Tuesday Tracks — “Working for the Knife” by Mitski | by Anna Cuciurean-Zapan | Oct, 2021

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The queen of sad girls does it again.

Anna Cuciurean-Zapan
Green background with black music notes and the words “Tuesday Tracks “Working for the Knife” by Mitski” written in black above.
Graphic by author.

On Oct. 5, to the joy of depressed people everywhere, singer-songwriter Mitski released her first single since 2020’s “Cop Car.” Titled “Working for the Knife,” Mitski laments the sadness of growing up and glumly accepts her fate as just another cog in society’s capitalistic machine.

In the span of just five verses and eighteen lines, Mitski manages to address the universal fear of losing your dreams and aspirations to the expectations of the world. She sings about “working for the knife,” the feeling that every moment in her life seems to be undercut by something tragic, whether in the form of sucky boys, capitalism or existential dread. As she explained to Rolling Stone in a recent interview, the song is “about going from being a kid with a dream, to a grown up with a job, and feeling that somewhere along the way you got left behind. It’s being confronted with a world that doesn’t seem to recognize your humanity, and seeing no way out of it.”

Mitski comes in hot on this track, her iconic voice echoing over dramatic synths, mimicking the sounds of a classic horror movie soundtrack. From the moment the first lyrics, “I cry at the start of every movie/I guess cause I wish I was making things too” come out of Mitski’s mouth, I’m already crying. Yet again, Mitski has me contemplating the meaning of my existence to the sound of her music. Each verse is more heartbreaking than the next, as she eventually admits, “I always knew the world moves on/I just didn’t know it would go without me.” Mitski, my love, what do I have to do to make you feel better?

By the time Mitski wails out the lines “I used to think I’d be done by twenty/Now at twenty-nine, the road ahead appears the same,” I find myself in the middle of a full-on breakdown. It’s a universal feeling, to hope that life will change for the better as we grow up, only to find it laid out for us in the form of a straight, boring trail continuing on into the abyss. Mitski ends the 2 minute and 39 second track by wondering if she chose the wrong path in life, as she admits to herself (and to us) that she’s “dying for the knife.” Even a successful, widely recognized artist like Mitski isn’t immune to feelings of regret, the possibility that she might have sacrificed a different and potentially better dream in order to become a musician.

Whatever regrets she may have regarding her career, it seems Mitski won’t be slowing down any time soon. Her upcoming 2022 tour was recently announced, only for the North America leg to sell out within minutes. I guess everyone is ready to have a sad girl Spring next year.

You can listen to Mitski’s “Working for the Knife” on Spotify, Apple Music, Youtube and elsewhere.

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