Mitski, once the harbinger of love’s decline, chokes on a self-created inferno on ‘The Only Heartbreaker’. Though she’d grown melancholy about love and loss before, the second single from her upcoming sixth studio album strays from subdued indie rock and into full-blown frenzy, recalling the lavish synth-pop of the 1980s, as Mitski draws herself into the inevitable unraveling of a toxic relation. Exploding the reticence of previous single ‘Working for the Knife’, she rises from the ashes and then succumbs to a dense array of video game-esque instrumentals. The video reflects Mitski’s consumption through her own guilt: everything she touches is on fire. “I’ll be the only heartthrob,” she wails, alone in a vast expanse of pyromaniac destruction, twisting her limbs to the beat by the will of an unknowable force.
The opening lines – “If you only made one mistake / what a relief that would be” – convey guilt, but they also flicker with resentment. Building on the themes of resignation and heartbreak that were present in Mitski’s earlier work, “The Only Heartbreaker” comes to a disturbingly candid conclusion: she’s the problem. “I’ll be the water pipe that bursts and overflows/You’ll be by the window, just watching,” she sings, leaving us helpless spectators to her self-destruction. But even as Mitski casts himself as “the villain in the play,” the song’s feverish heartbeat asks: When devastation leaves everything charred and desolate, what’s left but to dance in its wake?