New Mitski release “Working for the Knife” explores the perils of creativity

“I start the day lying and end with the truth, that I’m dying for the knife”

Courtesy of Mitskis Official Facebook page

Courtesy of Mitski’s Official Facebook page

By Sierra Thornton, Collegian Contributor

On the first of October, many music fans were amazed and shocked to see that Japanese-American artist Mitski had reactivated her social media accounts. After she and all her social media accounts disappeared, many were wondering when the artist would make her return. To their delight, they would not have to wait long. On October 5, she released her latest single, “Working for the Knife.”

A music video premiered along with the song. It was both thrilling and nerve-wracking for fans to see so many comments flooding in as the timer counted down. When 10 a.m. finally struck, the still photo of Mitski went into motion, leading us on another adventure through lyricism and film.

The video opens closely behind the artist, the shaky and unfocused camera being our blurry eyes. There’s no audio besides the stirring wind, heeled footsteps, metal-chained fences and an elevator starting up. In addition to the elevator signal, the camera pans up to encompass the whole building’s exterior, which looks very familiar to fans. Though perhaps just a coincidence, the windows and architecture vaguely resemble the cover of her third album, “Bury Me At Makeout Creek.”

When she steps out and into the main building, there’s complete silence and stillness. Draped in a black trench coat and beige backdrop, the only vibrant colors are her silk sapphire blue and white nails. As both her hands and the camerawork travel up her body, we see that she’s also donning a black cowboy hat, potentially paying homage to her last album, “Be the Cowboy.”

The song starts with a nostalgic Western sound, though it takes on more of a raw, indie twinge. The opening verse immediately wounds listeners with terribly relatable lyrics, especially for fellow artists. Lines, “I cry at the start of every movie/ I guess ’cause I wish I was making things, too / But I’m working for the knife” resonate with wanting to explore your passions but constant worry about getting the means to do so, along with feelings of envy and jealousy for those who have the means to live and produce their own dreams and aspirations.

As the music video continues, she puts out a fake cigarette and throws off her shoes, now in for a long night ahead. Walking and then physically slamming into a wall, she has reached a creative block and ends with a look of desperation. The video itself is littered with contemporary dance moves that emphasize this point of creativity. The third verse is both self-aware and selfish, with lyrics that feel deeply poetic yet chaotic. “I always knew the world moves on/ I just didn’t know it would go without me.”

Her lyrics go through their own stages of grief and suffering, with an ending verse of, “I always thought the choice was mine/ And I was right, but I just chose wrong,” confronting listeners with the harsh truth that sometimes what you pursue isn’t always easy. The climax ends with cheering from an empty stage and nothing else on stage besides Mitski basking in the blue light.

Afterward, the camera becomes spotty and Mitski begins to crumble and move frantically around her darkened stage. The video ends with us and her on the floor, her turning towards us with a smile much akin to a Joker-like caricature and the video fading into black.

As of Saturday, the video is still trending in YouTube’s music section, solidifying how much of a success this release has been thus far. And while analyzing one portion of the song, many have noticed one crucial detail: the fourth verse’s line “Now at twenty-nine”. Mitski is currently 31 years old, meaning that this was either a retrospective song or written during quarantine, potentially signaling that more songs from the lockdown will come out. Whether that will prove true is unknown, but one thing is for certain, “Working for the Knife” is an instant favorite for all who listen.

Sierra Thornton can be reached at [email protected].