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The Culture Podcast

How TikTok transformed indie darling Mitski

Today Shaad D’Souza joins The Culture to talk about Mitski, TikTok, and the grind of being a musician.
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Indie music icon Mitski had already released five albums and received critical acclaim before her 2018 song ‘Nobody’ blew up on TikTok. 

On her new album, ‘Laurel Hell’, Mitski explores her relationship to the music industry and making art under capitalism, at a moment when she’s more famous than ever.

Today Shaad D’Souza joins The Culture to talk about Mitski, TikTok, and the grind of being a musician.

 

Guest: Shaad D’Souza, music critic for The Saturday Paper.

 
Read Transcript

OSMAN:
Hey there, I’m Osman Faruqi and this is *The Culture*, a weekly show about the latest in the world of pop culture, arts, entertainment and the transformational power of Tik Tok.

Archival tape -- ‘Nobody’ - Mitski

OSMAN:
Tik Tok’s ability to send particular songs or artists viral isn’t new.

Archival tape -- ‘Good For You’ - Olivia Rodrigo

OSMAN:
Think of breakthrough acts like Olivia Rodrigo and Lil Nas X.

Archival tape -- ‘Holiday’ - Lil Nas X

OSMAN:
But there’s another part to this phenomenon that’s less well understood…that’s the way TikTok can catapult even established musicians into new audiences. Indie icon Mitski had already released five albums and received critical acclaim before her 2018 song Nobody blew up on TikTok last year.

Archival tape -- ‘Nobody’ - Mitski

OSMAN:
Thanks to the song’s newfound viral popularity, Mitski - an artist who quit social media  few years ago because of the pressure she felt from fans and media - is bigger than ever. And, she’s just released a new album - Laurel Hell - that explores her anxiety about making art under capitalism. Joining me to talk about Mitski’s new album is The Saturday Paper’s Music Critic Shaad D’Souza. 

Shaad:
Hi! 

OSMAN:
I was very excited to see that you had reviewed this album for The Saturday Paper - I didn’t actually feel a desperate urge to talk about this record, until I read your review, and I realised that talking about Mitski was actually a really interesting way to talk about a lot things happening in music and art right now.

Shaad:
Thank you. That's interesting because I was kind of struggling for something to write about in my…in that slot, and I kind of was like, ‘I guess I'll write about Mitski…’ and now I'm really happy I did, because the record's great and happy I did, because we're we're back. We're back at it again in the new studio! 

OSMAN:
The dream team in the new studio. I’ll just say firstly, before we get into it, if you notice something different with my voice - I’m not ill. We’re recording this after the final weekend of the Australian Open and I’m a bit hoarse after cheering for Ash Barty and Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis, and Rafa of course. But we aren’t here to talk about the tennis, we’re here to talk about Mitski. I actually saw Mitski a few years ago when she last toured Australia. It was a really, really fun, really interesting gig. She was playing much smaller shows than she would be now, playing the Oxford Art Factory in Sydney and the Corner Hotel here in Melbourne. It feels like in the couple of years since then she’s really blown up. She’s reached this new stratospheric level of popularity. She's opening for Harry Styles on his UK tour this year, much bigger venues than Oxford Arts or the Corner Hotel. But it feels like this moment for her has been a long time coming. Tell me a little bit about Mitski and her journey so far. 

Archival tape -- ‘Washing Machine Heart’ - Mitski

Shaad:
So Mitski - real name Mitski Miyawaki - she kind of started releasing music when she was in music school in the early 2010s. She studied studio composition and she's kind of like a pianist by training. And yes, she she kind of had plans to kind of like study all these other things, but felt this going to music and so decided to pursue that. And yes, so in the early 2010s, she releases these two albums. The first ones called Lush, released in 2012 and then the second one a couple of years later is called ‘Retired from sad - New career in business’, which kind of tells you a lot about her sense of humour, which I think is one of the one of the main tenets of her music and why she's become so popular. Mm-Hmm. Yeah. So she releases these records. They're very music school. They're very like baroque, and they're very kind of like mannered. Um, they're a little bit like like early St Vincent records. and they're all she wrote, all the songs on piano and they it's interesting because like they they actually tell you a lot about Minsky's last two records, which Laurel Hell, which will be talking about today and be the cowboy, which was kind of her her breakout breakout. Like in indie music, it often seems like there's like one breakout. And then next thing you know, there's like an even bigger breakout, which is definitely what happened with her. 

