WVAU’s #2 Song of 2016: "Your Best American Girl" by Mitski

Ebru Yildiz

Kathleen Lovito

I have a problem with the cinematic classic Grease: namely the message sent when Sandy Dee transforms from pastel-clad bobby soxer to cigarette-puffing, rule-breaking sex kitten for the attention of some boy. Clearly, no one sat her down to talk about the importance of staying “true to yourself‰” and that cherry red stilettos are neither necessary to attract love or practical to wear to a fair. Instead of listening to whoever but the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp, perhaps Sandy should have dropped the needle on Mitski‰’s Puberty 2 and paid extra close attention to the album‰’s first single “Your Best American Girl.‰Û

The song‰’s opening metaphor paints Mitski and her ex-lover as different in experience as the sun and the moon, and opens up a story the likes of which Mitski has never told before. Mitski’s music is known for its honest lyrics that, more often than not, depict a literal story or scene. This song takes a different route, suggesting that this relationship isn’t as clear in tone as the ones she‰’s sung of before, yet that classic Mitksi defiance (which has been seen in the past through lyrics like “I am not gonna be what my daddy wants me to be‰” from 2014‰’s “Townie‰Û) is as present as ever. Only this time, the dissent isn‰’t from a young, spunky girl ready to make the world her own. Instead, it‰’s the sorrowful conclusion of weeks, months, years of painful reflection and deliberation. It‰’s the acceptance of martyrdom. It‰’s the farewell to a relationship in which mutual love still exists.

But why walk away? Why close the curtain on a relationship that still makes your heart go pitter-patter?

The answers are tucked into a budding narrative specific to Mitski‰’s personal experience. The half Japanese Mitski has expressed in the past that the culture and values she was raised with don‰’t always align with the American culture she lives in now. Still, this has never stopped her from trying to wedge herself into red, white, and blue scene a la Sandy Dee squeezing into leather pants. But this season‰’s Mitski has lost hope in the game. She‰’s come to learn that, try as she might, those skin-tight slacks will never suit her (a conclusion that comes through in the lyrics “Your mother wouldn‰’t approve/ Of how my mother raised me/ But I do, I think I do‰Û).

We feel the anxiety and the upset that the end of this relationship has created as the music shifts from an acoustic strum to a feedback-laden whirlwind but, in the center of it all, Mitski‰’s voice holds delicate, yet strong. It makes sense that the album “Your Best American Girl‰” calls home is named Puberty 2 because Mitski certainly seems to have experienced a new wave of growth and acceptance of maturity. I just looked up the plot of Grease 2 and, unfortunately, it doesn‰’t have Sandy discovering the same.