In “Washing Machine Heart” by Mitski, a part of her album Be the Cowboy that got the title from an inside joke with herself to be the “cowboy” or just a person in power who has the right to do whatever they want, she poetically strings her words to articulate her feelings. In her case, she does this by writing her music the way and about what she wants. Throughout her album, Mitski develops her raw cut lyrics about grappling being lonely and trying to understand adult love with her want of control in herself. She uses hyperbole and physical imagery to develop her loneliness in only being used by lovers briefly and how it can break her down.
Toss your dirty shoes in my washing machine heart
Baby, bang it up inside
A lover is not literally tossing dirty shoes in a heart that is in this case a washing machine. Instead, Mitski is making listeners imagine how carelessly people will step all over your heart, and as a washing machine, this can happen again and again. The assonance present in the “Ba” on the second line stresses the consequences of the messiness in these relationships. The contrast of banging being dominating but reckless and the soft tenderness of a heart with the term baby conveys the deeper sensitivity in Mitski that is almost out of her control. She wants to portray herself as strong but in reality, the actions of those around her or lack of them can break down the version of herself she wants people to see. Universally, these lines purposefully are poignant to the everyday person who can feel used by those around them while feeling vulnerable for letting them inside. Plus, how trying to have a relationship with other people romantically can be messy like “dirty shoes” when we are trying to have a clean and pure love like what a “washing machine” does.
Another important element of how the song is poetic is Mitski’s stream of consciousness in her lyrics.
I’m not wearing my usual lipstick
I thought maybe we would kiss tonight
Do me ti
Why not me?
Why not me?
The rawness of her admitting in her thoughts and lyrics that she desires love and is trying to attract it by simply wearing a different lipstick illustrates how she is struggling with finding the company she wants. The chorus repeating the questions coming from her emotions flow into how people can feel that they are not wanted or not enough. The upbeat tempo contrasts with her deep lyrics that make all of society relate to feelings of not being appreciated for who you are and how people can use us.