"Be the Cowboy" is Mitski's fifth studio album and despite the name, it is not an album dedicated to cowboys. Rather, the title "Be the Cowboy" is meant to reference the ideology that cowboys hold. In an interview with KEXP Mitski explained that she is telling her audience to "be the cowboy you wish to see in the world," meaning to, "be the change you wish to see in the world." She wants her audience to stand up for themselves and reach their goals despite all the people that may tell them it is impossible. In an interview with Trevor Noah she goes more in-depth with the cowboy persona saying, "I was so attracted to that idea of freedom and arrogance and not having to apologize," and that the "idea of a man riding into town, wrecking shit, and then walking out like he's the hero" is the energy of an American cowboy that she aspires to have.
The first song on her album is what I personally believe to be one of her best. "Geyser" is a song I'd rather listen to with my eyes closed than with the music video. It's a song filled with Mitski's beautiful voice, fuzzy grunge bass, and synthesizer. The reason why I listen with my eyes closed is that this song becomes so more powerful when you can picture yourself floating in a black room with each instrument floating into the room as they enter the song. It'll start off with just the organ and slowly, the synthesizer enters, Mitski's voice, the tambourine, drums, and then all the separate parts are swimming around you as the song plays, reaches its climax and fades out.
The meaning behind the lyrics in "A Peal" is what makes this song whole. As one of her longer songs on the album, it is reminiscent of the heavier, independent, alternative rock music she was making previously to this album. This is especially present in the guitar solo. An important lyric Mitski sings is, "it's just that I fell in love with a war, nobody told me it ended, and it left a pearl in my head, and I roll it around." What she means here is that the "war" she fell in love with was the war that occurs when you're in a toxic relationship and realize that you enjoy the chaos it brings into your life. The pearl this war left in her head is the wound that makes her crave these relationships. An article by The 405 quotes Mitski explaining, that this war happens "when you've been unhappy for so long that being unhappy is your norm," so, "you repeat self-destructive behaviors because it's what you know, it's what you feel you deserve and what you're comfortable with."
"Nobody" is Mitski's hit single off this album. First, I will just say how perfect the guitar riff is. Secondly, she repeats "nobody" over a dozen times, in the end, it works to both further the meaning of the song and as an easy part to sing along to disregarding the notes — which is exactly what Mitski said she wanted for her audience. Lastly, her lyrics, "Venus planet of love, was destroyed by global warming, did its people want too much," so accurately describes the world we're living in now with people ignoring warnings that Earth is dying and choosing to believe that global warming is a hoax.
To listen to Mitski, you can go here, I promise it will be worth it to hear her voice live.