Archival tape -- ‘Washing Machine Heart’ - Mitski
(continued)

OSMAN:
And it’s not just her music that people really fell in love with, she also was known for her approach to social media - the same time she was starting to become more critically acclaimed for her music, she’d also become a kind of internet personality, right?

Shaad:
It's really interesting. So, so basically, she releases puberty to on generations. It's a big success, like comparatively like frames for someone who came from kind of like DIY scenes or someone who whose early music was quite small, you know, like there's a big breakout fourth record. And at the same time, she's kind of like becoming this like Indy Micro Celebrity. Her Twitter is also blowing up. Her Twitter is like at Mitski Leaks and she's like, really funny, and she's like one of those indie musicians who, like, is always going viral, like an equivalent to like Phoebe Bridgers or perfume genius now. Hmm. And so in tandem with her music becoming more popular, you have her Twitter personality becoming like almost its own thing. Not entirely, because obviously she would tweet about music all the time as well. But like, yeah, the thing about Minsky's lyrics like, I think she's a really incredible lyricist and she's so smart, and a lot of that intelligence comes through in these, like deeply nihilistic, like incredibly almost like violent jokes. And it's never like grotesque or anything. But like she, a lot of the kind of attention in her music comes from this like intersection between, like, almost like fantastical romance and like, you know, like like, there's a lyric in this song Townie that I can't remember exactly what it is, but it's like, I want a love that's like falling off a balcony and hitting the ground or something. And like, that's the hook of the song. 

Archival tape -- ‘Townie’ - Mitski

Shaad:
And so then she you know, it's like taking a break and then when she comes back for Be the Cowboy, which is the album that's released after puberty to suddenly she's like even bigger than she was at the end of the D2 cycle. Because, like people have found her music online, she's toured heaps. She's she's a real workhorse when it comes to touring. She was constantly or she did, and it was all kind of like slow, steady building up to like, be the cowboy, which is like, it's no longer really ‘indie rock’, it's like, Indie pop. And-…

OSMAN:
The audience for that, I feel like, is potentially much bigger than just the indie rock audience.

Shaad:
Yeah, and that's the interesting thing about those two middle Mitski records is that if you discover her on those records, as I did, and I kind of never listened to those first two albums because I kind of heard they weren't that good. But I kind of assumed they were like crunchy indie records and actually there is none. And so if you come to Mitski at this like middle point in her career, you're like, Oh, OK, she's like an indie kind of like punky musician when actually her sensibility has kind of always been this quiet, like showy, almost like theatrical pop music. 

Archival tape -- ‘I Bet On Losing Drugs’ - Mitski 

Shaad:
There's just something about her music that feels very intimate, and it feels so funny and devastating that it can really feel like she's like talking to you. Like, it's confessional. And so obviously, it's a perfect storm for like people think they know her. Um yeah. And so her gambit of kind of like, I'm going to write fiction so people don't think they are entitled to me any more. It kind of didn't exactly pay off. And it's just this huge, massive like indie success, like the kind of giant giant in the album that, like, equivalent to like the last Phoebe Bridgers album. If that means anything to anyone, I know, like, you know, maybe like that second Bon Iver album, like, it's just massive. 

OSMAN:
And she has always seemed like the kind of artist who, even though she works really hard and, like you said to us, hasn't crafted her persona or career around wanting to be a superstar, necessarily. So I can sort of see how her approach to both writing music very personally and intimately and then acting in a similar way on social media, you're not thinking that these tweets of these songs will be consumed by tens of millions of people. But then all of a sudden they are. And then you're thrust into this sort of situation where you're having to like, answer questions about your life to, you know, international media. And she's talked a lot about how much she hates doing press tours, and she hates that, as you put it, that kind of sense of entitlement that people have when you're an artist and you put something out there or you tweet something all of a sudden that now exists in the public domain. Anyone at any time can ask you about that. And it's such an interesting tension because, yeah, like you're making art for public consumption. So there is an element of that now does exist. It's out of your control and people do with it what they want. But it also I think it's coming at a time where so many artists and I think someone like Taylor Swift is the the most obvious example of this where they do cultivate a sense of I'm writing real stories. You need to figure out the pieces and then like, create a whole ecosystem around that. And I think a lot of listeners to music are trained to expect that or to want that. And that seems to be not what Minsky is doing it all, but that is the cultural space that she sort of ends up in when she's releasing her music. 

