Mitski’s “Working For the Knife”

by Lily Poorman

After a two year hiatus, Mitski’s reactivated social media accounts leaked a new song, an accompanying music video, and pre-sale tickets for her spring 2022 tour. Her new track, “Working for the Knife”, is everything you would imagine a two-year-in-the-making Mitski single to be. Eerie synths, heavy percussion and guitar marry with the artist’s classically vulnerable lyricism which, this time, render the feeling of her struggle with age and the industry. They’re consistent with her continual theme of depicting the painful process that is “chasing your dreams”.

With lyrics like “I used to think I would tell stories” and “I used to think I’d be done by twenty”, Mitski abridges the monotony and tedium of life at its many stages in an enduring rather than bitter tone. She reflects on what she once hopelessly dreamt of and what she knows now. Sweeping through the hostile stairways and stages of an empty performing arts venue, Mitski’s lyrics blend with picture as she performs for rows of vacant seats in a somewhat sarcastically theatrical, yet feverish and hypnotic way.

 “Working for the Knife ” also seems to be a compilation of rather desolate relizations. She ends four of the five verses with a mention of “the knife”, her oppressor which remains mostly open to interpretation. In a progression from “working for the knife” to “living for the knife” to, ultimately, “dying for the knife” she proclaims how her naivety and choices in the past led her to the disillusionment she feels today, but they ultimately show maturity.

While this feeling of coming to terms with failure, accepting a change of plans, and, perhaps, finding solace in doing so isn’t a new element in Mitski’s work, it undoubtedly intensifies in each line of the song. Though Mitski hasn’t mentioned an album release, her upcoming tour hints at one. This leaves us with the question: will a new album preserve the themes present in “Working for the Knife”, or will Mitski deliver something entirely different?

Rating: 4/5

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