“Working for the Knife” is an ode to the vulnerability of creation



The cover for Mitski’s newest single, Working for the Knife.

Above all things, I take pride in my myriad of Spotify playlists—for each mood or moment, I have a melody to accompany. Yet, a single strand runs throughout each collection: a scarlet and cerulean string comprised of Phoebe Bridgers, Lorde, and Lucy Dacus.

Long story short, I harbor an adoration for “sad girl” songs.

From panging inflection to softened vocals, this sub-genre of music is one I’ve slowly fallen in love with over the past twelve months. Since the summer before my junior year, I have found comfort within tunes that mean something—melodies that color outside the lines and match my emotions, this serving as the ultimate inspiration to the many vulnerable columns I’ve written.

Seeing these female singer-songwriters unapologetically share their feelings is truly a sight to behold, and it helps that their music hits the mark every single time.

This is an affection I was reminded of when one of my favorite “sad girl” songstresses, Mitski, strode back onto the music scene last week. With the release of her newest single, “Working for the Knife,” Mitski reminded listeners of her musically vivid storytelling after a nearly three-year absence.

And even though I’ve only been wading in the waters of her discography for a few months, I’d say that this single is the raw and emotional re-introduction that we’ve all been anticipating.

Through a ringing, metallic debut, listeners are welcomed into the uncomfortable relatability of “Working for the Knife.” One of my favorite factors of Mitski’s music has always been her uniquely familiar lyrics, and this single is absolutely no exception. Every time, she finds a way to robustly share her emotions, and whether it be her choice of words or melody, the two combine to reflect the way her audience feels. Simply listening to this track—as well as her other in-depth songs—will bring up those dynamic emotions that often lay dormant.

This ability to capture such a broad audience through words is astonishing, and it is why so many people fall head over heels in love with Mitski’s music. ”

The first lyric is a prime example of this. As a writer, I find that seeing other people invent while in a drought of creativity can be disheartening. Alone, I shun the innovative world in an attempt to protect myself. However, when Mitski says, “I cry at the start of every movie, I guess ’cause I wish I was making things, too,” this isolating feeling lessens. Simply hearing her vulnerability inspires me to share my own, and I use writing as an outlet for that.

This ability to capture such a broad audience through words is astonishing, and it is why so many people fall head over heels in love with Mitski’s music.

Not only that, but she combines this sentiment with rhythmic assonance that fits the mood of each lyric. The melodies within “Working for the Knife” match an overall low, rich tone. This pairs perfectly with the message behind the music, expertly portraying a story.

At the end of the day, this single makes commentary on how a career in the creative bubble can feel like working towards nothing. Mitski and many other musicians feel overlooked and trampled upon in this continually competitive space, and the large companies that take advantage of that susceptibility only make things worse.

Instead of providing creative minds with a safe space to make a career, the entertainment industry berates creators and their talents, making them into little less than a name.  Not only is this a distinct concept, but it’s one that I imagine most artists can relate to, and it explains Mitski’s absence from the music scene over the past few years.

Combining an enthralling melody with a compelling conception, “Working for the Knife” serves as an elegant arrival onto nearly all my Spotify playlists.

No matter the mood, Mitski, and her encapsulating music, take their place in the “sad girl” scene, making anyone who listens feel a little less alone.