Shaad:
Yeah, I mean, actually, it's interesting you bring up Taylor because Taylor is someone I say is a perfect example of like, she cultivated this like expectation and is now kind of like pulling back from it because I think she, like Minsky, feels extremely overexposed. But then you see the kind of natural endpoint of that in like, we kind of talked about it when we talked about Olivia Rodrigo and Billie Eilish. And stuff is like pop music is now all like just obsessed with, like intense subjectivity. And so like, no one can write just like a love song anymore, it has to be like a love song about how your ex-boyfriend is an actor or whatever. Yeah. Anyway, Minsky is not. Yeah, Minsky is not part of that economy, but people treated her as if she was, which has caused this deep tension in her career that all kind of like is addressed on Laurel Hill, basically. [00:10:48][53.0]

OSMAN:
So the deep irony of all of this is Mitsky gets a little bit frustrated with the attention, the focus. The expectation announces that she's taking an indefinite hiatus from music and from touring and from social media, which is so interesting because as you put, she had developed this kind of online persona and people really enjoy interacting with her and seeing her content online. But the irony is that. Despite taking that decision to withdraw from the public eye, she's probably become even more phenomenally popular in the last two years, thanks largely to social media. Song Nobody, which really landed in 2018, you thought, OK, cool, that's the 2018 Minsky phenomenon. Last year on Tik Tok, it became enormous. It's sort of soundtracked a meme that I don't necessarily love, like I liked the song. I don't love the meme, just people kind of running away. There's not a lot of coherence to it, and it's not even a great use of the song, I think. [00:11:44][55.1]

Shaad:
No, it's not. So basically, like she is doing the tour of ‘Be The Cowboy’. She is just on a run of dates with Lorde supporting Lorde's melodrama tour. She is like really feeling the kind of like stress of it all. People are kind of like spreading rumours about her online that could be damaging, but which she is kind of being like, This is so stupid and crazy, whatever, blah blah. 

OSMAN:
I feel that, Mitski.

Shaad:
Yeah. And she says, like, look, I'm taking an indefinite break from music. This is on the last show of her be the cowboy, too. And she's like, I'm stopping, I'm picking out. OK, bye. And then it just keeps going and keeps growing. Like to be, the cowboy keeps finding. Listeners like people have become obsessed with her and the songs and like the kind of like she has this very like, cultish fanbase, but it's huge. And then that kind of like just skyrockets. Yeah, let's see when this Tik Tok trend starts. And it's like, So the format is basically. 

OSMAN:
I like it when someone else has to explain, it could explain to me, Yeah, 

Shaad:
well, I all TikTok's basically just like stupid garbage to me. Like, I think they're all really annoying and bad, and I think they're not funny. Most of them, but some of them, I think, are funny. But anyway, so the caption will be when a guy is talking to a bar and he asks for your Snapchat or something. And so then it's a video. That's the caption. And then the video is like of the person and they're like walking, and then they're like looking backward and start like running away. And maybe they're like, fall over comically or whatever. And all the while it's just Mitski singing Nobody, nobody, nobody on a loop. 

Archival tape -- ‘Nobody’ Mitski 

Shaad:
I think, yeah, I think it's like kind of funny, but mostly much like you, I find it to be a waste of the song because I think you could make like probably some really good TikToks to the song. 

OSMAN:
Totally. I'm like, I'm not even clear why this song, I mean, like a lot of Tik Tok, someone just does something and then anyone else imitates it. But the song doesn't seem that linked to like this specific format of this. Yes. Am I missing something?

Shaad:
Well, I mean, I'm not the one to ask because I like if I want to look at like a TikTok of something I have to like type into Google like “Mitski Nobody TikTok” like, I'm not even going to get into it. I don't want to talk about it. 

