/Yeah, the enemy’s the same). By the same token, Briggs has an urge to pull herself out of that abyss (How can I fly with eagles?/Scared I’m gonna hit the wall/Today I woke up a fighter/The Art of Survival). Briggs exhibits a different mode of strength than in her 2019 song, ‘Champion.’ The art of survival is only learned when you’re at the edge of the cliff of your emotions. She repurposes those same memories that Briggs sings about in “High Water,’ and uses them to live like the best version of herself.
In an interview with Paper Magazine, Briggs spoke about her impending motherhood and how she would infuse her late sister’s sense of optimism into her life. An impending miracle for a person who’s been through so much. Sorrow is a uniform emotion that appears to people in ways that attach the act of reminiscing with caveats. Music is a conduit to channel things we can never say through simple conversation. Briggs’s bravery in being emotionally naked in front of the world hopefully propels her to a part of life where the old times become less heavy.
Photo Credit: Ashley Osborn