CW: Depression and Suicide
“Last Words of a Shooting Star” is the tenth track on Mitski’s third studio album, Bury Me at Makeout Creek. The song uses the metaphor of a crashing plane to represent the narrator’s battle with depression and suicidal thoughts. The music itself is reminiscent of a plane crash, and it portrays the hopeless feeling and apathy that comes with struggling with mental illness and suicidal tendencies. The title represents how suffering can commonly be missed, and in this case, a plane crash can be mistaken for a shooting star. “Last Words of a Shooting Star” shines through as one of Mitski’s best examples of brilliant songwriting, and is, in my opinion, one of her best works. I chose this song because of its realistic representation of depression and the way it serves to help show those who aren’t inflicted the true nature of the illness.
“All of this turbulence wasn’t forecasted
Apologies from the intercom”
The first line reinforces the metaphor of the plane crash. The narrator never wished to be born, and she never predicted the pain she would go through in life. The apologies from the intercom represent how the world and society are at least partially aware of the problems it causes, but when they apologize, it’s empty and said too late— the plane is already crashing.
“And I am relieved that I’d left my room tidy
They’ll think of me kindly
When they come for my things”
The next line establishes that she is planning to take her own life. She’s relieved that her room is tidy, so once her family and law enforcement come to gather her belongings, they will see her as a clean person and not a slob or bother to others. She hopes to be remembered well because of this. The narrator is so numb, that’s all she can think about— not the impact her death will have on her loved ones, but rather how she’ll be perceived soon after she’s gone.
“They’ll never know how I’d stared at the dark in that room
With no thoughts
Like a blood-sniffing shark”
The song soon tackles the empty feeling of depression and the reality of living with it. Once she’s gone, people will never know the time she spent withering away in her bed, staring in the dark, and tuning out her mind. The “blood sniffing shark” simile draws a parallel to the myth that sharks will go mad at the smell of blood and how the narrator’s mind is becoming similar: obsessive and desperate for an escape.
“And while my dreams made music in the night
I was going to live”
The song here, instead of having “I was going to live” be an uplifting lyric, portrays through music that it isn’t. The tone goes down, possibly paralleling the song’s “plane crash” metaphor. She’s not excited that she’s decided to live for the time being, but burdened.
“You wouldn’t leave till we loved in the morning
You’d learned from movies how love ought to be
And you’d say you love me and look in my eyes
But I know through mine you were
Looking in yours”
The song also tackles the narrator’s unfulfilling relationship and the negative impact it has on her mental health. She feels as if her relationship is rehearsed and disingenuous. She believes that her lover is treating her kindly just so they’ll feel better about themselves and have a place in society. She can’t feel truly happy in a relationship she doesn’t believe to be real. This could either be an actual representation of what her relationship is like, or a warped version her mental illness had told her was true.
“And did you know the liberty bell is a replica
Silently housed in its original walls?
And while its dreams played music in the night
It was told to believe”
The narrator then goes on to compare her life and herself to the Liberty Bell, which is well known to be a replica of its original. What it stands for is resilience through hardship, but since it’s been replaced, that message could be considered invalid and a lie. It could also be interpreted that the Liberty Bell was broken by its own “music,” and Mitski has talked at length about her struggle with becoming a musician. People encouraged her dream and told her to believe she’d be big one day, but they never fully meant it, and once she was older, warned against following her aspirations.
“I always wanted to die clean and pretty”
This line helps show the apathy the narrator has for her own life and death. She cares more about the state of her body being found than her actual death, and it is a common fear for those with mental illness to look “ugly” when their body is discovered.
“But I’d be too busy on working days”
The next line could hint at how the narrator is overworked to the point where she is driven to end her life or uses this as an excuse to put off her plans.
“So I am relieved that the turbulence wasn’t forecasted
I couldn’t have changed anyway”
In a way, the narrator is glad that she wasn’t warned of the pain in life because she believes she would have been miserable and depressed regardless because of her illness. She’d rather it be a surprise when she’s older rather than burdening her child self with that knowledge.
“I am relieved that I’d left my room tidy
This lyric portrays how the narrator ultimately gives into her suicidal thoughts and lets her plane crash. She wishes those she loves goodbye and ends her life. Mitski ends the song on a unsettling note, not only with the ending the lyrics insinuate, but with the droning hum the song fades out with, reminiscent of a plane crash.
This brings about the question of what we should do if we see a friend or loved one listening to songs of this subject matter. Of course, listening to songs like this doesn’t mean someone is planning to hurt themselves, but if it’s a constant pattern, try and talk to them about it. If you believe someone needs help, reach out a hand. You may never know when someone is struggling. If you relate to these lyrics strongly, I’d recommend talking to a friend about your thoughts, or if you believe it’s necessary, get in contact with a professional. If you’re in crisis, please use the information listed below. You are loved, and things really do get better, even in the bleakest of times.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
Crisis Text Line:
Text HOME to 741-741