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Released: 2012

Just one listen to “Brand New City” by Mitski will remind any pop aficionado that pop is not just about the catchy hooks and danceable beats. It’s also a storytelling genre that can tackle some pretty heavy themes, and that’s exactly what Mitski’s doing here. “Brand New City” is a candid and brutally honest exploration of exhaustion, self-destruction, and the desperate desire for a fresh start.

From the opening lines, “I think my brain is rotting in places, I think my heart is ready to die”, Mitski’s lyrics dive deep into a state of despair and profound disillusionment. The repeated question from the chorus, “What’d you take?” could be interpreted as an inquiry about substance use, emotional burden or personal choices, but it’s left purposefully ambiguous. Mitski uses this as a critical device to underscore the narrator’s detachment and alienation.

The lyrics, “I think my fate is losing its patience. I think the ground is pulling me down,” underscores the intense gravity of her despair. The line, “But if I gave up on being pretty, I wouldn’t know how to be alive,” is a bold indictment of society’s beauty standards. Mitski digs into the pop culture’s obsession with appearances and the undue pressure it puts on individuals, especially women, to conform.

The song’s turning point, “I should move to a brand new city and teach myself how to die,” reveals a yearning for reinvention and escape. But it’s not as cheerful as it sounds. The phrase “teach myself how to die” lays bare a desire not just for a geographical change, but a personal and existential metamorphosis, even if it comes with an ominous connotation of self-destruction.

As the song ends with more repetitions of “Honey, what’d you take? What’d you take?” it’s clear that “Brand New City” is a lyrical cry for help, a cathartic release of pent up emotions wrapped in poetic pop sensibility. Mitski masterfully presents a complex emotional landscape, a testament to the transformative power of pop music when it’s in the hands of a deft storyteller.

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