Growing Up

Growing Up

“If you would let me give you pinky promise kisses/Then I wouldn’t have to scream your name/Atop of every roof in the city of my heart” is one of various heartfelt lyrics artist, Mitski includes in one of her songs, “Once More to See You” from her third album Puberty 2. Puberty 2 demonstrates Mitski’s perspective on growing older. She comments on one of her songs during a concert in Toronto in 2023, “Here’s a song for when it was scarier than it is now for me to get older” (Mitski). Compared to her prior album, Bury Me at Makeout Creek, this album is unlike her previous album as she said in an interview in 2016 because “I finally could get to do music again” (Rettig). This album expressed Mitski in a contrasting way because she released an album that primarily came from looking back into her past. As Mitski said, “went back to my roots” a little bit” (Rettig). This album’s focus for Mitski was to focus on herself, to decide what to create for herself, and not for the public. Finally, on June 17, 2016, the release of Mitski’s D.I.Y punk/indie rock album, Puberty 2, produced by Patrick Hyland under the Dead Oceans record label was released to public listeners. Crafting this well-versed, sorrowful album describing diaconate feelings as she faces this world herself. Combining her views on perspective about relationships, goals, happiness and life itself crafts a masterpiece named Puberty 2.

While Mitski hasn’t gone into personal detail about her background and upbringing, she has stated that her life throughout the years has constantly been up and down. On September 27, 1990, Mitsuki Miyawalki Laycock was born in Japan with her American white father and Japanese mother. Although she didn’t go into much detail, she told a news article, in the New Yorker, “She grew up moving around the globe” (Tolentino). She moved around the globe due to her father being in the United States Department of State. Additionally, constantly moving around throughout her childhood created turbulence as she grew up. Since she moved around a lot, it was a continuous cycle: moving to a new location, trying to adapt to the life there, finally adapting-then she leaves. The continuing moving to various parts of the world created varying degrees of success and self-alienation” (Talbot) for Mitski. Furthermore, Mitski has shared a part of her that she feels, “I’m Asian American. I’m half white, half Asian. And so I don’t really fit into either community very well. I am an other in America, even though I am American.” (Nguyen). Further, she says she feels she has millions of identities for herself, and she sees them all as one, “ they’re all me, and I inhabit them, and they all live inside me” (Nguyen). Mitski has declined many in-depth interviews about her childhood, but she expressed to the New York Times she found a constant within this turbulence. She tells them, “Not to be cheesy, but I do think music helped me not die” (Caramancia). In another article, she explains “Movies offered a refuge. Mitski admired Hayao Miyazaki’s lush animated films(Caramancia). One of her favorites was a movie called Spirited Away. In her words, It’s so resolute, the way she’s looking out the window, especially because she has no return ticket,” Mitski said. “It’s the face of someone who’s made a decision.” (Caramancia). Both movies and music were something that kept her sane, with all this never-ending change there was something that grounded her throughout all of this. After she graduated from Ankara, she was unsure what to do with her life which led to a lot of partying prior to her career. Suddenly, one day she realized a keyboard in her room could potentially become a career for her.  This was the start of Mitski’s career in music. 

In NPR, her fan base is described as a “predominantly young, mostly female and largely Asian-American audience” (Berman). Commonly, her fans associate with various of her songs throughout all her 7 albums. For Asian-Americans, many linked with one song called “Your Best American Girl” with lyrics like, “Your mother wouldn’t approve of how my mother raised me/But I do, I think I do/And you’re an all-American boy/I guess I couldn’t help trying to be your best American girl” (Mitski).  This song is commonly interpreted as when someone who is POC loves someone who is white because it depicts a love that cannot blossom due to the appearance and situation of the POC person. The alienation of how the POC person sees herself restricts her from being able to get into a relationship with the white boy. Many Asians like Sunny Dizon see Mitski as relatable because “Listening to Mitski, Dizon identifies with her “struggles to find her place, in her interpersonal relationships and in the world at large.” (Nguyen). Aside from that, the various identities that Mitski believes she relates to many with the lyrics in numerous of her songs. An example of one is from “A Burning Hill” she writes, “I’m tired of wanting more, I think I’m finally worn” (Mitski 2016). Plenty of fans understood this because many related to losing a spark that was lost over time. 

