Our Take: 5 Stars
From her first self-published album, “Lush,” to 2018’s ominously popular “Be the Cowboy,” Mitski has always hooked audiences with her ability to tell stories of love and loss using nothing more than her words and a melody. Her new single, “Working for the Knife,” showcases exactly that. To the near hypnotic backdrop of the beat, Mitski tells an age-old tale — the story of falling out of love with your passion and wondering where it all went wrong and how it could ever be possibly right again.
In many ways “Working for the Knife” tells a story that Mitski has told time and time again: the never-ending struggle between an artist and their work, the push and pull of creation. As she revisits it in “Working for the Knife,” there is a new clarity in her interpretation.
On the verge of turning thirty, Mitski brings a new, mature perspective to the question of what it means to create in a world that no longer wants to listen to her stories. With lines like “I always knew the world moves on / I just didn’t know it would go without me,” Mitski imparts a message to her listeners of what it feels like to exist in a world that doesn’t seem to have the time or place for her anymore.
With the release of her new song, Mitski also announced a new tour, her first since she announced an indefinite hiatus in 2018. With concert stadiums selling out in mere minutes, the tour remains a testament to Mitski’s meteoric rise, due in part to the popularity of her songs on TikTok. As her popularity continues to grow, many have begun to question who her music is aimed for.
Music is an art that is fundamentally open to flexible interpretation, but many have pointed out that much of Mitski’s music comes from her experience as a person of color living in America. Songs like “My Best American Girl” tell the story of what it feels like to be a mixed-race person in America and never truly feel like you fit in either world.
The question that many have raised about Mitski’s music is whether someone who has never lived the experience of being a person of color should be able to impart their interpretation on music that focuses on the person of color (POC) experience. Many argue that there are simply parts of the POC experience that white people will never be able to understand. Because of this, any interpretations of Mitski’s music that exclude the POC narrative will inherently fall glaringly short.
Regardless of who Mitski’s music is meant for, its impact is unquestionable. Even though her song was released with relatively little advertisement, thousands of viewers queued up to see the premiere live. Her unflinching views on a world that seems intent on her downfall as a woman of color continue to draw fans back, over and over again. “Working for the Knife” allows Mitski to showcase what she has always done best — creating music that tells the stories we all live through.