Mitski – Your Best American Girl (Music Video)
by Steven Spoerl
Finally, after an onslaught of posts both large in scope and small in stature, this site has caught up to the current release cycle in all three main categories: streams, full stream, and music videos. It’s been a surprisingly overwhelming early run for great material in all three fields and Wednesday kept that pace humming along.
This post will cover music videos and full streams, while the ensuing post will circle back to individual songs. While Mitski‘s brilliant, confrontational “Your Best American Girl” finds the spotlight here, Bob Mould, Lewis Del Mar, The Pack a.d., and Neil Michael Hagerty & The Howling Hex also provided strong clips. Meanwhile, a formidable duo of records — Zen Mantra‘s self-titled and Guided By Voices‘ Please Be Honest — also found their way out into the world.
“Your Best American Girl” winds up with this post’s spotlight for a whole array of reasons. Everything from the directing, to the subtext, to the pointed commentary, to the visual presentation, to the editing, to the song itself ensured that “Your Best American Girl” would be held up an an example of not only the extraordinary but the deeply important. Ever since I first met Mitski, she’s been expounding on the virtues of self-worth and detailing the endless struggles that accompany the path to its attainment.
The Zia Anger-directed clip for “Your Best American Girl” is the most vivid hyper-realization of those defeats and triumphs to date.
After cracking this site’s 50 Best Songs of 2016‘s First Quarter list, “Your Best American Girl” has been on near-constant repeat and that level of investment’s been rewarded tenfold. The anticipation for Mitski’s upcoming Puberty 2 has been growing since the release of Bury Me At Makeout Creek (one of this site’s picks for the Best Albums of 2014) and the arc of “Your Best American Girl” has elevated that anticipation to stratospheric levels. Now, that song’s got an unforgettable video and Puberty 2 seems poised to be another instant classic.
Opening on a shot of Mitski being sprayed, touched up, and transformed into a perfectly made up creature. During this process, she looks overwhelmingly disinterested until the clip cuts to a one shot of a young, conventionally attractive male across the room. Both of them are seated on stools and, eventually, they start exchanging body language, cultivating some palpable sexual tension in the process. While this is a sequence that takes less than forty seconds, it proves to be masterful in its execution, taking great care to both distance the male figure and pull Mitski out of the shadows through clever lighting design and photography direction.
Meticulous details like those inform the rest of “Your Best American Girl” while the central action occurs; an attractive white woman joins the male figure and the pair quickly become physically affectionate as Mitski looks on, confused, distraught, despondent, and displaced. Those looks that occur on the artists end feel painfully honest due to the onslaught of cruel injustices that she’s had to face throughout her life. For a moment, “Your Best American Girl” abandons any semblance of hope and becomes a devastating statement of isolation.
Before long, the video inverts is course and Mitski pulls up her hand and mimics the discomforting display of affection happening across the room. At first, those moments where Mitski becomes amorous with herself feel like they’re drawn from a learned place of loneliness, despair, and the kind of personal anguish that can be derived from having a crushingly low sense of self-worth.
Just a few seconds after the sequence becomes extremely uncomfortable in both its confrontational presentation and its unflinching subtext, something beautiful happens: Mitski reclaims her own agency and fully commits to herself. In just a few frames, “Your Best American Girl” transforms itself from a public display of extreme self-deprecation to a bold, empowering statement that drastically reduces the need for the approval of others.
By the video’s end, Mitski’s shed her carefully-selected ensemble (a red pantsuit that exposes her own vulnerability) and been reborn in a dress, guitar in hand. While there’s still a desire for intimacy, understanding, and acceptance that lingers throughout the closing moments of “Your Best American Girl”, the need’s been lessened by the realization that we’re worth more than our disappointments. It’s a crucial, realistic distinction and it pushes “Your Best American Girl” from being great to being legitimately important.
“Your Best American Girl” is an astonishingly powerful video that perfectly presents the values that drive the majority of Mitski’s work. It’s a daring clip, whose risks are rewarded with the songwriter’s most definitive entry in an already impressive career. If the rest of Puberty 2 lives up to the standard this has set, it’ll be a record that’ll be admired (and played) for decades. Don’t make the mistake of letting this pass without celebration and remember that we all have inherent worth, even during the stretches — especially during the stretches — when that seems impossible.
Watch “Your Best American Girl” below and pre-order Puberty 2 ahead of its release here.
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