As time went on, her audience began to grow. Specifically, in February 2019, one of Mitski’s songs blew up, “2.5 million user-generated videos have been posted to TikTok using her music. Her song “Nobody”—a song streamed on Spotify nearly 200 million times” (Booker). As her fan base started to rapidly increase, she took a break from social media and it seemed that she quit music. Then as it seemed that she wouldn’t return to the music stage, she did with a new album titled Laurel Hell in 2022. While Mitski is grateful for the love she has received, she draws a line between her fans and herself. Usually, she doesn’t overshare when it comes to her personal life and she doesn’t run her accounts throughout social media. Her manager runs all her accounts. Mitski has stated her reason is because, “I think it got really unhealthy very quickly for me to have access to thousands, tens of thousands of strangers opinions of me and whether it’s positive or negative feedback” (Booker). She sees herself as “I’ve put myself in this position where anyone can really do anything they want to me” (Beaumont-Thomas). It explains that her music leaves an open vulnerability that leaves Mitski open to anyone, which is uneasy for her. Nonetheless, she appreciates her fans for their immense support. When this album was released, many applauded Mitski with Puberty 2.

On Metacritic, she got an 87/100 from critics and an 8.7/10 from fan ratings. With ratings like, “Puberty 2 exposes new dimensions to Mitski’s voice, revealing its true richness and range” (Metacritic), “Beautiful… amazing… work. I am in love with every song on this album, the lyrics are so meaningful – and the instrumentals give me goosebumps every time. Arguably, no – THE best Mitski album.” (Metacritic), and “This is a very strong and natural progression for Mitski. As a huge fan of her previous LPs, this is amazing to me, and should be to all of her fans as well. ” (Metacritic). Also in Metacritic, it was ranked 15th place on Best Album of 2016, 66th on Most Discussed Album of 2016, and 80th place on Most Shared Album of 2016. Additionally her song, “Your Best American Girl” was ranked 13th on “100 Best Songs of the 2010s” on the RollingStone. Overall, this album was well-loved by many whether the love coming from fans, media, or anyone who decided to tune into this new album.

At this time, this is the fourth album Mitski releases. She was able to sign with Dead Oceans being allowed to be under a record label. Her previous albums are Lush (2012), Retired from Sad, New Career in Business (2013), and Bury Me at Makeout Creek (2014). While all the previous albums were well enjoyed by critics, the albums didn’t generate profit for Mitski. One of her songs from Bury Me At Makeout Creek was played in an episode of Adventure Time, covered by Marceline the Vampire Queen. For Puberty 2, Mitski decided to look into her past for this album. For this album, Mitski saw it as “I’m gonna do what I want” (Rettig). She wasn’t going to worry about if she could play this live or if people were going to like it like her last album, she created it for herself. Mitski knew her photographic memory of her emotions could assist her when creating music even though she’s stated, “It’s overwhelming, because things don’t fade for me” (Rettig). This album was going to become separate from her other works with being under a new record label and a mindset that Mitski had set for the album. There weren’t any artists who influenced Puberty 2 specifically. However, this album was a reflection on herself and her previous other works. Since it is one of Mitski’s older albums because it was released 7 years ago, it has changed with Mitski’s growing popularity. As more people discovered Mitski, her songs throughout her various albums (including this one) were listened to more. Primarily this album stands out to be unlike her other albums around that time prompting new ideas and new songs for her fans. 