OSMAN:
Well that's why you're my favourite, Gen-Z, you know, I'm the one having to explain the tick tock stuff to you makes me feel young. I mean, but look, it did. I mean, just to give you an example, like Ed Sheeran, did it TikTok that was using this format, Jimmy Fallon did, like…it became enormously popular, and obviously that exposed her music to so many more people. And we've talked about this before on the show. Tik Tok as a as a tool in which people discover music now as a part of discovery, you know, fundamental. And a lot of artists, you know, Olivia Rodrigo is maybe the most explicit about like, Oh yeah, I write songs and I write lines in songs because I want people to use that to do a particular TikTok thing. Mitski hasn't done that. It's just been adapted in that way. And I was talking to someone in the music industry a few days ago and they were sharing how, you know. Sales and pre-sales, flag comedy shows and things that she's associated with just started going through the roof when when the TikTok phenomenon occurred because. People were like, Oh, this is a fun song, I'm going to listen to it on Spotify, I'm going to stream her album, This is cool. I'm going to stop buying tickets to her shows. It's a really interesting like real world, real time example of what, like a bizarre meme that Jemmy Fallon makes on TikTok can do to a musician's career. 

Shaad:
Yeah, it's it's wild, like like Tik Tok. Can just make songs massive and like this song has to be at least a little bit good. Which is the kind of like, yeah, I mean, people are like, Oh, this King of Ireland takes off and will become a hit, and it's like, Well, no, like to go viral. Like, they're like Tik Tok consultants now, actually, which I think is really funny. And you often get like press emails where they're like, like, Oh, this song is going crazy. And like, we've hired a Tick-Tock consultant to like, make it go even more crazy or whatever. But like, yeah, the song has to be good. And I think that like, even though it's such a tiny snippet of nobody like, it's so different to what you hear on TikTok, like it is so much less like synthetic, and it's so like, Oh, this kind of like music school affectations that she has like the way she sings the word nobody like. I think that is what kind of part of what makes it so compelling instead of just like everything else on TikTok is like EDM remixes of like 20 year old songs.

OSMAN:
Totally.

Shaad:
I believe. Yeah, I'm led to understand, like not having that out myself. But anyway, yeah, so nobody just becomes this huge thing and like it creates like like in the void. At the centre of it all is the fact that Mitski has like not said a thing for like three years. Yeah, which is like, truly amazing. Like a lot of people like take hiatuses and look, I want to stress it's kind of funny. Like Minsky's, hiatus is not that long. Like, it's been like eight years since Skyfire released an album or whatever. Like, you know, people do take on the hiatuses, but like, I think it's rare for someone on such an exponential rise to just. Be silent suddenly. And like all, while Mitch is like more famous than she's ever been, she's just not so silent. 

OSMAN:
We’ll be back after this short break.

[ AD BREAK ]

OSMAN:
So Shaad, Mitski’s new album - Laurel Hell - is landing at this moment where she’s paradoxically more famous but also more silent than ever before. 

Fittingly, the album doesn’t really seem to engage with her fame or place in the discourse right now. In fact it feels like a rejection of the entire music industry and way she relates to it. It’s a pretty grim statement at moments… but there’s also these flashes of really upbeat, poppy tracks. That duality and the seriousness of some of the themes she writes about - its really this treatise on capitalism and music - made this a really compelling album. How did you feel about it? 

Shaad:
Yeah so I actually surprisingly. OK, so like I love, it's like bury me and make our quick and puberty to be the cowboy I liked. But it's never like stuck with me, and I thought it was kind of a bit too mannered and a bit too produced and like. Maybe just not my thing. And and I kind of got fatigued, like, like mid-scale herself, I was kind of like sick of like capital and Mitski, like, you know, like Mitski in the public eye because it's just like if you go on Twitter at certain points, it'll just be like people talking non-stop about like Minsky's, my god. Like, I want me to be like, spit in my mouth, like that kind of thing. And I'm just like, OK, I get it like, she's great, but like, it's the same as like Phoebe Bridgers or whatever. I'm like the kind of like, like, uh, combination of like stan culture with, like indie music. I think kind of because of this whole Mitski thing where she was literally basically driven into hiding. I think it just freaks me out. Yeah, gotcha. But anyway, yeah. So then I when I listen to Laurel Hill, I was kind of like kind of blown away. Like, I think it's so beautifully produced. I think it's like, really incredibly written. I think her lyrics are sharper than ever. It's not necessarily as funny as she once was, but it's it's like really wise and really, I think like rich in like a totally different way. And yeah, I mean, I think it's definitely maybe my favourite record of hers. I mean, I still really love Peabody, too. It's interesting because I totally agree with you. It's like the sound is a total rejection of this idea that like she could be a pop star because like, she'll be playing to like giant theatres. And I think she could play the like arenas in the states like ten to fifteen thousand. But this is like not that album. And it's like very meditative and it's like droning at times. And like, there are these huge like pop songs, but that still really dark like hell, exactly. [00:21:34][135.5]

OSMAN:
Yeah, some of the sound, it's like, Oh, this sounds like something that I could like really want to get and dance to and have a really great time to it like a stadium. But then as soon as you start listening to it like this, OK, this is it doesn't feel right for me to feel this joyous.

