Sometimes you listen to a song, or an album, and you immediately know that it’s going to change your life. Maybe not on the first listen, and maybe not on the second. But you know that that sound will become important. Maybe it will be there when your heart breaks or your mind spins out of control or when you’re outside staring at all the stars of the universe in the pitch black sky. It will hold the memories of those feelings forever.
But other times, the music that ends up meaning so much is music you might not have loved immediately. “It wasn’t easy listening,” it didn’t immediately strike that chord. Yet someday, it will, and you will never remember what it was that you disliked originally. Or maybe you will, and what you disliked will become what you love now.
Mitski’s music was emotionally raw in a way that I could not relate to when I first listened on a fateful spring day before she played a show at WYBCx Yale Radio’s annual music festival. I wanted to love it, everyone around me loved it, but that first listen did not resonate. Yet now, “First love/Late Spring” is one of my favorite songs. I remember feeling elated when I heard the opening bass notes on a November night in Webster Hall, shouting out the lyrics with her. Catharsis:
“Please hurry leave me
I can’t breathe
Please don’t say you love me”
That first listen revealed to me art that was vulnerable, passionate, alternative rock that sounded unique. The melody is catchy, make no mistake about it. But I wasn’t ready to feel vulnerable, and I wasn’t ready to let music in as a way of expressing that vulnerability.
It wasn’t until Puberty 2 that I became a Mitski fan in all truth and honesty. The outsider revelations, and acceptance of who you are, your background, yourself of “Your Best American Girl” immediately took me. It’s also pretty catchy, with the same opening of solo bass guitar growing into a raging chorus. Musically, it was an easy attention-grabber. But this time, the lyrics struck home for me, the meaning of the music was important. It all made sense. The elements I hadn’t loved before became what I loved most, as I was ready to find vulnerability in my music. Lyrics, now, became important, a way to understand ourselves better, to relate to each other, to make a statement.
And then I found out that Mitski ranked Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians as one of her albums everyone needs to own, and the rest was history.
“Your mother wouldn’t approve of how my mother raised me
But I do, I think I do”