"Kyoto" is a Grammy-nominated song by American singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers. It was released on April 9, 2020 as the second single from her second studio album, Punisher (2020).
Bridgers wrote the song about her complicated, evolving relationship with her father. Her parents divorced when she was 20, leaving Bridgers angry. The song is named for the city in Japan; Bridgers wrote the song on her first trip to the country in February 2019. A lyric observing that Japan "still" has pay phones – the sentiment being that they are long outdated – was entirely fictional, Bridgers said. In a press statement, Bridgers expounded upon the song's meaning:
This song is about impostor syndrome. About being in Japan for the first time, somewhere I’ve always wanted to go, and playing my music to people who want to hear it, feeling like I’m living someone else's life. I dissociate when bad things happen to me, but also when good things happen. It can feel like I’m performing what I think I’m supposed to be like.
Producer Tony Berg suggested she speed up the song's tempo, creating a brighter, more upbeat tone. Bridgers agreed, growing "sick" of recording slower ballads. "Kyoto" is instrumentally dense, incorporating twelve-string guitar, synthesizers, Autoharp, and mellotron. Bright Eyes' Nathaniel Walcott also contributes horns, while Jenny Lee Lindberg of Warpaint adds vocals.
The song's music video was initially slated to have been filmed in Kyoto proper. Bridgers planned the shoot to take place during a trip to Japan supporting the National in March 2020, though these dates were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the clip was recorded in front of a green screen in Los Angeles. it pictures Bridgers in a skeleton costume and superimposed over stock footage of Kyoto, including images of an arcade and at the Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine. She flies over the city and an ocean at points in the clip. The video includes appearances by Emily Bannon, Marshall Vore and Harrison Whitford—members of Bridgers' touring band. At one point in the video, the three are saved from Godzilla by Bridgers, who shoots lasers from her eyes. The video was directed and edited by Nina Ljeti.
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