In the tracklist, there are 11 songs in total. This album starts off with “Happy.” This song explains the singer’s fascination with happiness; it seems obsessive to want to keep this happiness. This song sets up the entire album because that is the primary focus of this album. While the other songs demonstrate some negative aspects, the first song sets up the main goal, happiness. Happiness is idealized for the singer. Mitski adds on by saying in an interview, “I’m obsessed with trying to not only be happy but maintain happiness” (NPR). The rest of the songs in the album express a longing that correlates with the happiness that the singer is trying to chase, with all the unfortunate events, the singer just is tired of trying to keep finding the happiness she longs to seek. The last song of this album is “Burning Hill” which in summary is the embodiment of sadness. The album comes full circle with how the singer is first trying to seek this happiness but in the end, she isn’t able to fully achieve it. While she accepts this final defeat, she does find cheer in small things in her life. As she sings the lyrics, “And I’ll love the littler things” (Mitski). Like with her other albums, Mitski never releases bonus tracks after the release of a new album. The first single released for this album is “Your Best American Girl” plus the announcement of her new album with this song. She released this song as her first single because it showed to her audience that she was ready to release new music with confidence. As an article on her wrote, “What starts off as a sauntering acoustic indie number builds until it breaks as a shining punk song.” (Kaye 2016). This displays her confidence as she is able to show her new music choices prior to her album’s release. Then near her release, she released another single “Happy.” This song captures how poetic Mitski is when crafting her songs. Once the album was officially released, Happy was the first song on the track list then Your Best American Girl was 5th on the album. 

In Puberty 2, Mitski uses various rhetorical choices to craft her songs for this album. One of the rhetorical choices she makes is using metaphors in her lyrics. One of the earlier lyrics that use this is in her first song “Happy” as she sings “Happy came to visit me, he bought cookies on the way/I poured him tea, and he told me, “It’ll all be okay” (Mitski). In this sense, happiness isn’t a real person, yet it’s a boy. A boy whom Mitski idolizes. Mitski sees the boy as a way to bring her happiness which is the feeling she longs for. Although the story ends with the boy eventually leaving her both metaphorically and literally, this first use of metaphor in this song is able to set the story up. Allowing the listener to entune to what is currently happening. Another usage of metaphors in her songs is in “Crack Baby,” where she sings, “Crack baby, you don’t know what you want/But you know that you had it once/And you know that you want it back” (Mitski). A crack baby is defined as someone whose mother was an addict and who used a substance throughout the pregnancy. Then when the baby was born, the baby seemed to feel the pain of withdrawal. This is used metaphorically because the singer doesn’t actually want an addictive substance, in reality, she wants something that she’s been missing. What she is missing is happiness because that was her addictive substance, being happy. The withdrawal the singer is experiencing after losing her happiness because of depression since it seems like a long time since she’s lost her happiness is her being sad. It has been some time since she’s had happiness which causes her to forget how experiencing happiness felt to her. In this song, metaphors allow the sense of urgency of how desperately she wants to be happy again. “I Bet On Losing Dogs” is one of the songs that Mitski incorporates metaphors in her lyrics to convey the relationship between her and her love. In the lyrics, “I bet on losing dogs/I know they’re losing and I pay for my place by the ring” (Mitski). Losing dogs is a metaphor for the declining relationship Mitski is in. While Mitski knows she is in a poor relationship, she can’t help but be in those relationships because it gives her what she thinks she wants, love. The final song that uses metaphors is “Dan the Dancer,” in this song she creates a person named Dan. Mitski uses Dan throughout the song, “He’d use his last strength to wave back/And once back in his room, once back in his room/He’d return his waving hand back to its cliff” (Mitski). Mitski uses Dan as a metaphor for love. Mitski commented on this and told the interviewer, “What if that person wanted to fall in love and then they wanted to hold hands with somebody? What would they do when they’re hanging off of a cliff? What if they let go of one hand to hold someone’s hand?” (Safar). Dan is a metaphor for when it comes to love, how far will you go. When love is introduced into your life, how will it change you from the person you were before you met them? The love could be taken to the extreme or it can be more relaxed. In the end, it all depends on how you want this love to be taken. Metaphors allow Mitski to demonstrate how she views complex topics like love and happiness in her songs.

