If you have been on TikTok or any other social media platform for the past year then you should know the name Mitski. From songs like “Nobody,” “I Bet on Losing Dogs,” and “Washing Machine Heart,” going viral, Mitski’s fanbase has grown by twofold, despite her two year hiatus.
After grasping at every little snippet and interview they could for two long years, fans were surprised when Mitski tweeted a link to a Youtube countdown for a new song on October 4. The next day, her new single “Working for the Knife” was released along with dates for a 2022 tour. The song is a melodic critique of our capitalistic society and how mentally and physically exhausting being a working class person can truly be.
Deeper themes aren’t uncommon in her music. She often writes songs about race, gender, mental health, and politics. Her songs “Your Best American Girl” and “Strawberry Blonde,” are both about her struggle living in the United States as a Japanese-American woman. Mitski has done a song criticizing capitalism before, with “Because Dreaming Costs Money, My Dear,” but “Working for the Knife” personally stuck out because of how blatantly relatable it is to members of the working class, like me.
By using her metaphor filled lyrics, Mitski paints the picture of how dull working in a corrupted world is. The knife that she refers to throughout the song is most commonly interpreted as capitalism. She sings about how she feels the world is moving on without her, how she feels she barely has any creative freedom, and how capitalism makes her feel like she must exploit herself to be successful.
As someone who works on top of being a student, this song really hits close to home. She alludes to feeling burnt out in the opening line when she sings, “I cry at the start of every movie, I guess ‘cause I wish was making things too, but I’m working for the knife.” Feeling burnt out is a commonplace not only in my life but in others lives as well. There is never a balance between my personal life, school, and work. I always have to put my occupational priorities over pleasure.
Capitalism is built on exploitation. They suggest that unless you work harder, you won’t be successful and won’t be free to do things that you truly want to do. Mitski sings about how she believes that to be a successful musician, she must exploit her own pain into her songs. Mitski feels as though to create art worth paying attention to, she has to be vulnerable about the miserable parts of her life. She proposes that singing about her happier moments aren’t adequate enough for her to gain success.
According to Statista, approximately 153.7 million people in the United States are also “working for the knife.” Whether you’re one of the 153 million or not, you should still give the song a listen. The track is extremely well produced, and the music video that goes along with it is just as symbolic as the song. While you’re at it, you should check out her other songs too, they might have a message that relates to you, just as much as “Working for the Knife” relates to me.