Mitski doesn’t necessarily like, love the strong cultural association of her work with crying.
I was always bothered when people say, ‘I cry to your music, it sounds like a diary, it sounds so personal,’” Mitski says. “Yes, it is personal. But that’s so gendered. There’s no feeling of, ‘Oh, maybe she’s a songwriter and she wrote this as a piece of art.’” This time, Mitski says, fans looking for lovelorn depression anthems telegraphed straight from her heart may be let down. “Every time someone on social media is like, ‘I can’t wait to cry to your new album,’ I’m like, ‘I don’t know if you’ll cry. I’m sorry.’”
But reader, here we are! Crying to it! Making memes about crying to it! Mitski’s been clear about the fact that her latest, Be the Cowboy, is a multilayered project that deliberately moved beyond the guitar of her previous albums and is imagined more as a persona project than anything — “a very controlled icy repressed woman who is starting to unravel. Because women have so little power and showing emotion is seen as weakness, this ‘character’ clings to any amount of control she can get. Still, there is something very primordial in her that is trying to find a way to get out.” Are we unfairly reductive of the work or its intention when we sob to “Geyser” thinking about the person who put our heart through a meat grinder but that we know we’ll still always choose at the end of the day? Or is there enough of a vocabulary within crying that we can feel that without flattening what else the song is and could be?
Your Best American Girl
This is the experience of crying swiftly and unexpectedly at a house party, when you’ve ducked into the kitchen by yourself for a minute to get another beer and check your phone and suddenly you’re dripping tears into the chip bowl, and you know no one will really notice when you go back into the rest of the party because they’re all caught up in the flow of it and your being a little red-eyed will slip under the radar, so you let yourself have the moment.
I Don’t Smoke
Intense but very brief sobbing in the shower while you get ready for work because your roommate never leaves the fucking apartment and it’s the only time you can.
After a fight with your partner, your ex, the person who’s been sleeping at your place for months but who you’ve been avoiding calling anything — yet another fight about the same thing and it went just as poorly as it always did, and you can’t seem to explain yourself in a way they can understand no matter how hard you try, and so you wait for them to leave the room before crying quietly about it and then following them to bed.
Two Slow Dancers
In a subway car headed home late on a weeknight, grateful to be underground so you can’t get any notifications but also idly checking your phone for new messages, crying a little in a way that could be about some subterranean sadness from the night or some nostalgia bubbling up or could honestly just be that you’re tired and tonight isn’t the night you’re going to investigate the difference between those experiences, you have work in the morning.
First Love/Late Spring
Crying after masturbating because you accidentally thought about someone you didn’t mean to during it, and now you feel stupid because they definitely aren’t still thinking about you.
I Bet on Losing Dogs
Almost-silent Sunday morning cry alone in bed, when you’re not sure whether you’re hungover from the two drinks you had last night or if this is just how you feel when you wake up now, and you wish you could ask someone else to close the blinds for you because either way the sun is hurting your eyes but you can’t, ask anyone that is, because there’s no one to ask.
Brand New City
Hiccup-crying in bed at 2 am on a weeknight after rewatching your ex’s instagram story 16 times trying to figure out if the girl in the background is the same girl you’re convinced she’s now sleeping with, and already knowing it is because you’ve already memorized the shape of that girl’s ponytail and so you can recognize her like a human CSI computer.
“Literally… in a semi-fugue state on hands and knees on the floor just crying and just repeating the word ‘nobody.'” Sometimes a cigar is a cigar, etc
Realizing you’re passing by a sort of emotionally resonant landmark from a previous part of your life — the street corner where you were standing when you got the call with that really bad life-changing news, the café where you said that thing to that person that you can’t forgive yourself for — and out of respect for a person you used to be you work to dredge something appropriate up, sadness or grief or at least solemnity, but all you can squeeze out now is a couple tears that you know are forced, like an actor imagining the death of a pet to get through a scene. Thinking about how sad it is that you’ve grown so distant from those events or maybe you’re just too tired now to really delve into it anymore is almost sad enough to make you actually cry, but not quite.
You’re stopped at a red light, sort of lightly registering two kids on skateboards crossing past your windshield while staring past them into the middle distance, and realize you’re crying. It’s unexpected enough that you check your reflection in the rearview to confirm that there tears on your face. You check the light in the opposing traffic lane to see if it’s turned yellow yet as you come again into awareness of the fact that they really are the one you want, still, maybe always. The light turns, and you double-check to make sure the kids made it to the curb before you go.
I am aware that there are many other Mitski songs and many other types of crying, and I would love nothing more than to hear your takes on them, although with the caveat that if anyone brings up “I Will” I will absolutely need to talk about it in therapy.