Additionally, another rhetorical choice she makes is by using repetition in the lyrics of her songs. In her song, “A Loving Feeling,” Mitski sings, “What do you do with a loving feeling/If the loving feeling makes you all alone?/What do you do with a loving feeling/If they only love you when you’re all alone?” (Mitski). This same lyric is constantly being repeated throughout the song. They are the first lyrics you’ll hear when you listen to the song. The repetition that was used in this song was to make it seem like the singer is constantly questioning herself. She is unsure of how she feels when being, which creates conflict with herself. It makes the listener interpret that while she does enjoy being with her secret lover, she can’t sincerely love them. She is battling a constant question of what she is feeling is right and if it is her fault because she can’t reciprocate the feelings back. Another song that includes repetition is in her song “My Body is Made Up of Crushed Little Stars,” throughout the song she harshly sings, “Kill me, Jerusalem/Kill me, Jerusalem” (Mitski). This song demonstrates how Mitski perceives life because while she is living it seems like she doesn’t want to. These lyrics she constantly repeats refer to a location that is religiously important especially for Christians as that was where Jesus Christ died and then was resurrected. The lyric possibly refers to how if she is killed, she would be able to live a better life than she is living currently. In other lyrics, she is shown to be in constant distress trying to figure out how she can survive in this life. One example in the song is, “I wanna see the whole world/I don’t know how I’m gonna pay rent” (Mitski) The constant repetition and her voice sounding angry depict her begging for this to happen. “Thursday Girl” is another way she uses repetition in her music with her singing, “Tell me no, tell me no/Tell me no, tell me no/Somebody, please, tell me no, tell me no/Tell me no, tell me no” (Mitski). For her, she wants to get rid of the sadness that has plagued her. In previous lyrics, she wants it to end but the lyrics she repeats show that she’s having second thoughts. She feels guilty for trying to stop it because she’s probably felt accustomed to it. The repetition of those words shows that she just wants someone to recognize her pain and get her the help she needs. A final use of repetition is in “Fireworks,” she constantly repeats, “And then, one warm summer night, I’ll hear fireworks outside/And I’ll listen to the memories as they cry, cry, cry” (Mitski). This song means forcefully reminiscing about her life, especially the choices she made in the past due to triggers she has. Throughout the song, Mitski continuously repeats these lyrics after she sings lyrics that seem like she’s trying to hide from them. Then, as the fireworks happen it seems that she is reminded of her past and it causes her to cry. The multiple uses of cry in the lyric can mean that she’s crying her heart out and it constantly happens to her. This song explains that she cannot escape from her unfortunate past even as she tries desperately to remove herself from it. Repetition adds to the storytelling Mitski creates by emphasizing certain emotions Mitsi tries to portray in her songs. 

Finally, a final rhetorical choice she makes in the lyrics is by using hyperbole in her lyrics. The first instance of hyperbole is in “A Burning Hill.” Mitski uses hyperboles when she sings, “I am a forest fire/And I am the fire, and I am the forest/And I am a witness watching it” (Mitski). She is not actually those items but she uses them to demonstrate how severe her self-destructive tendencies are. In these lyrics forest is herself, fire is something damaging she does to herself, and forest fire is the catastrophe she’s created in her mind. These lyrics mean how she self-sabotages herself throughout her life. By saying she is all of these items, it means that all the wrongdoings that happened fall on herself because she does it to herself. She has destructive tendencies that can destroy herself. Additionally, another use of hyperbole is in “Your Best American Girl” when Mitski begins the song by singing, “If I could, I’d be your little spoon/And kiss your fingers forevermore” (Mitski). In this context, Mitski loves a white guy who doesn’t love her back due to her unique ethnicity. Even though she knows she cannot actually get with him, she desperately wants to. By her saying “And kiss your fingers forevermore” (Mitski), it demonstrates what she would do for her lover if it actually happened. She’d worship him and love him forever if she had the chance to. Unfortunately, it is only just a dream for her. A final way Mitski uses hyperboles is “Then I wouldn’t have to scream your name/Atop of every roof in the city of my heart” (Mitski) from “Once More to See You.” The lyrics aren’t literal that she will start to scream their name on top of every roof but instead, it’s frustration. She’s so frustrated about this love with her significant other that she has to hide it when she just wants to express her love. It destroys her that she isn’t able to tell others and that she cannot meet with them normally because of this secret relationship. Mitski’s use of hyperboles details the impact of her emotions in certain situations. 

