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by Emily Portalatin

Valentine’s Day is full of variety: while some people look forward to gifts and dates, others stress over situationships, delusionships, and relationships so troublesome that they may begin to research their attachment style. It can be difficult to grapple with the emotions that come with bad romantic situations. One way I find it helpful to work through any feeling is through music. It may sound cliche, but shouting, crying, or even simply listening to a good song with lyrics that resonate can be therapeutic! But maybe you’re hesitant for reasons besides the “coming-of-age-protagonist” feel of it all; perhaps you don’t want to listen to the typical heartbreak-associated artists. If you’re more of an indie fan, allow me to direct you to one of my favorites: Mitski.

Mitski has been an indie artist with profound, mellifluous music since 2012, who regained virality after her “TikTok-ification,” which brought about new fans who both misunderstand her music and have no concert etiquette. Regardless of this irritating subset of listeners, Mitski’s music is beautiful and its meaning is not one to downplay. While not all of Mitski’s music is love-related and her work is much more poignant and insightful than simply being “sad girl music,” many of the songs Mitski writes are perfect for people with complicated emotions in all types of romantic contexts… the sheer amount of examples causes me to occasionally wonder if she’s doing okay. Mitski has a knack for exploring her emotions, even the uglier ones, and translating them into songs that range from catchy to soul-crushing.

I would like to present some of my favorite Mitski heartache tunes right on time for Valentine’s Day. Come allow the musings of Mitski to soothe your love troubles, whether you’ve come to cry, rage, feel, or simply learn about a musician! And before anyone questions my authority in recommending heartbreak-related songs as someone in a good relationship, I’ll have you know that I have spent many Valentine’s Days alone! …Oh so many… so there! Ha! Besides, I can still recognize a great song when I hear one. All seven of Mitski’s albums have songs highly worthy of a listen, but for the sake of keeping within the limit of these pages I sadly will not be able to include them all. Maybe the songs I have included will intrigue you, in which case you should check out her other work! Anyway, here are some Mitski highlights for anyone who needs them this Valentine’s Day:

Francis Forever” from Bury Me At Makeout Creek (2014)

I remember when I was younger and, whenever I had a crush on someone, I would try my best to grab their attention. It was fun to wonder what, if anything, that “special someone” thought about what I was doing.  I know others who have done the same (i.e. posting subtle social media hints and attempting to come across as fun, cool, and well put-together), but some people may take the act too far. Whether it’s appealing to the “male gaze” or simply wanting approval from someone you care about, some run the risk of feeling “less than whole” when they’re not in their crush’s presence. Mitski describes this in “Francis Forever,” in which she can’t get over someone and constantly ruminates about her interactions with them as well as interactions that she wishes they could see. She does not need approval from anyone when it comes to the things she does… except from this particular person. She wants them to see how “well” she’s doing, and for her to occupy their thoughts constantly. 

A case like this makes me sad, as you are seemingly living life for someone else instead of for yourself—extrinsically instead of intrinsically. “WHO CARES if I improve as a person and do great things if that ONE person isn’t there to see it???” While it can be sweet to get the attention of someone you like, pining for that attention 24/7 even when it is irrelevant can become unhealthy. Whether you have a crush or are in a relationship, I would like to stress the importance of remaining your own person. Cultivate hobbies! Spend time with friends! If you stay true to yourself instead of trying to assume the personality of someone else for their approval, someone who loves your true self will come along! You can always share parts of your life with the one you love, but remember that your life is yours. It can be fun to say that someone “completes” you, but I don’t like the implication that you’re less than a full person without them. Let’s “supplement” each other instead, as silly as it sounds! 

I Bet on Losing Dogs” from Puberty 2 (2016)

A crucial facet of love is being willing to stick together when times are tough. No life is perfect, and relationships take effort! It is great to have a “teammate” of sorts to forge through life with. However, there is a fine line one must tread when putting this into practice. While relationships take effort, they should not necessarily be difficult, and both partners should generally be putting in the work together. Perhaps you have been in a situation where this isn’t the case; perhaps you have desperately wanted to stick by someone that you know deep down is not right for you, whether it be out of loneliness or delusion. Mitski appears to have this issue in “I Bet On Losing Dogs,” a song from her album Puberty 2. Mitski knows that the “dogs” she consistently bets on are not going to win, but she goes for them anyway and experiences the downfall with them. The metaphor is clear — she’s investing in people that she knows won’t be good for her in the end, but can’t help but stay. 

