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Meaning of the song ‘Last Words of a Shooting Star’ by ‘Mitski’

Dark Light

Released: 2014

Peeling back the layers of Mitski’s “Last Words of a Shooting Star”, we glimpse an intimate exploration of mortality, unrequited love, and a longing for authenticity. It’s a beautiful contrast of the mundane and extraordinary, embodying the humbling realization that our personal universe is but a speck in the grand cosmic dance.

The first verse opens with a sudden jerk of turbulence, framing the idea of an unpredicted ending. The singer expresses relief that her room is neat and tidy, referencing the Japanese concept of ‘shoganai’, or things that cannot be helped. The lyric, “They’ll never know how I’d stared at the dark in that room”, sends us into those introspective, lonely nights where she grappled with her internal ‘shark’-like thoughts.

Now, the shark here is a symbol of a restless, instinct-driven mind constantly sniffing for blood in the dark—a stark contrast to the tidy physical world she’s left behind. It’s a struggle between the unseen chaos of mind and the seen order of the world. And when she says, “Carefully I was going to live”, we see her intention of leading a well-crafted life despite turmoil texturing her inner world.

With the second verse, Mitski unloads a sad, one-sided love story. She nods to the transactional nature of love borne out of cinema, and the person looking in Mitski’s eyes, not to see Mitski, but rather to see their own reflection—maybe a commentary on selfish love. The Liberty Bell reference marries history and personal narrative, symbolizing a hollow authenticity, just as the lover’s declaration of love is a replica of what they’ve seen in movies.

The final verse is a powerful acceptance of the inevitable, a reflection of Japanese ‘mono no aware’ or the pathos of things—a sensitivity to ephemera. Mitski sings of her desire to die ‘clean and pretty’, unblemished by the grind of everyday life, reflecting a version of death romanticized through pop culture. But the mention of the unforeseen turbulence hints at the uncertainty of life and death. It is here she finds relief—it could not have been avoided, no matter the meticulousness she applied to life.

The song ends on a note of relief, a poignant goodbye hinting at the peace found in accepting imperfections, the unforeseen, and the inevitability of endings. Through “Last Words of a Shooting Star”, Mitski manages to intertwine existential dread, romantic disillusionment, and cultural signifiers into a heart-stirring pop ballad.

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