The album cover is able to encapsulate the entirety of Puberty 2. At first, you see the big cursive font, the album name, and the artist. Then, you see the grassy background with Mitski standing on the far left. There isn’t much value when looking at the colors since most colors are a shade of yellow and green. The focus on this album cover seems to be on the lady on the left even though the background encompasses most of the album. Mitski is able to emphasize this herself by making herself white. When she is in this photo, she stands but she doesn’t face towards the back but to the camera or to the people. With the background, it seems to be outside a forest. The forest references one of her songs, “And I am the forest fire, and I am the fire and I’m the forest, and I’m the person watching it.” (Mitski). She’s wearing both a white top and bottom, with white paint across only her face. The attire she wears is another reference, “Today I will wear my button down, I think I’m finally worn.” (Mitski) Her face being painted white can reference the meaning of one of her songs, wishing she was white because of society’s standards. Her face expresses the overall meaning of the story, somber and reminiscing. With her facing toward the camera instead of behind it means that she still looks into the past, she’s yearning. The yearning could be for the happiness she seems to want. As Mitski has said, “Happiness is up, sadness is down, but one’s almost more destructive than the other” (Dead Oceans). The album cover is able to set a tone for how the album will be for the listeners with her choice of location and how she portrays herself on the cover.

 Additionally, there were music videos released for the album. The first was “Your Best American Girl” on April 13, 2016. After, it was “Happy” on May 23, 2016. Finally, “A Burning Hill” on October 11, 2016. 

Throughout the album, the overall tone presented in this album is tense, somber, and depressing. Mitski expresses this by constantly keeping a similar format with her songs. The majority of her songs consist of a low melody (excluding My Body’s Made Up of Crushed Little Stars and A Loving Feeling). Mitski commonly includes guitar in her songs which correlates to her emotions. When it seems to be more somber, the guitar’s volume will be softer and strums compared to when she’s angry, the guitar will be roaring to demonstrate her frustration. Her words are able to further develop this tone, whether it is her making her voice softer like in I Bet on Losing Dogs or her making it seem like she’s yelling in her songs like in My Body’s Made Up of Crushed Little Stars. Altogether, the composition of the lyrics and the volume she puts in her instrumentals and voice create a heart-rending tone in this album, swaying listeners.  When it was first published, like her other two albums, Lush and Bury Me at Makeout Creek, it was loved by many. While it didn’t gain too much popularity in the beginning, many did enjoy this album. After her substantial gain in popularity on TikTok many of her albums (including this one) gained more popularity. Currently, on, it is rated 8.5 on best new music. During her first tour after her release of Laurel Hell, some of her songs from this album were played at the concerts.


She played “Once More to See You,” “Happy,” “Your Best American Girl,” and “I Bet on Losing Dogs” in those concerts. Many who attended that concert (including myself) felt strong emotions, Mitski conveyed. While I sincerely love Mitski’s entire discography as a whole, this album will forever be the album that left a substantial impact on me. Like many others, I discovered her in late 2019-2020 as her popularity started to skyrocket. Like many others, COVID was a rough time for me, especially with my mental health, it was exhausting having to constantly battle the struggles I faced during that time. It was extremely hard for me to express my emotions and feelings because they felt so profound. Trying to explain it felt like talking to a kindergartener about calculus. It felt lonely having to combat these emotions because it constantly overwhelmed me. When I officially took an interest in Mitski, I resonated with many songs from her other albums but Puberty 2 had an impact; it felt like China discovering gunpowder. It had the biggest impact and the meaning continued to become deeper to me over time. That’s how it felt, having an album that resonated so deeply with me, felt relieving. I was relieved because I finally found someone who understood how I felt without sounding insane. Crack Baby, Fireworks and A Burning Hill are the songs that made me feel not alone, especially during those times. A Loving Feeling assisted me when I was struggling to find happiness throughout that time. The title itself, Puberty 2, was able to describe how I felt. While puberty is a huge step into the transition from being a kid to being an adult, not only it’s a physical transition but it’s a mental transition. The mental transition was especially rough as someone who is POC and combating mental illness. Even as I got help and life was rapidly changing for me, I continued to listen to this album. When I entered high school, Your Best American Girl was the one that substantially spoke to me because it was a struggle, especially knowing I wasn’t like many of my counterparts. I see this album as a great blessing received for me and I will continue to support Mitski and her well-crafted works. This album has constantly supported and taught me that I wasn’t alone and I’m so grateful to Mitski for publishing this album.


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