Shaad:
Mm.

Archival tape -- ‘Stay Soft’ - Mitski

Shaad:
I mean, it's quite interesting, right? Mitsky didn't necessarily want to release a record she had to because the label, like in her contract, she required one more album.

OSMAN:
This album is the product of a contractual obligation, which makes it all the more interesting that it's actually really good. I read that in an interview, she said that, you know, she'd recorded and written a lot of these songs and then spent like a year mixing some of them. So I think it's interesting you picking up on the fact that like the kind of sound or the production on some tracks I feel like was experimented on and she was playing with different and maybe had written and recorded and then completely changed. Like what the music of that track was? And I like this thematic consistency that is a bit dark. It's a little bit introspective, a very introspective. You wrote in your review that the hardest hitting songs all about work, about the grind, about the sheer exhaustion of having to make money at all. And that is like consistent threat. But then you hear some songs and almost tricksy because they are more upbeat and they're kind of more fun sounding. And I wonder what you make of those and that contrast and thinking, like there's a couple of very synthy poppy tracks, stay soft and and love me more. How did you find those?

Archival tape -- ‘Stay Soft’ - Mitski
(continued)

Shaad:
I really love those songs. Love me more kind of less so. I think so. There are these three giant moments on the album, so that's the only heartbreak. Love me more and stay soft. And maybe there's like one or two others, but like those three have really stood out to me is kind of like these giant pop moments, but they are all really kind of like dark and like, uh, like. I don't know there's there's this vibe to them that has not necessarily been on on moments like this in its governance before and something like love me more so interesting because it is like, quote unquote a love song, but it is about. This kind of like chaotic kind of like dangerous drive, she feels towards performing because she's singing about like, you know, just like being on stage, she just needs like more attention, more kind of like everything better. But it does feel kind of like being on the edge or something distressing. And I guess that is like kind of like the crux of a lot of what it seems like she has been kind of struggling with in her time of kind of like being a recluse, like she's only done a couple of interviews, but I thought they were kind of some of the most revealing. She's been very private. For context, like she's rarely said anything about herself or her personal life, and she still is like she refused to do any interviews. The name of her cat because she was scared that people could find like a photo that one of her friends had posted of the cat and then link that to Mickey and find out where she lived, which is actually so depressing and sad that she kind of like has to consider those things. 

OSMAN:
And it's a totally valid fear like that. You know, a few years ago, you said that the pay was like, no way, but people do that now, and she knows that and she's being smart and protective. 

Shaad:
Exactly. But yeah, like. And then you've got stay soft, which is kind of like uses all these like horror illusions to talk about kind of like sex and like trauma. But yeah, I think her writing is like as strong as it's ever been on the whole album, both in terms of music and lyrics. 

Archival tape -- ‘Working For The Knife’ Mitski 

Shaad:
But my favourite song on the album is Workings of a Knife, which is the first song she released. And I did not connect with that song like last year when it came out, and now I just like, think it's so incredible. And like, what's weird is like, I think the obvious, I don't know, but in my head, this is one of those songs that is potentially has potentially been reverse engineered, right? Because it's as catchy and kind of like as anthemic as any of the big songs on the album. But instead of like synths like a big, like, you know, anthemic chorus or whatever, it's just this constant like clatter and like this really percussive, like weird, like metallic thing that almost like drowns her out, and she's just singing about how depressed she is making music for money. And it's like. It's almost like a flex, like it's not because it's me, it's easy, but it's almost like a flex, like she's being like my first big single back after like three years of total silence. It's going to be this like droning non-song about how much I fucking hate the fact that I have to release this single. And like, Yeah, the more I listen to it, the more it kind of grabs onto me like, the more I just have to listen to it. 

