Be The Cowboy certainly does what it says on the tin — in the sense that it takes you on a journey that’s rough, sweet, smooth and even a little dull at times — and isn’t that what being a cowboy’s all about?
Coming from such a revered indie sweetheart as Mitski and being her fifth album at that, emotional Tumblr kids worldwide are positively collapsing under the hype of this release.
Be The Cowboy is a collection of mostly snappy, synthy tracks full of longing. These traits aren’t negative, but they appear in a little too much excess on Cowboy. Yes, Mitski does it well as she always does and makes it her own, but it feels like hardly anything new. This may not be an issue for devotees who can’t stand their idols changing, but for those who were hoping for something fresh it may slightly disappoint.
Obsession and loneliness are glaringly obvious themes running throughout many tracks, including Lonesome Love, Remember My Name, Pink in the Night and Blue Light. It often feels as though one could be drawn more deeply into the individual ideas Mitski explores in these tunes if only they were just that bit longer, but most of them hover around the two-minute mark and shudder to a halt just as you find yourself falling in. It’s then when you are forced to move on to the next, having only a vague idea remain.
There are notable strong moments on Be The Cowboy which certainly deserve honourable mentions. Singles Geyser and Nobody cement their position as stand-out tracks, adopting elements of cinematic drama and disco respectively to tell stories of devotion and solitude.
Me And My Husband is sickly sweet in all its Ben Folds glory, telling the seemingly hypothetical tale of Mitski and her partner in crime. “And I’m the idiot with the painted face in the corner, taking up space, but when he walks in, I am loved, I am loved,” she sings in a cute reminder of how true love can lift us all up in times of need.
Two Slow Dancers, which takes out the final spot, asks the interesting question “Does it smell like a school gymnasium in here? It’s funny how they’re all the same” to kick things off, and evolves into another emotive exploration much like Geyser. Practically all it’s composed of is a hollow 80s synth and her voice, proving that complexity has no relation to the beauty of a track.
Mitski is at her best on Be The Cowboy when she shies away from the self-deprecation and desperation, swapping it out for deeper feelings and pure self rather than theatrics. If the album were geared more towards this end of her work, the result would likely have been far superior. This is not to say there’s anything wrong with BTC as it is—it just feels as though it leapt for its potential but fell short and landed in its comfort zone.