The hours I spend each day listening to music have led me to the conclusion that good artists fit into a genre or two, and great artists create their own genre. Mitski is a leading model of an artist creating their own distinct genre. No two Mitski songs are alike. Each exists as their own creative statement, connected by her impassioned, emotive voice, smokey with an indescribable longing and tragedy. It is not radio pop or gas station music or like fast food, consumed with passive attention. Mitski’s music is enthrallingly intricate, it requires more than one indifferent face-value listen. Her songs contain haunting nostalgia, yearning loneliness, silent and tense anger, and an overwhelming longing for something more, for something other than the experienced truths of life.
In her song A Burning Hill, she sings: And I am the fire and I am the forest and I am a witness watching it, conveying the snarled complexities of enduring pain and trauma. In most cases of conflict, we look for someone to blame, and sometimes, the one we blame is ourself. And we do more than just blame. Sometimes, we engage in self-sabotage, because the hardships we experience can make us believe that we deserve more pain. Sometimes, we do nothing at all. Experiencing and understanding hardship is not straightforward. As Mitski says, you are the fire and the forest and the sedentary witness. When in pain, we do what makes the most sense to us, even if it’s illogical to others, even when we know it’s harmful behavior.
Mitski’s complex, multilayered lyrics are matched with an emotionally defining composition that translates to an understanding of the spectrum and depth of emotions and our response to them. She transforms her adversities into remarkable works of art, and the beauty of her work is the result of her refusal to ignore tragedy. Through song, Mitski owns her pain, she reclaims it.