The Return of Mitski Miyawaki

Emily Puchalski, Opinions Editor

Post-2019, Mitski fans were in panic. We wondered, will Mitski ever come back? As Mitsuki Francis Laycock, an artist known as Mitski, was wrapping up the tour for her 2018 album Be The Cowboy, she announced, “This will be my last show indefinitely, and I’m glad it’s ending in NY where I came up,”. She was referring to her concert at Summerstage in New York’s Central Park, with support from Lucy Dacus. Mitski quickly tweeted to clarify that she will not be “quitting music.” “I’ve been on non-stop tour for over 5 years, I haven’t had a place to live during this time, & I sense that if I don’t step away soon, my self-worth/identity will start depending too much on staying in the game,” she wrote. Though fans still worried, in fact, most believed that Be The Cowboy was the last full-length album we would ever hear from Mitski. These worries were further solidified by Mitski’s deletion of her very active Twitter, Instagram and other social media accounts. But everything changed on October 4, 2021…

Mitski’s new social media profile pictures, after returning from her hiatus.

Nearly two years later, @mitskileaks showed up on social media again. The world of indie-pop lost its mind. The account was run by management, a stark contrast to Mitski’s past personal social media control. Nonetheless, one of the biggest names in the genre was back, and we were all here to witness it. Very soon the account posted an image with Mitski in a cowboy hat (a suspected reference to her fifth studio album, Be The Cowboy) and the text “mitski October 5th, 2021. 10:00 am ET”. Nothing more and nothing less, keeping fans guessing for what was to come. 


October 5th, 2021 is a day going down in music history. Not only did we receive Mitski’s song “Working for the Knife” and its accompanying music video, but also a North America and EU tour. We didn’t know anything else, yet tickets for most cities were gone within hours, if not minutes. Everyone wanted to get their hands on what could be Mitski’s last tour (perhaps for real this time). 


The “Working for the Knife” music video begins with Mitski wearing a black cowboy hat and entering an empty performance hall. Throughout the video we see her dance in a post-war Japanese Butoh style dance. Eventually, she removes the hat, which leaves us to question, is Mitski still the cowboy? The cowboy persona originates from her last studio album where she embodied the unapologetic arrogance that cowboys have in Western movies. The most powerful piece of symbolism in the song though is undoubtedly the knife itself. The lyrics express her endless dedication to “the knife” which she works, lives and dies for. The knife is up to the listener’s interpretation, but it alludes to her obsession with creativity, the craft of songwriting and fame. Some see it as a reference to the music industry, always asking for more and more from her. It could be the capitalist powers that drive society to endlessly produce. Mitski perceives herself as becoming a slave to her work, laboring endlessly in the goal of progressing in a bogus meritocracy. She uses her pain and struggles to pump out content, just for her own survival, for success not passion.

Mitski’s first post on social media accounts, after returning from her hiatus, advertising the music video for “Working for the Knife”.


Another reference to her relationship with songwriting and the industry is the lyric “I always knew the world moves on / I just didn’t know it would go on without me,” a destructive testimonial to her time out of the spotlight over the past few years. You can check out the music video at this link: Mitski – Working for the Knife (Official Video).


On November 9th, Mitski released the song “The Only Heartbreaker”, a catchy 3:04 long tune, with an 80’s synth background. In a statement, Mitski said that “The Only Heartbreaker” is about “the person always messing up in the relationship, the designated Bad Guy who gets the blame. It could simply be about that, but I also wanted to depict something sadder beneath the surface, that maybe the reason you’re always the one making mistakes is because you’re the only one trying.” The song release came with an incredibly symbolic music video featuring Mitski walking through a lush forest that dies as she strolls through it, ultimately burning to the ground. The music video can be found at the following link: Mitski – The Only Heartbreaker (Official Video).


The day also came with an official album release date, February 4th, 2022 is set to be the release date of Laurel Hell, Mitski’s sixth studio album. Mitski released a statement in which she discussed the title, she stated, “‘Laurel Hell’ is a term from the Southern Appalachians in the U.S., where laurel bushes basically grow in these dense thickets, and they grow really wide… And, I mean, I’ve never experienced it myself, but when you get stuck in these thickets, you can’t get out. Or so the story goes. And so there are a lot of Laurel Hells in America, in the South, where they’re named after the people who died within them because they were stuck. And, so the thing is, laurel flowers are so pretty. They just burst into these explosions of just beauty. And, I just, I liked the notion of being stuck inside this explosion of flowers and perhaps even dying within one of them.”

Bay laurel, the flower bushes Mitski named her 6th studio album after.


Mitski later released “Heat Lightning” on December 6th, 2021. You can find it at the following link: Mitski – Heat Lightning (Official Lyric Video)


The tracklist for the album has been published by her record company, Dead Oceans, and includes the following titles: 


  1. Valentine, Texas
  2. Working for the Knife
  3. Stay So
  4. Everyone
  5. Heat Lightning
  6. The Only Heartbreaker
  7. Love Me More
  8. There’s Nothing Left for You
  9. Should’ve Been Me
  10. I Guess
  11. That’s Our Lamp


From punk rock to energetic pop, Mitski has changed as a person and musically throughout the past nine years since her first album Lush was released. So, what will this Mitski look like? Who is she, what is Laurel Hell, and are we ready for it? 


You can listen to Laurel Hell on February 4th, 2022 everywhere you listen to music and preorder on Mitski’s website at