Mitski’s New Release “Working for the Knife” Cuts Deep


Photo courtesy of Big World Tale

Singer-songwriter Mitski in her new song “Working for the Knife.”

Lucy Samuels, Staff Writer

Mitski is back as she sheds her cowboy hat and coat, reminding us of her experimental 2018 album “Be the Cowboy.” After three long years, indie-pop rock singer-songwriter Mitski is back for one heck of a comeback. Mitski takes a sharp turn back to her music with her new song “Working for the Knife,” accompanied by a massive 2022 tour spanning across the United States and Europe. But as per usual, Mitski tells the audience a poignant tale in her new song “Working for the Knife,” which cuts deep into all her fan’s hearts. 

Mitski has poured all of the feelings she has been building up from her three-year hiatus into the lyrics. She writes of her experiences growing up to be one of indie-pop’s biggest faces and how she thought she would “be done by 20.” Now at 31, Mitski has been working for that knife for nine years since she released her first album, “Lush,” in 2012. The song reveals how Mitski feels about her career, and she ends the song by singing that she is “dying for the knife.” Each verse covers a different aspect of her career, the first verse possibly relating to COVID and how “she wishes she was making things too,” but that she is “working for the knife,” and having trouble with the industry’s perception of her. Being perceived as that “sad depressed indie singer” is not what she aimed to be, she just wants to create music.

Mitski says in a Rolling Stone article that the song is about, “going from a kid with a dream to a grown-up with a job, and feeling that somewhere along the way you got left behind.” In another heart lurching turn, she admits her feelings about her career through the song saying, “It’s being confronted with a world that doesn’t seem to recognize your humanity, and seeing no way out of it.” It is heartbreaking to hear that she feels like certain people don’t see her for herself, which is surprising since her music oozes humanity and personality making her one of the most relatable, and consequently, one of the most popular indie-pop artists out there. But the way her fans and industry see her is her problem.

Mitski is honest in her work as a professional musician and knows what she is doing. “Be the Cowboy,” was wildly different from her past four albums as it was more indie-pop than indie rock. But of course, there was a reason for the slight change in genre as Mitski explains in this article. She wants to let people know that she is so much more than her music’s sad lyrics. Approaching and dissecting her music is extremely tedious as you feel as though you are defeating the entire purpose of what she stands for: connecting with people through music. Plain and simple. No analysis will fully cover what millions of different fans feel when listening to her.

A YouTube comment I found, I think, promptly explains the song itself.

  • “It’s insane that she’s made a comeback and everybody’s been wanting it, but the song sounds like it’s about how hard it is for her to work in the industry,” said user “senpika.”

Composition wise, the song sounds like it was right out of “Be the Cowboy,” with its heavy synth and eclectic drums accompanied by groovy guitar riffs. The flow of the song is amazing despite the lack of a chorus, which is not unprecedented for Mitski. There is this sort of synth-y trumpet riff which just tops off the song with her signature, quirky style. Comparing it to other Mitski songs, it reminds me of a mix of “A Pearl,” “Crack Baby,” and maybe a little of “Why Didn’t You Stop Me.”

There is such a powerful and clear melody in this song that flows into each note so flawlessly that makes you want to sing along with her. But the composition of the song is so important because of how heavily it relates to “Be the Cowboy.” By writing indie-pop, would she separate herself from her fans and critics, showing them how wild yet decisive she can be as an artist? Who knows what goes on in the mind of that woman, but all we know is that she is back to create more amazing music.

Fans are ecstatic to see her back in the game, making music and touring, but the return is bittersweet for both the fans and Mitski herself. It is upsetting to see the effect her passion has had on her, but her music means so much to her adoring fans to see that she is back, working on the grindstone. Mitski is no chaotic artist despite what her music gives off; she knows exactly what she is doing and how to keep true to herself.