OSMAN:
I feel like you and I, we either have exactly the same views or we have the complete opposite views. And I think this album is the one that I think we've got a lot of overlap on. It's my favourite track as well, and I loved the way that you described. You kind of describe the whole album with this sentence, but to me, it really speaks to speaks of that track. In particular, Mitski is the product of the conveyor belt, as well as the work a boxing it up for consumption. And you get that sense. It's not just it's not just the stories that she's telling, it's the way that she's creating the sound in the way that you feel listening to it. That makes it so compelling and interesting.

We’ll be back after this break

[ AD BREAK ]

OSMAN:
It's not a long album. And I think this is what makes it interesting. It's 11 tracks, and they're mainly two to three minutes long. And so you get these contrasts very, very quickly. And so you never kind of earned a spot long enough to like completely get into a particular mood and then feel shaky. And you just lean into the fact that like this is kind of zipping about a bit. And I find that, like, really refreshing and I love the unexpectedness of that. The only heartbreaker is written is the only track that has a co-writer, a guy called Dan Wilson from Semisonic, who have the iconic song Closing Time, which Dan Wilson wrote… 

Shaad:
Which I do not know. 

OSMAN:
You don't know ‘Closing time’ by Semisonic? 

Shaad:
No, I don't explain it. Describe it to me. Describe the context.

OSMAN:
To me, closing time is a song I don't know. I just thought it was a song that everyone knows. 

Shaad:
It's just like, there's a chance. I just know it, and I just don't know it by the name 

OSMAN:
Shall we just play the song and see if you know it?

Shaad:
Yeah, play the song for me

Archival tape -- ‘Closing Time’ - Semisonic

Shaad:
Nothing. No, no, I don't know. 

OSMAN:
So it turns out Dan Wilson, whose name I hadn't heard or bad I hadn't thought of in a long time. He's actually like a rider now is credits in the last year Leon Bridges, Taylor Swift, Tom Morello, Amy Shark…?

Shaad:
Yeah, I think I think that list is like, why and what it's like which which has certain did he co-write?

OSMAN:
He co-wrote Treacherous and Come Back, Be Here Taylor's version. 

Shaad:
Treacherous is my favourite Taylor song. 

OSMAN:
And you like and you liked the song that he wrote on the Mitski album as well. 

Shaad:
I do. I do. 

OSMAN:
I think you're low-key like a Dan Wilson stan. 

Shaad:
Yeah, yeah, actually. It turns out I stan Dan Wilson who would have thought

OSMAN:
whoever this man is

Shaad:
yeah, this man of gravity. 

OSMAN:
And he's got two Grammy nominations actually for his writing. So, you know, he's good. He's worthwhile.

Shaad:
Didn't win the Grammy for ‘Red’, famously.

OSMAN:
We took a look. We took a little bit of a sideways shot, but it was very fun to expose you to some music for. I feel like I learnt a lot about music.

Shaad:
I think it happened on the Olivia Rodrigo upset as well. Actually, you showed me some song. I don't even know what it was. I remember this same thing happening, so thank you again. 

OSMAN:
We should just have a, you know, like one of those YouTube reacts like so and so he is like, you know, like Abba for the first time and they just like, lose their minds. That'd be a fun series. 

Shaad:
Well, I was actually thinking so Tara Kenny's in town. Yeah, I was thinking, you should be kind of like a panel style break from format where we just kind of like chat.

OSMAN:
That's actually very funny because I had dinner with Tara Kenney and she said that you mean she should get together and just, yeah, it's happening. All right.

Shaad:
What teasing is, yeah, we are teasing. 

OSMAN:
Fans of the pod will remember Tara from a few chats we've had about TV, but now we're cooking up something fun. So let's do it. Back to Mitski. 

So talking about these kind of like contrasts between those kind of heavier songs and love songs, the upbeat songs love me more. The only heartbreaker you said that these moments can feel like a little bit dizzying, and that's how I felt as well. And then I just kind of like close my eyes and leaned into it, and I liked it. You said it feels intentional that, you know, maybe pop stardom is like a goal and she's signifying towards it, but maybe she's kind of caught off guard by it herself that she doesn't quite know yet what she wants to do, or she just sort of flexing and saying, I can do pop, but I don't want to. I want to talk about serious stuff about how capitalism is destroying the process of making art. 

