Black and Blue by Chris St.John is an acoustic rock track with mournful guitar work and emotionally resonant vocals that help tell the story of love going wrong and the pain that can be felt letting go, even if it’s the right thing to do.
Opening with gentle guitar work and light drumming, Black and Blue establishes its enigmatic and subtle tone immediately. This initial section also allows us to get a sense of the melody, introducing us to key motifs that make up the track's sonic landscape throughout. Soon the guitar layers begin to build, establishing a delicate and smooth lead guitar with higher register layers adding embellishments, and emphasising the melody in important sections.
Chris St John’s vocals are a guiding light through the composition, explaining the narrative and leading the melody from the front, aided by his dominant position in the mix. He conveys this mix of subtlety and emotional connection that resonates with me. He allows just the right level of emotion to peak out to the point where it doesn’t become overt or overwhelming to listen to, while also giving him space to dexterously navigate the complexities of the lyrics in a way that feels real, raw, and honest.
The lyrics themselves tell the story of a relationship going bad through the metaphor of real bruises. The idea of love going black and blue like a bruise does a great job of exploring the pain that comes from a relationship closing. It doesn’t seem as if the speaker is debating whether it should be over, understanding that it’s better for them to not be with each other. Instead, it feels as if the speaker feels a sense of remorse for ending the relationship despite it being the right thing to do, letting go of being hard even when it’s the only option.
This track has a fantastic melodic foundation built by brilliant guitar work but what sells it is the emotionally articulate lyrics that elevate the composition and the narrative beyond the sum of their parts.