Tone Deaf: What Does the Program Director Listen To(Be The Cowboy)?
Mitski is an indie-pop rock phenomenon that continues to build and improve upon her sound, while simultaneously taking on new characters to develop the storylines and impact of her compositions in context. Be The Cowboy, released August 17th, is her fifth and most musically expansive album to date.
In her past work, Mitski’s dream-pop vocals were grounded widley by guitar and distortion, but the rules have changed this time around. Broadening her taste, Mitski and her faithful producer, Patrick Hyland, included a combination of synths, strings, and horns as the artist herself switches from the guitar to the piano. Distortion now only purposefully used, like in the first song, Geyser.
Driving into the album, we’re brought to the beginning of this new story. A determined voice accompanied by a mildly dark melody, grabs the listener by subtly disturbing and intriguing them, then, turning a switch on beat and rhythm, the song explodes in an eruption of desire. The lyrics beg, “You’re the one I want, you’re the one I want/ and I’ve turned down every hand that has beckoned me to come,” insisting that she is enraptured by her loved one and there is no other option for her.
The album continues in an almost devastatingly upbeat fashion as we jump through dance-pop track, Why Didn’t You Stop Me, which invites you to move and clap along to the story of a poor decision to end a relationship, along with a killer guitar line. The album continues on with a personal favorite, Old Friend.
Long since the end of a past relationship, Mistake speaks to her former lover about how they could pretend to catch up, but in reality, they wouldn’t be talking with any depth. Mitski recalls how unfulfilling their relationship was, but mentions that she still misses something about the simple complexity of it all.
After we glide through the synth organ packed, A Pearl and vaguely country Lonesome Love, we land on a plea to feel real, important, and everlasting.
Remember My Name is desire put into the context of fame. Mitski expresses her want to be remembered past practical, to feel a sort of divinity that stars have. Much like the majority of the tracks on this album, once you get swept up in the emotion of her voice, it captivates you.
Me and My husband sounds like a Sheryl Crow inspired song; full of piano keys and horns. Playing into the character of a 50’s millionaire’s wife, Mitski describes the feeling of only being real due to your attachment to something else, and not for your own self.
Though she explains how her life has minimal consequence to the world, she still needs to justify herself, her actions, and her relationship. In the midst of dealing with an existential crisis, Mitski harps on a sort of satire, discussing how she and her husband are “doing better,” further explaining how her existence in this realm is only defined by her relationships.
Released as a single, the disco pop crying-in-the-club banger, Nobody, is layered with loneliness and a need to be heard. Mitski comments, “I’ve been big and small, and big and small, and big and small again, but still nobody wants me.” This makes her feel as though she will be alone forever and there’s nothing she can do about it. But there’s hope. She’ll be okay if she is just given a perfect kiss; some ideal attention that moves you, even if just for a moment.
In a dance between love unrequited, and love long lasting, not young enough to make the change, but not old enough to forget, Two Slow Dancers does not seal the album, but rather leaves it exposed and true. The listener is left holding onto the last note, full of emotion, moved almost to tears. Be The Cowboy flies through 14 songs in just over half an hour, but with a perfect closer, we are left heavy, raw, and wanting more. Exhausted, Mitski has outdone herself.