Last month, Mitski shared the lead single for her forthcoming album Be The Cowboy. “Geyser” opens the LP with the confessional intensity we’ve come to expect from Mitski. But what follows is a careful character study. With this album, Mitski said she wanted to develop “a very controlled icy repressed woman who is starting to unravel.” And on her new single, “Nobody,” you can hear her settling into the role. She embodies a confident loneliness. Crystal-clear vocals rise above the piano and hi-hat, later joined by a sparkling disco guitar. She sounds like a ’70s lounge singer.
While recording the album, Mitski and her longtime producer Patrick Hyland gleaned inspiration from “the image of someone alone on a stage, singing solo with a single spotlight trained on them in an otherwise dark room.” To achieve a “campy ‘person singing alone on stage’ atmosphere,” they kept the vocals fairly raw. “We also made the music swell louder than the main vocals and left in vocal errors like when my voice breaks in ‘Nobody,’ right when the band goes quiet, all for a similar effect,” Mitski says in a statement.
The Christopher Good-directed music video for “Nobody” places Mitski’s character into a surreal playhouse. She wakes up alone and “opens the window to hear sounds of people.” But the only people she can find are inanimate and faceless: bodies on television, a portrait without features, human cutouts with scratched-off expressions. She sings into a hairbrush, her isolation painted in bright hues, “Nobody, nobody.” Desperate for connection, Mitski tears through the portrait that hangs on her wall and goes to find its painter, only to discover a screen with her face on it. The groove quickens as she opens up a tiny diary, encased in a giant diary, that reads “NOBODY” seven times. The book disappears and a new message is written on her hand. Mitski’s voice loops and fades, “Nobody.” Watch below.
Be The Cowboy is out 8/17 via Dead Oceans. Pre-order it here.