Listen to this: Mitski strikes again with new single ‘Heat Lightning’

Read about this week’s most notable singles by Mitski, Ed Sheeran, Joshua Bassett and more.

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Susan Behrends Valenzuela

Check out these new tracks you may have missed from this week. (Staff Illustration by Susan Behrends Valenzuela)

By Bryn Borzillo, Candace Patrick, and Alex Tey

Yes, it’s true — this is the last edition of “Listen to this” for the fall semester. It’s been crazy and hectic, but time really has flown. Ahead of her forthcoming album, “Laurel Hell,” Mitski dropped “Heat Lightning.” Of course we had to review it. Also this week, Ed Sheeran and Elton John teamed up, and Joshua Bassett from “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” and ex-boyfriend of seven-time Grammy nominee Olivia Rodrigo released a short EP of singles. Read on for more.

“Heat Lightning” by Mitski

Alex Tey, Deputy Managing Editor

The imagery of Mitski’s latest single, “Heat Lightning,” is so vivid it hurts. You’re lying in bed on a summer night, your window open, as heat lightning silently splits a sky heavy with humidity. Maybe, like Mitski, you’ve “laid awake since one, and now it’s four o’clock.” Time seems to melt, dripping by so slowly that you can’t help but dwell on the past. These are the moments where Mitski’s painful introspection shines brightest. 

The track opens with an eerie soundscape — low toms and a dark cymbal hit pass beats back and forth; an electric guitar alternates between the same two pitches in eighth notes; a drone on an A casts an ominous glow over the scene. A bass loop, joined by Mitski’s vocals, provides the only motion in the song’s opening. A dramatic string-bolstered build evaporates into an anticlimax as a distorted piano solo leads into the latter section of the track, which takes on a decidedly more digital sound. The refrain — “There’s nothing I can do / Not much I can change / I give it up to you / I surrender” — blends tired indifference for oneself with heartfelt despondence for another.

Nobody captures this messy mix of emotions like Mitski. It’s surreal. It’s too real. It’s the feelings you’ve been avoiding gathered on the horizon like storm clouds. Stream this song all of next semester so that by summer you’re ready to feel its full force.

“Merry Christmas” by Ed Sheeran and Elton John

Candace Patrick, Staff Writer

Ed Sheeran and Elton John have conjured up some holiday cheer in “Merry Christmas,” a joyful yuletide duet marking their first collaboration, and hopefully not their last. The single is the quintessential Christmas pop song, using choral harmonies and twinkling handbells to ring in the holiday season. After Sheeran kicks off the track with a sweet, welcoming first verse, the track erupts with a piano melody evocative of John’s 1976 hit, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” They project a merry attitude as the year comes to a close, singing, “I know there’s been pain this year, but it’s time to let it go / Next year, you never know,” a nod to what will hopefully be brighter times ahead. Released alongside a whimsical and festive music video where we get a glimpse of Sheeran donning John’s signature spectacles, the tune has thrown the duo into the Christmas spirit — they have pledged to donate all proceeds from the song to the Ed Sheeran Suffolk Music Foundation and the Elton John AIDS Foundation. So, as you deck the halls, consider adding “Merry Christmas” to your holiday playlist. 

“Crisis / Secret / Set Me Free” by Joshua Bassett 

Bryn Borzillo, Contributing Writer 

Joshua Bassett released three new songs — “Crisis,” “Secret” and “Set Me Free” — on Dec. 3. Following the release of Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album, “Sour” — which was speculated to be about her ex, Bassett — the artist shares his perspective of the story in this EP. The young artist faced death threats from Rodrigo’s loyal fans, a topic he covers in his song “Crisis.” “My label said to never waste a crisis,” he begins as he vaguely details his life over the past year in a powerful, honest ballad. The simple strumming of the guitar in the background allows listeners to really take in his words: “Don’t you dare act like I didn’t love you.” Reaching the bridge, Bassett questions Rodrigo’s intentions. The afflicted tone of his voice leaves listeners heartbroken with him as he pleads for answers. 

In his next single, “Secret,” the music is much more upbeat, yet the words spoken are no less heavy. In this song, Bassett, recently made aware of his partner’s potential affair, announces that “your secret’s safe with me.” The guitar and drum combination brings a brighter pop sound to “Secret,” detracting from the weightiness of his other two songs before leading into “Set Me Free.” 

The final song on the EP, “Set Me Free,” is a heart-wrenching cry for freedom. With a much slower tempo than the previous two songs, Bassett takes responsibility for his role in the breakup, singing, “I’d take it all back if I could.” Yet, he reckons with the other person’s negative effect on his happiness. This slower beat leaves listeners truly feeling the weight of his lyrics as he attempts to move on from a destructive situation. In the chorus, Bassett pleads for someone to set him free and let him be as a church-like set of chords plays in the background.

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