Mitski

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Mitski
Mitksi (46927277872) (cropped).jpg
Mitski performing at St Jerome's Laneway Festival in 2019
Background information
Birth nameMitsuki Laycock
Born (1990-09-27) September 27, 1990 (age 31)
Mie Prefecture, Japan[1]
OriginNew York City
Genres
Occupation(s)
  • Singer-songwriter
  • musician
Instruments
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • bass
  • piano
Years active2012–present
Labels
Websitemitski.com

Mitski Miyawaki (born Mitsuki Laycock; September 27, 1990) is a Japanese-born American singer-songwriter. Mitski self-released her first two albums, Lush (2012) and Retired from Sad, New Career in Business (2013), while studying studio composition at Purchase College's Conservatory of Music. These albums were created originally as her senior project at Purchase. She released her third studio album, Bury Me at Makeout Creek, in 2014 through Double Double Whammy after graduating. She then signed with Dead Oceans in 2015 and released her critically acclaimed albums Puberty 2 (2016), Be the Cowboy (2018) and Laurel Hell (2022), the last of which entered the top ten in several territories. The Guardian dubbed her the "best young songwriter" in the United States.

Early life[edit]

Mitski Miyawaki was born Mitsuki Laycock[8] on September 27, 1990, in Mie Prefecture, Japan to an American father and a Japanese mother.[9] Her first language was Japanese.[10] She moved frequently while growing up due to her father's job at the United States Department of State, living in Turkey, China, Malaysia, the Czech Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo before settling in the United States.[11][12][13][14] She sang in a choir in high school and was 18 when she wrote her first song on the piano.[15][16]

Career[edit]

2012–2014: Lush; Retired from Sad, New Career in Business; and Bury Me at Makeout Creek[edit]

After enrolling at Hunter College to study film, Mitski decided to pursue music instead and transferred to SUNY Purchase College's Conservatory of Music, where she studied studio composition. During her time at Purchase, she recorded and self-released her piano-based first and second albums, Lush (2012) and Retired from Sad, New Career in Business (2013), as student projects.[17][18][19] While there, Mitski met Patrick Hyland, who has produced her albums after Lush. In 2013, she collaborated with indie-rock artist Mike Rasimas, providing vocals for the original song Ego and a cover of "Nightcall" by Kavinsky.[20]

After graduating, she served as the vocalist for the short-lived prog-metal band Voice Coils[21] and began work on her third studio album, Bury Me at Makeout Creek, which was released on November 11, 2014, through Double Double Whammy. The album was reissued with four bonus tracks on April 7, 2015 through Don Giovanni Records. The album's raw, impulsive guitar represented a sonic departure from the orchestral and classical piano sounds of her first two albums.[19] It garnered acclaim from numerous publications.[22][23][24][25]

2015–2017: Puberty 2[edit]

On December 22, 2015, Mitski signed with Dead Oceans.[26] She announced her fourth studio album, Puberty 2, on March 1, 2016, and shared the lead single, "Your Best American Girl".[27] She released another single, "Happy", before the release of the album on June 17.[28] Produced by Hyland, the album was recorded over two weeks at Acme Studios in Westchester County, New York.[29] The album received widespread acclaim from music critics.[30] "Your Best American Girl" was named the 13th best song of the 2010s by Rolling Stone.[31]

In a 2016 episode of the Cartoon Network show Adventure Time, her song "Francis Forever" was covered by Olivia Olson as the character Marceline the Vampire Queen.[32]

On February 21, 2017, the Pixies announced U.S. tour dates with Mitski as a supporting act.[33] On May 1, a compilation album consisting of 100 songs by various artists titled Our First 100 Days was released. It includes Mitski's cover of One Direction's song "Fireproof". The compilation aims to raise funds for organizations that support causes threatened by Donald Trump's proposed policies.[34] Mitski played a cover of the song in 2015, but that version has since been taken down.[35] Mitski also covered Frank Sinatra's 1951 classic "I'm a Fool to Want You" for the 7-Inches For Planned Parenthood compilation album.[36] On October 4, 2017, Lorde announced that Mitski would open for her on some dates on her Melodrama World Tour.[37][9] On November 1, a short film starring Mitski called Sitting was released.[38]

black and white photo of a young Asian-American woman with shoulder-length black hair singing.
Mitski performing at a concert in Seattle in October 2018.

