Looking at writers’ use of colour is a worthwhile exercise – how many pieces of writing don’t refer to a colour of one sort of another at some point?! Today, we’re going to explore the colour, black.

  • MUSIC FOCUS: Maggie Lindemann, LOLO, Dave, Carlie Hanson, girlfriends.
  • ACTIVITY FOCUS: Explore the significance of the colour black within some brilliant songs. Then, consider how the ideas you come up with feel relevant to the texts you’re studying at school.

As analysts, our aim is to always explore a writer’s language in a multi-dimensional way – and so the aim in this session is to look at least two different layers of meaning when considering each of the ‘black’ quotes below. Each bracketed number used indicates another new layer of meaning.


First, consider this lyric from LOLO and Maggie Lindemann‘s ‘debbie downer’…

She’s cold… All black everything sad and weird.”

The meaning of Debbie Downer is a negative or pessimistic person : a person who speaks only of the bad or depressing aspects of something. Why does the girl at the centre of the song get referred to as in that way? What’s the difference between what that word “black” suggests to the people who seem not to like Debbie and what the writer might actually want to understand?

Have a think and, when you’re ready, look directly underneath the video for some ideas raised by other Sound of Pen students.

Some of our awesome Sound of Pen students suggested that 1) typically black is associated with depression and, in turn, that a person suffering depression has too often been presented as strange. In recent years, though, 2) we can start to recognise a black outfit as a signifier of someone who’s unafraid to face/share their pain. Thus, the colour black becomes an indicator of bravery.


Watch the short sections from these 5 videos, flicking to the parts focused on the colour black. Bulletpointed/spiderdiagram as many different ideas about black as you can.


Now, listen to ‘Tattoo’ by girlfriends and think hard about the lyrics:

“Love scars and black hearts, and lyrics on my chest
Birthdays, my mom’s name, and words I won’t forget.”

How do you think you could interpret that word “black” in two (or more) different ways?

Have a think and, when you’re ready, look directly underneath the video for some ideas raised by other Sound of Pen students.

In class, we talked about how 1) typically the blackness of the heart suggests a ‘darkness’ – that anyone with a black heart is in some way damaged. The whiteness we associate with purity and innocence has been corrupted. Again, though, 2) we considered the strength demonstrated by the tattoo wearer. Not only are they prepared to be honest about their black heart, they’re also survivors of whatever might have damaged it. Blackness, then, can be viewed as something to be proud of.


The penultimate song to listen to to is ‘Your Mom’ by Carlie Hanson.

Your mom told me you never wore colours ’til we met
Hangin’ pictures on your wall that you once painted black.

How do you think you could interpret that word “black” in two (or more) different ways?

Have a think and, when you’re ready, look directly underneath the video for some ideas raised by other Sound of Pen students.

In class, we looked at the idea that 1) the black walls were suggestive of unhappiness. Now that Carlie’s come along, her lover’s mood has brightened – as symbolised by the newly colourful outfits. But we also noted 2) how easy it is to hide in the blackness/darkness and that the butterfly-ish emergence of a more colourful individual is an indicator that the colour black does not necessarily define a person’s character as much as it does a person’s attempts to hide who they really are. We might conclude, then, that black is linked to fear, or to humility, or to a lack of confidence.


The final song to listen to is ‘Black’ by Dave.

How is the colour black significant in any – or all – of the songs above?

When creating your response, try making use of the ten words listed just below the questions

  • auroral. Adjective. of or like the dawn. (Often used in scientific context, but surely works as a creative descriptor too!).
  • coruscate. Verb. (of light) flash or sparkle. “The light was coruscating through the walls.“ “The sunlight coruscating on the surface of the water mesmerised her.”
  • obfuscate. Verb. 1. To throw into darkness. 2. to obscure. “His pitch-black suit obfuscated his sparkling personality.”
  • obsidian. Noun. A hard, dark, glasslike volcanic rock formed by the rapid solidification of lava without crystallization.
  • meretricious. Adjective. Apparently attractive but having no real value. “Meretricious souvenirs for the tourist trade.“
  • garish. Adjective. Flashy/tasteless.
  • ostentatious. Adjective. Characterized by pretentious or showy display; designed to impress.
  • monochrome. Adjective. 1 : of, relating to, or made with a single colour or hue. 2 : involving or producing visual images in a single colour or in varying tones of a single colour (such as grey) monochrome film.
  • iridescent. Adjective. showing luminous colours that seem to change when seen from different angles.
  • kaleidoscopic. Adjective. changing form, pattern, colour, etc., in a manner suggesting a kaleidoscope.


How is the colour black significant in any of the texts you’re studying at school? Depending on which texts you’re studying, you might find the quotes immediately below helpful.

Please send us your work – we’d love to publish it here and give you the credit you deserve! 

Next, have a go at writing about your experiences as a teenager with a little help from the inspirational Taylor Swift!