Alternative rock singer and writer Mitski is known for making emotionally intense songs with lyrics that keep you hooked long after the song is done playing. "I Bet On Losing Dogs" is a great example of a track that really resonates with listeners who may be taking several different things away from the track.
Is the song describing a failed relationship? Does the song talk about unfaithfulness in a relationship? Is Mitski the one telling the story, or is there more than one perspective happening here? Why does the song feel strangely terrible and wonderful at the same time?
This track is one of the few songs written in a major key that is meant to also feel draining and depressing. And boy, does it pull this feeling off well, thanks to the chord structure, the sweet backing vocals, and the slow tempo that is kept up throughout.
Not only that, but if you aren't paying much attention to the lyrics, you could mistake this song for a straightforward love ballad. But once you start to dig deeper into the lyrics, you realize that there is a lot of pain behind the lyrics.
The bridge, in particular, features an amazingly energetic key change to an even higher major key, giving off a sense of euphoria and bliss. Then the chords get a bit funky in the middle of the bridge, changing that euphoria to a slightly augmented feeling of insanity.
Betting on losing dogs is an expression describing the process of backing someone in a situation where you know the outcome will be negative. In the second section of her song, Mitski expresses that she wants to be right beside her losing "dog," where the person represents a dog fighting and losing in a ring.
She talks about how she wants to be there for the loser, looking into their eyes as they go down and suffer their losses. With this and the later lyric that says, "I wanna feel it," you can imagine that there is some sense of masochism in play here.
The final lines in the lyrics really make the lyrics a bit more complex, as she explains that she always goes back to this losing dog once she's doing fine as if it's a toxic relationship that she just can't let go of. After that, she briefly touches on liking the feeling of her "losing dog" looking over her after sexual pleasure.
She wants that feeling, and she professes that she wants to witness the feeling of her lover watching her die. In this instance, this death can be described as the "little death", which is a euphemism that translates to sexual orgasms.
So, in my interpretation, she wants her failure of a lover to see her orgasmic moment in the same way that she sees her failure of a lover losing in a dog fight. With this information, it affirms that her betting on losing dogs is a form of masochism where she enjoys seeing, rooting for, and being with someone who is a failure.
There are some lines that suggest that on top of Mitski going after failed relationships, she is also finding pleasure in being the other woman or the sidekick, and that is why she is referring to this person as a losing dog.
The song's opening lyrics include the lines "Baby, my baby. Tell your baby that I'm your baby". This could be a bit of a toxic line that alludes to the fact that she's going after someone who has another partner, and she wants to take over.
In this train of thought, I want to revisit the lyrics, "I know they're losing, and I'll pay for my place. By the ring Where I'll be looking in their eyes when they're down. I'll be there on their side. I'm losing by their side."
She could be highlighting the fact that she is on the side of the ring because she is the side chick. She could further be saying that she likes being the sidekick to guys in relationships that are falling so that she can be there when they "lose" or break up.
According to a post on Reddit, one user said that they always thought the song had two different narrators and that at the very end, where the lyrics get sexual, the perspective also changes.
TheMoozeK says, "I think that Mitski actually changes the point of view in her song. The first stanzas and chorus are actually Mitski's lover, and Mitski is the losing dog. Why her lover seems to be obsessed with her suffering, I'm not sure."
In general, the overall feeling of fighting for someone that you know isn't good for you is something that many people can relate to. In a popular Youtube comment for the song, one user wrote, "The baby part hits too hard. tell your “baby” that I’m your baby. You always chose the men over me, mom."
As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 200 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, features, nursery rhymes, and DJ drops, she currently spends her time engulfed in creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Her most recent creative collaborations include work with PBS Sound Field, Tribe of Noise, and the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Check out Yona’s latest music releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share the music if you like it!
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