The Last Oreo Crumb: On Mitski’s New Single, “Happy”

Mitski's new single is about our chase for the fleeting nature of happiness.
By    May 6, 2016

Cory Lomberg busted Pharrell for lying on that Despicable Me song. 

Mitski woke up to find that she misplaced her happiness, or something. It happens to the best of us. Where did it go, though? You can drive yourself insane trying to track it down, figure out which surface it slid under orbetter yetwho took it. “Happy,” the latest single off of Mitski Miyawaki’s upcoming LP Puberty 2 (out June 17 on Dead Oceans), is her way of telling us to stop searching.

Only passing feelings are meant to make us happy, anyway. With all of them come the inevitable break, the dissolution of happiness. And while your stomach’s tied up, your inbox is barren, and the last sleeve of Oreos has run dry, you’re beginning to wonder if the ‘happy’ was worth it to begin with. It comes and goes, so often without warning.

“Happy came to visit me,” Mitski announces to open the track, her statement encircling the sounds of a skittish drum machine. It gives shape to the rattling. “I was in the bathroom/I didn’t hear him leave,” the next verse begins. Remember: happiness is mannerless, with no introduction and rarely any parting words. Mitski hasn’t forgotten.

She has always reveled in her wit: see her twitter quips, self-designed cover art for Puberty 2, The Simpsons reference in her last album title. That variety of sharp humor makes “Happy” representative of her best work yet. The stammering saxophone doesn’t hurt, either. Her voice is as distinct as ever, since 2012’s Lush, which she released as an undergrad at SUNY Purchase. The runs are rich not only with range, but inflection too. Mitski carves a period in behind every line. By the end of the song, drums spit and sputter until cutting out completely; again, no conclusion necessary.

On past albums, Mitski bartered with happiness. It only took a couple verses for her to leap from “You don’t see me” to “I miss you more than anything” on 2014’s “Francis Forever.” But “Happy” sounds like she is tired of begging. Her tone has never been brooding or self-deprecating, and it still isn’t. Now, it’s worn to the point of ambivalence. “Change, change, change is gonna come, but when, when, when?” She howled on “Townie,” a single from Bury Me at Makeout Creek. It’s here. Happiness may finish all of her snacks and sneak out before exchanging goodbyes, but Mitski knows better this time. She’s locking the door behind it.

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