Mitski’s  ‘Heat Lightning’ strikes listeners as an intuitive song about insomnia

“Well, I’ve held on, but feel a storm approaching.”

Cover art for Heat Lightning

Cover art for “Heat Lightning”

By Sierra Thornton, Staff Writer

As if the holiday season doesn’t already bring enough joy into the hearts of many, Mitski also gave the gift of an announcement. The singer took to social media on Dec. 6 to announce her latest pre-release titled “Heat Lighting.”

Similar to her previous two releases, fans were both anticipating and dreading the newest song, unsure how emotionally prepared they were for another vulnerable track so soon. Many also wondered how this song would sound overall, as “Working for the Knife” and “The Only Heartbreaker” were so polarizing. The former focused on the grueling 9-to-5 with a Southern attitude, while “The Only Heartbreaker” was a distressing song masked by its 80s persona. Yet, due to the short announcement, fans wouldn’t need to wait long until they could queue up the song.

“Heat Lightning” is the first release, thus far, that excludes a traditional music video, instead substituting the former for a lyric video. The track opens slow and somber, building in a similar way to the instrumentation of “Working for the Knife”. Yet, the new track doesn’t have the same country-feel, but rather a more “Florence and The Machine”-esque twang. The score feels both haunted and alive, reminiscent of the 2010’s style of horror ballads, with elements of today’s musical score. The midway point of the song, after the crescendo concludes and leaves behind an isolated piano track, will without a doubt get stuck in listeners’ heads. Mirroring the story of the song, the video plays with the concept of insomnia and dreams. The fuzziness of the floating objects, the shifting colors and the transitions between shots all play into how the side effects of insomnia counteract your cognition. You start to lose your way of being as your deliriums become more apparent, and tiredness weighs on your thought process.

As with many Mitski songs, the lyrics and relatability of the single pair well with one another. The opening verse “I’ve laid awake since one and now it’s four o’clock / Though I’ve held on, can’t carry it much longer” states how the passage of time flows differently for those who can’t push past intrusive late-night thoughts and how taxing it can be for said individuals. The chorus can be separated into two different parts: the first and third repeating line, and the altered second and finishing line. By opening the chorus with “There’s nothing I can do, not much I can change,” it emphasizes how the soul can succumb to the effects of not only insomnia but life as a whole. Respectively, the second and last line goes as follows: “So I give it up to you, I hope that’s okay / I give it up to you, I surrender.” By altering the lines, it shows the ultimate collapse of resolve, finally resting and letting herself become one with her issue. The second verse is interesting, since it personifies the outside world, comparing the storm with a blinking eye and the trees with a predator of the sea, exemplifying the dangers of her intrusive thoughts and environment. There is much discourse about what the title “Heat Lightning” could be referring to between fans. Whether it means the literal heat that comes from a storm, some metaphorical message or a combination of the two remains a topic of conversation.

My personal experience with this song has been far more than I could have imagined. For starters, according to the website “statsforspotify,” which tracks how much you listen to certain genres and songs, “Heat Lightning” is my most listened to song in the past six months. This is partly due to its lyrical intelligence, but also acts as great music to do assignments alongside, which contributed to me keeping it on loop. In addition, I’ve recommended it to friends who are not into Mitski and/or genre of music, but absolutely adore this song. If you are a longtime fan of hers and have pleaded those around you to give her a chance, only for pleas to fall on deaf ears, consider plugging this into their earbuds.

Sierra Thornton can be reached at [email protected].