Mitski – “A Burning Hill” Lyrics Meaning

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Written By Joanna Landrum

Joanna holds a BSc in English Literature and uses her expertise in literary analysis to uncover the deeper meaning of her favorite songs.

Mitski’s “A Burning Hill” is a poignant tune about feeling worn out by the complexities of life and relationships. It uses vivid imagery like “forest fire” to convey a state of emotional chaos and exhaustion. In the song, Mitski explores the duality of being both the destroyer and the destroyed. She’s the fire ruining the forest, but she’s also the forest being consumed. By the end, she resolves to focus on “the littler things,” signifying a form of acceptance and emotional restraint. It’s a song about coming to terms with one’s limitations and deciding to make peace with them.

Want to unravel the web of emotions in “A Burning Hill”? You’re about to discover how much depth can be packed into a two-minute song.

“A Burning Hill” Lyrics Meaning

Let’s start with the first lines, “Today I will wear my white button-down, I’m tired of wanting more, I think I’m finally worn.” Here, the white button-down stands for simplicity and acceptance. It’s like Mitski is saying she’s done being consumed by desires that bring her nothing but exhaustion. She’s settling for what she has, but in a conscious, intentional way.

Then we roll into, “For you have a way of promising things, And I’ve been a forest fire.” The other person’s empty promises are mentioned alongside the image of a forest fire, suggesting a cycle of expectation and disappointment. The forest fire represents Mitski’s emotional state; it’s out of control, consuming everything, leaving nothing but ashes behind.

What makes this song captivating is the line, “I am the fire and I am the forest, And I am a witness watching it.” Here’s where Mitski acknowledges her own role in her emotional turmoil. She isn’t just the victim; she’s also the culprit. She’s both watching her world burn and setting it alight. This dual perspective gives her a moment of profound clarity, realizing that external circumstances aren’t entirely to blame.

Towards the end, the lyrics go, “And I’ll go to work and I’ll go to sleep, And I’ll love the littler things, I’ll love some littler things.” It’s Mitski’s surrender to the ordinary, acknowledging that sometimes, the mundane can bring a sense of stability that grand desires and turbulent relationships cannot. It’s a kind of retreat, but a tactical one, where she learns to appreciate life’s simple, less destructive pleasures.

The Story Behind “A Burning Hill”

To understand the emotional weight behind “A Burning Hill,” you need to know where Mitski was in her life when she wrote it. This song is a part of her 2016 album “Puberty 2,” an exploration of her struggles with identity, depression, and the human experience.

The recurring themes of duality in “A Burning Hill” can be traced back to Mitski’s own internal conflicts at the time. She’s often talked about her struggles with mental health, and in interviews, she’s discussed how being bi-racial and feeling like she belongs to neither culture has impacted her deeply. Her feeling of being both the fire and the forest mirrors her struggles with identity and belonging; she’s caught in a constant loop of inner conflict.

In this state of mind, Mitski puts forth a kind of self-reflection that’s therapeutic but far from comfortable. It shows her stepping back and examining her life, her decisions, and her emotional responses. It’s like she’s saying, “Okay, this is how I react, this is the state I’m in, so how do I cope?”

The song’s conclusion is a nod to small wins. Sometimes it’s enough to just get through the day, to wear a clean shirt, to focus on the littler things. In doing so, Mitski portrays a form of resilience that resonates with anyone who’s been through emotional upheaval.

So, while “A Burning Hill” might seem like a simple song, it’s laden with introspection and offers a profound look into how Mitski navigates the complexities of her emotions and life. It’s an invitation to acknowledge your flaws, accept them, and find a way to keep going.