But how can we tell the difference between a “losing dog” and a rough patch that will improve? In my experience, the answer is patterns, words, and actions. Mitski here appears to stick to relationships that are doomed from the start, knowing they won’t work and going with it anyway. Pro-tip: Maybe DON’T do that? At least, not if you want to cultivate something strong. I understand that this is easier said than done, as sometimes it is hard to accept that a relationship won’t work out. It’s always worth it to attempt to work through things as opposed to simply leaving, but if someone makes false promises from the beginning and never actually changes, don’t invest in it. Words are comforting, but if one’s actions don’t match then you are essentially sticking with someone on a foundation of falsehoods. Never adopt the “I can fix them” mentality! It’s great to support a person, but you should not always be doing all the legwork. Do not let something meant to be a good thing, be it a relationship or anything else in life, cause you pain! 

Nobody” from Be the Cowboy (2018)

Oh come on, how could I NOT talk about “Nobody”?! It may be an overplayed Mitski song, but it’s well-made with great depth and emotion (and I would like this article to be beginner-friendly anyway). As the title suggests, Mitski feels an immense loneliness, as though she has nobody. This feeling follows her regardless of her appearance; she feels that she cannot find love or comfort in any physical state. She just wishes she could feel love from somebody—anybody. Despite the depressing lyrics, the song is quite catchy. I’m sure I have been pumping my fist to “Nobody” while simultaneously having some sort of breakdown. Speaking of breakdown, I would like to point out Mitski’s repetition of the word “nobody.” The lyric’s simplicity and repetitiveness are intentional, and the way Mitski emotionally renders lyrics like this makes up for their repetition tenfold. The whopping thirty-six uses of the word exhibit (at least to me) a spiraling sense that has you repeating the same thing to yourself over and over, especially as the key changes near the end in a distressing climax. While what I am about to say is another example of something “easier said than done,” I hope that everyone who feels the pain of “Nobody” will feel relief at some point, knowing they are not alone. I know it’s easy to feel lonely and unwanted on a day like Valentine’s Day, and that this feeling can materialize on numerous other occasions. I’ve been there too, and am thinking of every last one of you!

My Love Mine All Mine” from The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We (2023)

Geez, this has been sort of bleak. Is there ANY good love out there? Do all attempts at connection result in dysfunction or heartbreak? Considering the themes in her music, one may assume that Mitski finds good love scarce, or even that she has now rejected the pursuit of love altogether. However, this could not be further from the truth.  Not all of Mitski’s songs are necessarily critiques of romance (although a lot of them are); her music portrays an array of nuanced emotional states and features songs about the undeniable power and importance of love as well. Take one of her newest hits, for example, “My Love Mine All Mine.” It is a song which maintains that, despite the fleetingness of life, we all have the capacity to love and be loved—something that is ours alone to claim. We have a finite period of time to live life, a life which does not promise ease. Yet there is a beauty in being able to love despite it all and see that the love you put into the world has a real effect. Everyone has the opportunity to experience and express some level of love—even if not romantic love—a beautiful fact attesting to our human autonomy. Despite our mortality, we can always find things to cherish during the time which we do have, and this arguably makes life’s pains worth it in the end. It may be scary to get close to others, whether you are worried about facing heartbreak or eventually losing someone you’ve cared about… but maybe a good love is worth the risk.


Even if you don’t need to release your romance woes into a Mitski-fueled breakdown, Mitski is a fantastic indie artist that I would recommend to everyone regardless of relationship status. I could shout her lyrics every day of the year if I had to, even if I can’t always relate to a song. A great album to listen to first is Be The Cowboy, her fifth studio album; it contains some wonderful Mitski hits and is also widely acclaimed. Give it a try if you’d like! 

I know that listening to music is not all it takes to truly heal from love’s troubles, but it can help to take solace in the fact that there is beautiful music out there that may resonate with you and make your heart feel a little less heavy. Happy Valentine’s Day! 

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