Mitski is no stranger to internal struggle. Over the course of her career, she’s been brutally honest about issues with love, living and most recently, the music industry. But this project feels different. The first half boasts haunting vocals and conflicted lyrics as Mitski rejects any pull towards communion or self-acceptance—especially on “Bug Like an Angel”—to protect herself from the rejection or betrayal that comes with all relationships. But soon enough, hope creeps in.
Buoyed by a vibrant orchestra, its unyielding nature begins to settle in on “Heaven.” Our protagonist is lulled by memories of safe love, but predictably, avoidance and self-loathing take hold. We reach the climax of this struggle on “The Deal,” where she decides to give up her soul, but realizes that without it, she feels empty and invisible. Only three instruments were used on this record, but it sounds more robust as they crash against one another in discordant harmony.
In the second half, the choir swells and our protagonist is more open to those she loves, claiming them on “Star” and “My Love Mine All Mine.” Like many of us, she has the desire to be vulnerable, even though she could possibly be hurt by others—and definitely by herself. But if she has to be alone, she’s prepared. And so, the conflict continues.
Mitski’s depiction of love and hope is rooted in the human urge to protect ourselves first from relational harm, but ironically, we still need each other. The choral and orchestral arrangements set against a folk-rock rhythm masterfully mirror the urgent tempo of our fears clashing with our longings. Could it be that the land may become more hospitable if we come together?