Ever the harbinger of love’s decay, Mitski chokes through a self-created inferno on “The Only Heartbreaker.” Though she’s waxed melancholic on love and loss before, the second single from her upcoming sixth studio album veers away from subdued indie rock and into full-fledged frenzy, recalling the exuberant synth-pop of the 1980s as Mitski implicates herself in the inevitable unraveling of a toxic relationship. Detonating the restraint of previous single “Working for the Knife,” she rises from the ash only to succumb to a dense array of video game-like instrumentals. The video reflects Mitski’s consumption by her own guilt: Everything she touches lights ablaze. “I’ll be the only heartbreaker,” she wails, alone in a vast expanse of pyromanic destruction, her limbs contorting to the beat through the will of some unknowable force.
The opening lines—“If you would just make one mistake/What a relief that would be”—convey guilt, but they also flicker with resentment. Building on the themes of resignation and heartbreak present throughout Mitski’s previous work, “The Only Heartbreaker” comes to a disconcertingly frank conclusion: She is the problem. “I’ll be the water main that’s burst and flooding/You’ll be by the window, only watching,” she sings, leaving us helpless spectators to her self-destruction. But even as Mitski casts herself as “the bad guy in the play,” the song’s feverish pulse asks: When devastation leaves everything charred and desolate, what is left to do but dance in its wake?