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The breakout success of 2016's Puberty 2 saw Mitski hailed as the new vanguard of indie rock, the one to save the genre from the white dudes who've historically dominated it. But the often overlooked aspect of being a rising star is the sheer amount of work that goes into it. "I had been on the road for a long time, which is so isolating, and had to run my own business at the same time," Mitski explains, "a lot of this record was me not having any feelings, being completely spent, but then trying to rally myself and wake up and get back to Mitski. I was feeling really nihilistic and trying to make pop songs."
We want our artists to be strong but we also expect them to be vulnerable. Rather than avoiding this dilemma, she addresses directly the power that comes from appearing impenetrable and loneliness that follows. "With a lot of the romantic infatuations I've had," she says, "when I look back, I wonder, Did I want them or did I want to be them? Did I love them or did I want to absorb whatever power they had? I decided I could just be my own cowboy figure that I so desire." In Be The Cowboy, Mitski delves into the loneliness of being a symbol and the loneliness of being someone, and how it can feel so much like being no one.