Mitski is undeniably one of the last decade’s greatest artists. From her breakout Bury Me at Makeout Creek to her monumental Be The Cowboy and everything in between, Mitski has always kept things fresh with her music. It’s a hard thing to keep up for a decade, especially considering how personal these songs are. In 2019, Mitski announced she would be stepping away from music indefinitely, from live performances as well as recording. Her final show took place in New York in 2019, and it felt like the close of a chapter for Mitski. Other than some songs for the soundtrack to a graphic novel, Mitski effectively vanished. Her social media long disabled, no interviews or anything else, until this week.
On Monday morning, Mitski’s social media posted an image with a date and time: October 5th, 2020, 10:00AM ET. The message wasn’t exactly cryptic, and once it hit exactly that time, “Working for the Knife” was released to the world. Musically, it’s not a huge departure in sound from anything Mitski has done in the past. It’s more of a blend of her sounds and that may be intentional. There are synth, acoustic guitar, and some loud guitar, and Mitski’s voice is as powerful as ever. Her songwriting continues to be honest, as “Working for the Knife” concerns her experience and expectations in the music industry. It’s about how the life of a performer and musician can go from fulfilling to becoming something devoid of humanity.
“I always knew the world moves on
I just didn’t know it would go without me
I start the day high and it ends so low
‘Cause I’m working for the knife”
“Working for the Knife” is accompanied by a music video with a lot of imagery from Mitski’s past. A glimpse of a building reminiscent of the one on the cover of Bury Me at Makeout Creek. The cowboy hat and the theatre imagery are much like the promotional work for Be The Cowboy. Its final moments of Mitski dancing reflect her final shows, but this time unaccompanied by music. All we hear is her breath. The video hammers home the fact that this song is a look back on her career and the things that led to her needing to step away. It’s not a celebration of those times, but perhaps a farewell of the old and an embrace of a new Mitski who can create again. This time, however, on her terms. We can’t wait to see what’s next.
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