So, I hope you’ve all dissected “Black & White” from last week because with today’s post, I want to give you the most in-depth look into what the song means to me. As a disclaimer though, I’d like to issue a spoiler alert: This is what the song means to me, but that doesn’t mean what you thought was wrong. It just means you looked at it a little differently.
As you might have guessed, this song is about a girl. I know, I know, but love – or the prospect of love – is something that hits the heart deeply, and it’s only about those things that I think someone can write honestly. But, this song’s not about a break-up, it’s not about the perfect love, it’s not even about love that meets the bare minimum. It’s about the possibility of love never truly being realized because one side never gives it the chance. The first stanza sets the tone: it speaks to a moment when the speaker and She (that’s what we’ll call her from now on) were together, but like a dream that ended to early, She fades away, almost ridiculing the speaker for not realizing from the beginning what they were to her. And, by the end of the stanza, the speaker begins to tell himself that maybe it was just this fleeting thing that never had a chance, so he’ll go on pretending like it was nothing. But, as the next stanza proves, he could never move past the prospect of being more because the second She enters back into his life, he caves. Here, however, you start to believe that maybe She could be interested in something beyond what they are, as She says, “I’ll be right here,” but again She drifts away, leaving the speaker right where She left him and right where he’ll always be to her. In particular, “Lying right in front of me,” has become one of my favorite lines because how you interpret that line is representative of how you interpret their relationship. The word “lying” has a dual meaning: it could either take on its very physical definition in the sense that She’s lying before him – serving as a physical symbol of their love, or it could take on its verbal definition, implying that She’s simply lying to his face about her permanence in relation to him. But, I’ll leave that interpretation up to you.
The pre-chorus is telling of both sides: on the one hand, her thinking is that, “As long as I come back to you, why does it matter if I come into and out of your life?” while on the other, the speaker talks of his investment into her – like he’s on the end of a string that She could drop at any moment, and, though She’d be fine, he’d be devastated. By saying, “Watch from above for the thrill of it,” he even hints at the fact that She might get some sort of pleasure from watching him squirm, like it’s a game that she’s playing, and he’s just a pawn in it. From his perspective, She’s not nearly as invested, and as the chorus conveys, She doesn’t know what it’s like to be in his shoes – on the other side and at another’s mercy.
The second verse again speaks to the fleeting nature of her presence in his life, saying that even if it’s just for second, he’ll hold her hand because, if that’s all he can get, he’ll take it. But, he’s also beginning to realize her toxicity – the fact that whatever it is that’s between them is a viscous cycle – just the “same old scheme” – where she comes out scot-free, and he’s left to wonder where things went wrong. And, after the pre-chorus and chorus, where he again falls back into falling in and out of love, the bridge highlights the repetitive character of their relationship. It talks about hearing the same old line more times than he can remember – whether he’s telling himself or She is – that whatever he hopes the two of them will become could never happen. Because, according to the cycle they’ve been in for so long, there’s no chance of anything beyond what they are. Like a pendulum that always comes back, he’s doomed to fall into and out of her life at her choosing, and she’ll never know what it’s like to be on his side. ike asking, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” lyrics can either come from with a melody – usually a basic chord progression on guitar for me – or simply out of thin air, like a poem with meter and rhyme but nothing else. In my experience, the most common origin is the melody because you’re able to start with a backbone, and then the rest of the skeleton starts to grow from there. On the other hand, when all you’ve got is a few lines and a vague idea of meter, the possibilities of where the song could go musically are nearly infinite. But, I will say that those songs for which the lyrics came first like “Black & White” are some of my most honest because they’re driven by nothing more than the need to be said.
Well, as short and sweet as it could be, that’s about what this song means to me. Of course, it has real-life inspirations, meaning that the “he” might be me, and the She might be a character in my life. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you it had a happy ending, but I can tell you the cycle’s ended. I guess that’s the beauty and struggle of it all: there are many, many cycles to life.