A Dance Tune to Cry to | “The Only Heartbreaker” by Mitski

A Dance Tune to Cry to | The Only Heartbreaker by Mitski

Taylor Truszkowski, Writer/Volunteer

To excite fans for her upcoming album Laurel Hell, set to release February 2022,  Mitski paired her new single “The Only Heartbreaker” with her previous single “Working for the Knife.” This duo works well to give fans a hint at what themes Mitski will use to tug at our heartstrings this time around.

Through contrasts and complements, the two songs bounce off each other to tell a story of dissatisfaction and self-blame. 

“The Only Heartbreaker” has an uncharacteristically upbeat sound not typically associated with Mitski. It has that sort of techno-pop element that makes you want to toss your hair around in a sweaty ‘80s nightclub. It is almost a dance song if it were not for the melancholic lyrics. 

Her self-blame is explained with the first few lines:

If you would just make one mistake /

What a relief that would be /

But I think for as long as we’re together /

I’ll be the only heartbreaker.

Mitski lets us know that she has no one to blame but herself for her crumbling relationship. This idea is further expressed by the imagery in her music video, which depicts her dancing in a forest where every plant she touches dies. 

While “The Only Heartbreaker” places the blame on Mitski for her failed relationship, “Working for the Knife” blames Mitski for her dissatisfaction in other areas of her life.

In “Working for the Knife,” Mitski expresses regret, singing:

I used to think I’d be done by twenty /

Now at 29, the road ahead appears the same.”

She goes on to sing:

I always thought the choice was mine /

And I was right but I just chose wrong.

These lyrics express dissatisfaction with her current state and regret that she has not been able to change her situation. Like in “The Only Heartbreaker,” she puts the blame on herself, saying that she was the one who made the wrong decision and no one else did that for her. 

The connection in the theme of the two singles signals the pairing of them was to deliberately send a message. Mitski’s message to us is that she screwed up in multiple areas of her life. Yet with this problem, she presents a solution.

There’s a reason she crafted “The Only Heartbreaker” to be a dance tune instead of her usual steady indie rock. It tells us that in Mitski’s situation, the best thing to do is accept your faults and submit to whatever comes next, the way our bodies submit to wild sounds on a dance floor.