2018–2019: Be the Cowboy[edit]

On April 20, 2018, Mitski teamed up with the experimental band Xiu Xiu on the song "Between the Breaths" for the soundtrack of the sci-fi comedy film How to Talk to Girls at Parties, based on the short story of the same name.[39]

On May 14, 2018, Mitski opened pre-orders for her fifth studio album, Be the Cowboy, and released the lead single, "Geyser", with an accompanying music video.[40] The second single and its video, "Nobody", was released on June 26, 2018,[41] and the third and final single to precede the album, "Two Slow Dancers", was released on August 9 alongside a lyric video.[42] Be the Cowboy was released on August 17, through Dead Oceans.[43] It was critically acclaimed and named the album of the year by Pitchfork,[44] Vulture[45] and Consequence of Sound.[46]

On tour in 2019, Mitski began incorporating choreography into her live performances inspired by Butoh, a form of dance theater developed in post-war Japan, in which "performers draw on chaotic internal emotions but depict them with precise, repetitive gestures." The approach reflected her wish to "give audiences something new" on her second headlining tour since Be the Cowboy's release, as well as a desire "to develop her own, idiosyncratic ways of maintaining a grip on an audience," since she'd learned "that the jumping around onstage, getting everyone pumped up, doesn’t come naturally to me."[47] Mitski worked with performance artist Monica Mirabile to devise the tour's "highly stylized, sometimes unsettling" movements.[48][49] Butoh influenced choreography was also used in her music video for “Working for the Knife”.[50]

In August 2019, Mitski ended her hiatus from social media to post a statement denying allegations made by a Tumblr user that she had been involved in a child trafficking ring: "I don't know the accuser, and I don't know how or why they have come to associate me with their trauma."[51][52][53]

In September 2019 at the final performance of her Be the Cowboy Tour in Central Park, Mitski announced that it would be her last indefinitely. She later talked about how she planned to quit music completely and "find another life."[16] By early 2020, Mitski had changed her mind and decided to return to music, partly because she owed her label another album and partly for herself. She described making the decision to continue, “What it came down to was, ‘I have to do this even though it hurts me, because I love it [...] This is who I am. … I’m going to keep getting hurt, and I’m still going to do it, because this is the only thing I can do.’ ”[16]

2020–present: Laurel Hell[edit]

Mitski performing in 2022, incorporating Butoh inspired theatrical choreography into her performance.

Mitski shared her new song, "Cop Car", in January 2020,[54] a never-released piece from the soundtrack of The Turning.[55] She was featured in the song "Susie Save Your Love" from Allie X's album, Cape God, released in February 2020.[56]

On October 29, 2020, it was announced that Mitski will provide the soundtrack to the graphic novel This Is Where We Fall. The sci-fi Western story written by Chris Miskiewicz and Vincent Kings "unpacks themes of theology, death, and the after-life". Of the project, Mitski said "It was exciting to make a soundtrack for a comic book, It allowed me to work outside of my usual songwriting form and try to approach it like a score, but without any of the cues that come with working alongside a moving image, which ended up being both freeing and challenging. I hope the end result helps to immerse you in the story!"[57] A country song called "The Baddy Man" was released as the first preview from the soundtrack on March 5, 2021. Z2 Comics released the album on cassette with the standard hardcover novel on May 5, 2021. A limited edition deluxe vinyl was also released. At the moment, Z2 has no plans to put the soundtrack on streaming services.[58]

On October 4, 2021, Mitski announced on her social media that she would be releasing a new single, "Working for the Knife", the next day as the lead single to her upcoming sixth studio album.[59] The song would later be named the 7th best song of 2021 by Pitchfork.[60] Soon after the song's release, Mitski announced her 2022 European and North American tour.[61] She followed it up with "The Only Heartbreaker" on November 9, 2021.[62] The same day, Mitski announced her sixth studio album, Laurel Hell, would be released just before her European and North American tour, on February 4, 2022, called Laurel Hell Tour.[63] On December 7, 2021, "Heat Lightning" was released as the third single from the album.[64] On January 12, 2022, "Love Me More" followed as the fourth single from Laurel Hell.[65] In March 2022, "The Only Heartbreaker" peaked at number-one on the Billboard Adult Alternative Airplay chart.[66] On March 4, 2022, Mitski was announced as one of the performers for the Glastonbury Festival, scheduled for June 22-26, 2022.

On April 19, 2022, Mitski’s cover of “Glide”, from the soundtrack of All About Lily Chou Chou, was released on streaming services. The song was previously available as a bonus track on physical versions of Laurel Hell and was used in the 2022 film After Yang. Mitski appears on the song "This Is A Life" from the soundtrack for the 2022 film Everything Everywhere All At Once.[67] The song also features David Byrne, and Son Lux.

