“I just make music” – Mitski Miyawaki from her Twitter page. Although the quote is taken out of context, it is still completely emblematic of Mitski’s brilliance. It seems so often, at least in articulation, that bombastic diction and a dogmatic prowess are necessary to discuss art. However, rather than stay a discussion, it becomes a dissection—an irrevocable wash of any sense of veracity. Therefore, rather than raise my ego, or hide entitlement and elevation behind pseudo-praise, I’d like to, for the remainder of this article, emulate Mitski and say “I’m just a fan.”
As a fan, I sincerely believe that no one is more deserving of the “Best Artist of 2018” title than Mitski. While BE THE COWBOY is a brilliant amalgamation of the artist, woman, and a deeply conceptual portrayal of emotion, it’s only a continuation of the insurmountable projectile she’s been making since 2012. The first song she ever wrote has her depicted as nothing but a “Bag of Bones,” the sound of which reverberates the innate loneliness of sex. I mean…to hell with your Master Class Aaron Sorkin. At 21, Mitski was giving her listeners Sagawa Chika-esque cyclical lyrics on LUSH, and now at 28 is dissolving any boundaries of societally endowed “musicianship” and just creating.
Although, it’s not just lyrics with Mitski; in all honesty it never really has been. Instead, for six years Mitski has been meticulous in the one thing: her evocation. Through every single album, no matter the label, the release method, the through line, Mitski asks “How do I want you to feel?” Sometimes, like on “Texas Reznikoff,” we feel the way she does—enveloped with a chaotic lust. Other times we don’t, like on “I Want You.” The song is all about rejoicing in love, and yet, the track leaves you feeling like you’re running on empty. There are even times where we didn’t know how we felt until we heard one specific song: “Come Into the Water” is exemplary in that regard.
Of course the aforementioned notion does not mean that the technical aspects of her art is anything less than a product of immense, fruitful labor. Her composition is some of the most calculated work in the landscape of media. If you disagree, please listen to “Shame” and get back to me. In addition to composition, Mitski is consistent, and one of my favorite things about her music is the discussion of liminality. Traversing every album, Mitski always talks about the importance of spaces, and rooms, what it means to be in her own (“Last Words of a Shooting Star,” “Pink in the Night”), and more often, others (“Square,” “Bag of Bones”).
To me, it feels a little obtuse to talk about an artist’s work and not who they are as a person. A true testament to Mitski, and one of my personal favorite quotes is, “I just have an aversion to any and all art that’s essentially a guy jerking off and trying to make you believe it is amazing”. Throughout her career Mitski has been completely transparent with her audience, or anyone who is asking. PUBERTY 2, the album prior to BE THE COWBOY, is by far the most viscerally political Mitski has been so far. With tracks like “Your Best American Girl,” “Thursday Girl,” and especially “I Bet on Losing Dogs,” the tenant of what it means to be a woman and more often a “woman who makes art” is completely disavowed. She is tired of every and any person put on a pedestal by men. In fact, every album up to PUBERTY 2 had been an explosion of “I’m tired of being an emotional stethoscope to the men I’ve loved.”
As a fan, all I can say is Mitski has lived her life. She has lived her life running in circles, trying to figure her shit out, and often finds herself back at square one, but so do we. If you can take anything away from this article it should be, more than anything, Mitski told us in 2018, I’m not the cool girl, I’m not the submissive girl with a heart of gold, I’m not the alternative girl. I’m not any of the self-inflicted projection and portrayals of women you had no intention of respecting, I’m the fucking cowboy, and if you don’t like it, move on, because neither of us have the time.