There’s a new name in stadium tours this spring and summer: Japanese-American singer Mitski, who is on a worldwide tour with Lorde. Fans who have not been exposed to the unique talent were quickly won over by her combination of lo-fi rock, singer-songwriter pastiche, and teen-angst-satire. Get to know these key facts about Mitski:
She Describes Herself as “Rootless”
Mitski told Rolling Stone she sees her upbringing as rootless. Due to her father’s job, the family moved frequently. She lived in 13 countries, including Japan, Turkey, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and China before moving to the United States when she 15 years old. The constant moving made her feel she didn’t fit in anywhere. Mitski told the Guardian in 2016 that she created an idealized version of America in her head, but once she moved to the U.S., she didn’t feel like she fit in there, either.
Her Influences Didn’t Originally Include Rock
Unlike many singer-songwriters of her generation, Mitski has a rock edge. But fans find it somewhat surprising that the singer wasn’t raised on a steady diet of classic rock. Growing up she liked Britney Spears, pivoted to Björk and M.I.A. and then learned about punk when she went to college. Still, her lo-fi guitars and edgy lyrics bring to mind mid-1990’s Liz Phair mixed with the glam-grunge of Garbage.
Alienation is the Theme of Puberty 2
Mitski’s 2016 breakout album, Puberty 2, explores the distance between the America of her dreams and pop culture – the rom-com variety – with the reality. Although many of the songs are intensely personal, she struck a chord with other young adults who experienced the same ambivalence.
She Doesn’t Want to Be a Trope
Mitski’s “All American Girl” was an instant hit, being streamed more than 8 million times on Spotify. The video was compelling as well, featuring Mitski making out with her hand while she explores an interracial relationship with a white guy. The presence of a white hipster couple making out in the video led to many theories about what Mitski was trying to say – or subvert. However, Mitski told the guardian, “I didn’t go into this thinking, ‘Let me subvert something,’ or as an activist. I’m in it because I love music and that’s what I do. I’m a musician.”
On Facebook, she explained further, “Yes in the musical composition I used tropes from ‘white indie rock’ of my adolescence,” she wrote. “But I used those tropes to accentuate the point that . . . I would never ever fit [in].”
She Famously Covered One Direction
Puberty 2 includes a cover of One Direction “Fireproof.” The cover changes the overly-leisurely lovesong into a rocker that is a full 60 seconds shorter than the original. In other words, she makes it cool. The track first appeared on the compilation album Our First 100 Days, which was a benefit campaign for groups impacted by the election of Donald Trump.
Her First Two Albums Were Student Projects
Mitski study film at Hunter College and then transferred to SUNY Purchase when she realized she wanted to be a musician. While majoring in music composition, she recorded her first two albums: lush and Retired from Sad, New Career in Business. The albums were her junior and senior year projects, and Mitski used dozens of student musicians.
She Didn’t Pick Up a Guitar Until 2014
Mitski didn’t bother with a guitar until 2014, when she put out the album Bury Me at Makeout Creek, which turned hard into the rock curve. The album drew on her singer-songwriter roots but amplified it with punk and garage rock.