Musical style[edit]

Mitski's lyrics often explore her anxieties and have been coined by some as 'sad indie girl music,' a category many women who write emotional lyrics are put into.[68][69] E. Alex Jung described her as "an artist whose music feels like being ushered into a private opera house of melodrama" with lyrics full of "roiling fury, destructive impulses, humiliation, longing, heartache, and hunger".[10] Angie Martoccio of Rolling Stone described her earlier albums as a "wry running commentary on twentysomething angst, raw desire, and often unrequited love".[16] Lucy Dacus, a singer-songwriter who has at times opened for Mitski, described her music as “really visceral ... She’s connected to a part in herself that wants to scream. Maybe you don’t live in a space where you can scream, or maybe you don’t have the words for what has happened to you. Mitski provides a space for that.”[16] Similarly, Mitski has described her music as a place where people “can put all of their feelings, their ugliness, that doesn’t have a place in their own lives.”[70]

Public image[edit]

On September 9, 2019 at a show in Central Park, Mitski announced it would be her last show indefinitely.[71] Her devoted fanbase was upset, and took to social media to express their distress.[71] The reaction online to this announcement prompted her to tell her fans she was not going to quit music; however, at the time, she did intend to quit music for good.[71] She has stated her main reason for quitting was that she had a difficult time grappling with new-found indie stardom when her 2018 album Be the Cowboy hit the mainstream.[71][72] She said the music industry felt like a "super-saturated version of consumerism",[72] and that in the industry "you have to be a product that’s being bought and sold and consumed".[73] She regrets using her actual name to release music because it no longer felt like it belonged to her, and she felt like "a foreigner" to herself.[73] She feared that by continuing to make music, eventually she would begin to produce music she didn't care about.[71][72] In 2019, despite her intention to quit music for good, Mitski wrote a new single, "Working for the Knife", where she describes her "reluctance to return to the stage".[72][71] In February, 2022, Mitski released a new record Laurel Hell, returning to the music industry.[71]

Mitski has stated in interviews that she has an uneasy relationship with her fans because she finds their relationship to her and her music overwhelming.[74][75] She found the "worshipful commentary" about herself online damaging to her self-image.[76] Her fanbase has been described as both “extremely online”,[77] "cultish",[77] and as rivaling “Taylor Swift and BTS in intensity, if not size.”[74] In an interview in 2022 she described the audience at one of her shows as “unrelenting. Everyone needed a piece of me… I was so overwhelmed by hands grabbing at me that I was crying.”[77] In February 2022, Mitski tweeted out a statement regarding her feelings about fans using their phones at shows to record entire songs and sets.[78] Watching fans record her shows, she felt "as though those of us on stage are being taken from and consumed as content".[78]

Mitski is often described as a private person.[71] In interviews, she has declined to give specific details about her family and share the names of her two cats.[71] She has explained that the choice to be private has made some people angry, because she has not held up her side of the bargain as a public figure.[71] As an Asian-American woman, she felt pressure to represent her community.[79] She expressed discomfort at the idea of people looking to her for guidance and seeing her as a leader of change in a white-male-dominated industry.[80][79]

Mitski is not active on social media, and the accounts under her name are run by a manager.[76] Mitski left social media in 2019, around the same time she quit music, because she felt it was unhealthy for her self-image.[76][71] However, she has gained massive popularity on social media. Over 2.5 million videos on TikTok have been created using her music.[76] The former President of the United States Barack Obama added The Only Heartbreaker to his list of top songs of 2021, a list which he tweets out every year.[81]

Personal life[edit]

Mitski reflects her eclectic cross-cultural identity as "half Japanese, half American but not fully either", a feeling that is often reflected in her music, which occasionally discusses issues of belonging.[13][82] She said that she uses the descriptor "Asian-American" mostly for the benefit of others but does not think of herself that way.[10]

In a 2016 interview with The New York Times, Mitski expressed the tension of being a private person and her discomfort with the attention that comes with being in the public eye, therefore preferring to keep her personal life private.[4]

Mitski lives in Nashville, Tennessee.[10] She is vegan, likes horror films, and has pet cats.[16]

Discography[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Awards Category Work Result Ref.
2017 Libera Awards Video of the Year "Your Best American Girl" Nominated [83]
2019 Album of the Year Be The Cowboy Nominated [84]
Best Live Act Herself Nominated
Music Video of the Year "Nobody" Won
Best Rock Album Be The Cowboy Nominated
Creative Packaging Nominated
Grammy Awards Best Recording Package Nominated [85]
2022 AIM Independent Music Awards Best Live Perfomer Herself Pending

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]