Artist Profile: Mitski

Photo by: David Lee

The spokesperson of desire, Mitski Miyasaki, is currently on an indefinite break. Her last show – for now – was on SummerStage in Central Park to an audience filled with excitement and faint heartbreak. For two hours or so, the crowd sings along to every song, old and new, as she twirls, falls, poses, makes out with her hand, and expertly displays what a magnificent artist she is. 

With five albums released in six years and non-stop touring, there’s no doubt some rest is needed. She tweets an explanation that “It’s time to be a human again.” For many of her fans, she has been the explorer of what it means to be human as her extensive work allows for various vessels of reflection, longing, and understanding the innermost parts of you. She captures the concept of universal appeal through specificity as she screams “you keep your socks on in bed” in “Texas Reznikoff” or pleads “you know I wore this dress for you” in “Drunk Walk Home,” evoking an image deeply personal and shared. 

Her first two albums Lush and Retired from Sad, New Career in Business were produced and self-released as she studied in the Purchase College’s Conservatory of Music. Her deep knowledge of music theory is evident as orchestras accompany her soft vocals on tracks like “Square” and naked piano keys underscore tracks like “Door.” After graduation, her album Bury Me at Makeout Creek saw her highlighting her newly acquired guitar skills and indie rock vocals through the relatable declaration yelled in the middle of “Francis Forever” and her heartbreaking strums on “Last Words of a Shooting Star” as she informs that the Liberty Bell is a replica, silently housed in its original walls. 

Her sound continues to evolve with the rhythmic drumming on “Happy,” existential aggression on “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars,” and the ethereal echoes in “Thursday Girl” on the intensely intimate, sonically matured journey that is Puberty 2. This produced her first big hit “Your Best American Girl.” The song tells of the all-too-familiar feeling of trying to fit into a culture that will never accept you and appeal to someone who could never love you. It’s been declared a song that defined the decade by Billboard’s Caitlin Kelly, ranked 13th on Rolling Stone’s 100 Best Songs of the 2010s. and introduced us to the loving, metaphorical relationship Mitski has with her hand. 

However, her biggest hit, “Nobody,” comes off of the brilliant Be the Cowboy. The joyously repeating chorus became a memorable backdrop to a dildo circulating a conveyor belt to the shock and amusement of bystanders, a hilarious while surprisingly illuminating Mitski’s direct appeal to the lonely and confusing. The track “Nobody” is a pop-y cry for somebody, “Geyser” is a haunting opener with satisfyingly big horns and guitar, and “Two Slow Dancers” closes the album as a ballad acknowledging the end. 

Despite her hiatus, “Strawberry Blond,” a song off her second album had been flooding cottagecore and lesbian TikTok as wider circles of TikTok analyze the queer meanings behind “Me and My Husband” and “Goodbye My Danish Sweetheart.” Her catalog of iconic lyrics and lack of fear to play beyond the boundaries of the genre solidify her as an incredibly important musician of the 21st century. Her impressive discography provides a comfortable space for yearning– like a whole lot of yearning.

Written by: Yara Shaheen-Abuelreish