Last night, Mitski appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and performed her Puberty 2 single, “Your Best American Girl.” She was joined by Late Show musical director/bandleader on piano, and his band/Late Show house band Stay Human. Though their late night-ready stylings take away from the grittier/fuzzier sound of the studio version of the song with which you may be familiar, it’s still awesome seeing Mitski perform — in her television debut — for a national audience of late night television watchers.
The track speaks in part to Mitski’s international upbringing that vastly complicated her notions national/ethnic identities — she was born in Japan and then moved constantly, living in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malaysia, and Turkey before settling in the United States — and on the track, show a wariness towards projected expectations of an “all American” relationship, despite the fervor for an unnamed lover. After the track had been taken by the press as a more overarching statement/protest song — or flattened by its expected adherence to one theme — Mitski took to Facebook to clarify her more specific intent in writing it:
“Your Best American Girl” is a love song. A lot of reviews have agreed on a narrative that “she wrote this song to stick it to ‘the white boy indie rock world’!” but I wasn’t thinking about any of that when I was writing it, I wasn’t trying to send a message. I was in love. I loved somebody so much, but I also realized I can never be what would fit into their life. How hard I tried, we were from different worlds, and there was nothing I could do about that. Yes in the musical composition I used tropes from “white indie rock” of my adolescence (the chord progressions, the moment at 2:25, etc), and my mentioning that in interviews was probably what propagated the aforementioned narrative. But I used those tropes to accentuate the point that I could use their methods and act like I was of their world, but I would never ever fit.
Watch the performance: