Mitski’s ‘Your Best American Girl’ Is Obviously a (Turbulent) Love Song

Photo by Ebru Yildiz.

Photo by Ebru Yildiz.

Song lyrics are always subject to interpretation, but it was surprising (to me, anyway) to learn that Mitski’s stunning tune “Your Best American Girl” has been regarded by some reviewers, in her words, as a song she wrote “to stick it to ‘the white boy indie rock world’!”

On the contrary, Mitski writes, “‘Your Best American Girl’ is a love song.” That seems pretty obvious. It’s true, there’s a lot going on in the tune, from her new album “Puberty 2,” but it sounds like nothing so much as someone trying to reconcile chest-constricting infatuation with the discordant knowledge that things will never work out. After a sensuous description of her feelings, she builds into a wrenching chorus. “Your mother wouldn’t approve of how my mother raised me/ But I do, I think I do,” she sings, with an ambivalence that both startles and compels. (She substitutes “I think I do” for a more confident “I finally do” in the second chorus). She continues: “And you’re an all-American boy/ I guess I couldn’t help trying to be your best American girl.”

Frankly, the reviewers who thought it was a song criticizing white-boy indie rock aren’t giving her enough credit: Mitski is far too gifted and subtle a writer to have abused a metaphor in so clumsy a way. At their best, which is often, her lyrics are vivid, poetic masterworks of insinuation and implication, leaving as much to the imagination as she spells out.

That’s why, though the track has been out for a while, it’s the latest Best New Song of the Week on WRSI-FM (93.9, The River), and “Puberty 2” has vaulted to the top of my running tally of the best albums of 2016.