Mitski Miyawaki is a master of disguise. From the masteries of distortion and melancholy that are “Bury Me at Makeout Creek” and “Puberty 2”, “Be the Cowboy” stands uniquely alone. There was an always a feeling of frustration to tunes like ”First Love/Late Spring” and “Your Best American Girl”. Her musics shows us Mitski as Mitski, a melancholy soul, an angry soul that has struggled to find her place in a gaggle of gendered love songs.
And while some might argue that her music, songs like Nobody, a pop anthem for loneliness is about lacking a lover Mitski chooses instead to describe her relationship with music. These are finely crafted ballads about complicated relationships with the world around her. “Be the Cowboy” helps usher in this new and empowered Mitski, that Miyawaki herself has always known but has struggled to connect with the world over.
And make no mistake, Miyawaki has an intense relationship with her creations, “Be the Cowboy” is no different in that regard except perhaps that she finally wants to make sure that the world knows exactly what she’s writing about. These songs are not about lovers, (though perhaps some art), they are about music, career, about her identity amongst a group of people who struggle to understand her.
In many ways Mitski would like you to experience the music as you need to be experienced. During her September appearance on The Daily Show she laments over the struggles of misinterpretation, and wanting to provide a place of solace but needing to represent her own values fairly.
In many ways, her fans interpretations of her are reflections of her own interpretations of herself. A reflection and an escalation of previous appearances such as her 2015 Tiny Desk Concert during which she stands, acne and all, cornered and alone and yet with a fire to the performance. That rhetoric displayed clearly in the 2018 release.
“When I say cowboy I don’t mean the working cowboy of today, I really mean the Cowboy myth. Like the Marlboro commercial cowboy…., or like Clint Eastwood,.... There’s such an arrogance and a freedom to it…”
During her appearance on the Daily show, Miyawaki discussed the background of her new album.
“I feel like I walk into a room and have to apologize for existing,...and I was so attracted to that idea of Freedom and Arrogance and not having to apologize so this album, I think its protagonist is someone like me who wants to channel and embody that energy”.
And her stage presence does not let that energy falter, the gentle croon maintaining its confidence even through the pain of tracks like “Nobody” and “Lonesome Love” play in stark contrast to what feels like smugness, but the smugness of a musician who has perfected their craft and knows that the listener knows just that.
She has an image of herself and she will not let it be misinterpreted.
Her three singles; “Nobody”, “Two Slow Dancers” and “Geyser”, capture the forlorn nature of love's labour's lost but unlike past albums provides an uplifting spirit, and a sense of comfort all at once with songs like “Why Didn’t You Stop Me?” whose roaring instrumentals challenge the melancholy of the lyrics.
Mitski’s music means something different to every listener but one thing is for certain, it never disappoints and it has become a reliable source for listeners who need a song to pine, to mourn or to simply be, too.