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Mitsuki Miyawaki’s Lush critique of the American Beauty Standard ; A Review of Mitski’s ‘Lush’

Hauntingly beautiful or critically vapid

STOCKTON – On January 31, 2024, Mitsuki Miyawaki, artistically known as Mitski, released her independently released debut album, Lush, 9-track chamber pop album with elements of lo-fi and punk rock. The album is Miyawaki’s introduction into the music industry, with the album being a result of her junior project at SUNY Purchase.

When asked about the creation of Lush she cited the other students as her main inspiration, with all of the song’s instrumentals being recorded live at the school with the help of her peers. The main theme of this album is American beauty standards and what some women will do in order to remain appealing in the eyes of the world. Not much else is known about the album and Miyawaki rarely ever references or performs this group of songs.

The album’s opener, Liquid Smooth, opens up with a simple piano melody and slowly implements different instruments, bass, percussion instruments, and strings. In this song, Miyawaki takes a more operatic singing approach in comparison to some of her later projects where she sings in a more palatable style. Lyrically, the song is about being in one’s “prime” and the Miyawaki’s attempts to cling onto this youth forever. “I’m liquid smooth, come touch me, too/And feel my skin is plump and full of life/I’m in my prime,” Miyawaki sings on Liquid Smooth.

The second track on the album, Eric, begins with hauntingly dark and mellow synths coupled with dissonant, offbeat keys, throughout the song elements of orchestral sounds, mostly strings, meld their way into the song, which gives the song a creepy and foreboding feeling. Much like in Liquid Smooth, Miyawaki utilizes her operatic tone of singing which is something she makes use of many times throughout the album. Lyrically, the song depicts a “relationship” between two parties in which the narrator (which one could assume to be Miyawaki) desperately wants more from, she desperately offers up everything she can give in order to receive any sort of affection from her lover that isn’t superficial. “I’ll sell, I’ll sell my whole to you/What’s my, what’s my, what’s my price?/How about, how about just a part of you?/‘Cause I want, I want, I want, I want, I want, I want, I want, I want, I want,” Miyawaki desperately drones on Eric.

Brand New City, the third track on Lush, is the most sonically different from the rest of the album, with it moving away from the chamber pop sound of the rest of the record and taking inspiration from alternative rock. Brand New City starts with hard-hitting live drums with the addition of electric guitar melodies throughout the song. Miyawaki uses a singing voice reminiscent of 2003 goth rock. Lyrically the song has many different interpretations but personally I believe the song is about having to maintain your youth and beauty even when everything else in your life is slowly falling apart, with Miyawaki in the verses droning on about her dwindling mental health. “But if I gave up on being pretty, I wouldn’t know how to be alive/I should move to a brand new city and teach myself how to die,” Miyawaki sings wretchedly on Brand New City.

The fourth track on Lush, Real Men, begins with a melody of harsh, disconnected piano keys, mellow electric guitar melodies, and live drums much like the ones on Brand New City. In this song, Miyawaki sings with her more universally palatable singing voice which is the singing voice she commonly uses in her new music. Lyrically, the song is a critique on the unhealthy patriarchal standards set in place by American society and the pressure that men have to be “real men”. “Real men don’t need other people/And real men suck it in/Real men don’t flinch or bleed in public/Oh, I think I’m a real man,” Miyawaki sings on Real Men.

Track five, Wife, has a minimalistic instrumental made up solely of a simple piano melody and Miyawaki sings with a soft melodic tone. Lyrically, Wife is about the conflicting feelings surrounding the patriarchy, womanhood, and family as well as the toll it takes on a young girl to bend to the will of all of the requirements that come with being a woman. “I cannot bear you a son, but I will try/For if I am not yours, what am I?” Miyawaki questions on Wife.

Abbey, the sixth track on Lush, begins with acapella vocals from Miyawaki which help build the song’s instrumental, the only other instrument present in this song is a hard hitting 808 introduced in the middle of the song. Lyrically the song is about losing one’s sense of identity with Miyawaki constantly asking herself what her purpose is in this life. “I am something/I have been something/I was born something/What could I be?” Miyawaki questions on Abbey.

The seventh track on the album and Miyawaki’s first ever song, Bag of Bones, opens up with the haunting sound of an atonal accordion accompanied by another melody of disconnected piano chords, something that we see a lot of in this album. Vocally, Miyawaki takes a similar approach to singing as in Brand New City while just slightly toning down the edgier vocal techniques. Lyrically, the song is about the hollow relationship that the song’s narrator finds herself in, with her only feeling loved when she persuades her lover to compliment and appreciate her. “Fluorescent store lights, you shine through the night/Iluminate my pores and tear me apart,” Miyawaki sings on Bag of Bones.

The eight track on Lush, Door, starts with ambient synths and a slow piano melody which remains constant throughout the song. Lyrically, the song is about a door, which represents Miyawaki’s happiness in her life, however she has never experienced love which to her is the source of all happiness, she has always fallen short of the door and longs to reach the other side of it. “There is a door to me/I’ve never seen it/Sometimes I get closer to it/But I’ve never found it,” Miyawaki contemplates on Door.

The final track on the album, Pearl Diver, opens up with a piano melody which serves as the only instrument in the song. Vocally, Miyawaki showcases the true strength in her vocals with her effortlessly hitting high notes while also being able to hold beautiful notes in her low register. Lyrically, the song is about a person’s want for more, they’ll keep diving and diving, body free from feeling, until they eventually die as a result of their greed. “Treasure hunter, you are dead/The light of the world is fading/You cannot see the other end/Your body’s lost all feeling,” Miyawaki sings on Pearl Diver.

All things considered, Lush by Mitski is a near perfect body of work and something so unexpected for a school project from a 21-year-old. Miyawaki perfectly articulates her points in a way that is uniquely mature for many people her age while also being understandable to the average person. Coupled with the hauntingly beautiful instrumentation of this album, Miyawaki as an artist began her journey as a musician on an amazing foot.

Favorite Song(s) – Liquid Smooth, Eric, Brand New City, Bag of Bones, Pearl Diver

Least Favorite Song(s) – Door

Album Rating – 9/10

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About the Contributor
Dennis Hopkins
Dennis Hopkins, Staff Writer
Dennis Hopkins is a senior at Lincoln High School and this is his second semester in the Journalism class. In his free time he enjoys creative/narrative writing and listening to music. He writes often about music and voices his opinions on the album.

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