Be The Cowboy
“I should just be the swaggering white guy onstage… Like, well, if that’s what I want then I should just do it. It’s what I want to see, I should just do it. Or in a situation, I should just forget that I’m an Asian woman, and just be like, ‘What would a cowboy do in this situation?’ And he’d be like, ‘I ain’t gon’ take that shit!’” Mitski told us earlier this year, slipping into a smile and a fake cowboy accent.
There’s been somewhat of a pop cultural obsession with all things cowboy and cowboy adjacent lately; think Westworld, A Star is Born, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Be the Cowboy, Golden Hour, etc. Given traditional rugged American masculinity’s reign over power — and our subsequent constant challenging and resistance of it — it makes sense we’ve been fascinated with its archetypal epitome. If life were an old Western film, when the modern day embodiment of give-no-fucks American masculinity moseyed on into the lives of anyone they please and took what they think is theirs (as they have since the beginning of American civilization), shiny-star-badge-sporting Mitski Miyawaki would save the day. But it’s 2018 and (as anyone who isn’t conditioned with the confidence of a “cowboy” from birth knows) just being the cowboy is fucking hard.
That’s why the careful, succinct narratives that constitute Be The Cowboy make it the best album to come out this year. In a moment of musical risk in contrast to her extolled past work, Mitski swapped her distorted guitars for massive pop choruses and her more abstract lyricism for the most outwardly developed characters we’ve seen from her so far. Then, she took her penchant for writing melodies that hit the brain like an expensive, rare drug, fused them with Hitchcock blonde aesthetics and unalloyed loneliness, flipped it all on its head, and made a 32-minute masterpiece in every possible way. —AS
You can buy this album on vinyl right here.