Shaad:
I think the interesting thing about Mitski is that like, I get the sense that she'd be the first to say that these songs are necessarily about like capitalism destroying art as much as they are about capitalism, like destroying her, her love of making music or whatever. Because like even the. I don't know. She herself is very serious and it can be. It can be. Weird reading interviews with her because she can seem very, very devastatingly serious in a way that I think I've seen a lot of criticism of of that kind of persona online. But I don't think her music is so serious, and I think that still comes through on this album, even though it is not necessarily as funny as she as it once was. It's hard to say what is is going on with these pop moments because because like, as you say, my reading of it is kind of like she's using them to kind of like create the effect of like. The kind of like. Stress of like being at those highs, and then she's contrasting that with like the the lows that come with it as well. But it's interesting because I can totally imagine that I kind of like where she is slightly less capable lyricist and was and say her lyrics were a little more shallow. I might just think that the album felt really uneven. But I think it kind of does speak to like where she's at as a songwriter, like she's been doing this for like 15 years or something. But yeah, I mean, it'll be interesting to see where she goes next because. I can totally imagine a world in which either she starts releasing music completely independently, so she doesn't have to do press or anything like that. B she signs with a major label and kind of like just does become like a massive star. Like, you know, we see that a lot like Grimes just signed to Columbia after being like kind of like going from my true DIY Montreal, like she was on obvious records, which is this tiny label and now is suddenly on Columbia, which is owned by Sony, which is one of the biggest labels in the world. Or maybe she'll just kind of like, quit entirely, you know?

OSMAN:
So it's pretty amazing that each of those options is as likely as the other. I know. 

Shaad:
Isn't it so interesting? Like, I'm sure I mean, maybe there's another Generations album in her contract. I'm not sure. Yeah, I mean, it's really interesting. This is kind of on the side. But like when she signed the oceans, it was kind of like the younger siblings JAG, Jaguar and secretly Canadian and now like in part because of her success. It's like pretty much the biggest label in that group because they also have Japanese breakfast, who is just nominated for a Grammy. And Phoebe Bridgers, who is like, basically the biggest indie artist in the world right now. So, yeah, it'll be really interesting to see what she does next. And I think, if anything, that will contextualise this album as well. But but she is kind of cryptic and she is kind of a recluse and like even when she does interviews, she doesn't reveal much, which I think is also like. You know, I think it's really easy to get like really bored of someone's persona or like use their kind of like media as a way to explain or kind of like uplift their art. And I think music is one of those people where it's kind of like, what you see is what you get like, this is a great album. She made a great album and like, it's up to us to decode the rest, which like, sounds so stupid. Like, that's the truth of all art, but like. I think a lot of the time lately, like, you know, someone's personality can really, you know, help hide a few cracks or whatever. And this album, I listen to it and I'm like, I was kind of ready to dislike it because I just like to be the cowboy. But I I don't know. I'm sorry. I kind of went, Oh, no, no, no, that's actually in there. 

OSMAN:
That actually is a kind of a great summary of it all because I think not only did I like, I said a bunch of times, really enjoy the album, but then I think going out and trying to find, you know, an album's about to drop artists to interviews, they'd travel. They do things she hasn't done very many and the few long interviews or profiles she has done a very wacky there's one with New York magazine where she was going spelunking at her suggestion. And then the label was like, You're about to tour. We can't risk you like hurting yourself. And they just went on a tour with a bunch of schoolkids in a cave system.

And then the fact that unlike so much music and so much music media and so much context around albums right now, she hasn't given us clues. She's just released this record. On one hand, it's very explicit her thoughts on society and working and grinding away and what it's done to her relationship and her love of music and hot. On the other hand, there's lots of bits and pieces about love that you don't know whether they're fictional, and I found that really refreshing at this particular moment. And then I think unlike a lot of albums, I think that we spoke about last year that I listened to. And even if I like some of them, I kind of had a feeling that I wouldn't go back to it. It was kind of interesting to talk about in the moment. But I think this is a really interesting album that I will be playing for a little while shot. Thank you for talking about it with me. 

Shaad:
Thank you. I had so much fun. 

OSMAN:
You can read Shaad's review on thesaturdaypaper.com.au - you'll be back with me and Tara Kenney. We'll find something to talk about. 

Shaad:
Anything. Anything.

OSMAN:
Awesome. Thanks, mate.

***

The Culture is a weekly show from Schwartz Media.

 

It's produced by Rebecca Metcalf and Atticus Bastow. Our editor-in-chief is Erik Jensen, and our theme music is by Hermitude. 

 

I’m Osman Faruqi, see ya next week.

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