Red Red Red – Deciphering the Colors of Emotion

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Fiona Apple's Red Red Red at
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning
  4. The Psychology of Color in Melancholic Harmony
  5. Chasing the Carats of Connection – The Cost of Love
  6. The Quest for Accountability Amidst Love’s Fog
  7. Letting Go and Leaning Into the Inevitable
  8. The Eternal Struggle to Understand in a Vortex of Red


I don’t understand about complementary colors
And what they say
Side by side they both get bright together
They both get gray

But he’s been pretty much yellow
And I’ve been kind of blue
But all I can see is
Red, red, red, red, red
Now, what am I gonna do?

I don’t understand about diamonds
And why men buy them
What’s so impressive about a diamond
Except the mining?

But it’s dangerous work
Trying to get to you, too
And I think if I didn’t have to kill
Kill, kill, kill, kill myself doing it
Maybe I wouldn’t think so much of you

I’ve been watching all the time
And I still can’t find the tack
But I wanna know is, is it okay?
Is it just fine?
Or is it my fault?
Is it my lack?

I don’t understand about
The weather outside
Or the harmony in a tune
Or why somebody lied

But there’s solace a bit in submitting
To the fitfully, cryptically true
What’s happened, has happened
What’s coming is already on its way
With a role for me to play

And I don’t understand
I never understand
But I’ll try to understand
There’s nothing else I can do

Full Lyrics

Fiona Apple is known for her complex songwriting and ‘Red Red Red’ is no exception. This track from her album ‘Extraordinary Machine’ encapsulates a myriad of emotions through the eloquent and symbolic use of colors, visual imagery, and a raw display of vulnerability that has become Apple’s signature style.

The song taps into the themes of unrequited love, the pursuit of connection, and the struggles that come with the inability to understand one’s partner, as well as oneself. Let’s dive into the crimson depths of ‘Red Red Red’ and explore the rich tapestry Apple weaves with her nuanced lyricism.

The Psychology of Color in Melancholic Harmony

The opening lines of ‘Red Red Red’ immediately suggest a dichotomy of emotions. Apple’s use of complementary colors to symbolize two people’s contrasting states reflects how interactions can either brighten or dull our own shades. The red she sees, an overarching motif of the song, speaks to a deep-seated and overpowering feeling – often associated with both love and anger.

This complexity not only speaks to the nature of the lyrical subject’s relationship but also to the inherent difficulty of understanding emotions. The song reveals an intimate grappling with perception and reality, questioning the very nature of what it means to feel and be affected by another.

Chasing the Carats of Connection – The Cost of Love

Apple’s reference to diamonds and their fabled worth cuts into the heart of societal expectations surrounding love and its expressions. It’s a critique of the superficiality that can pervade romantic gestures, suggesting that the real preciousness lies not in material offerings, but in the effort and risk involved in the pursuit of love itself.

Moreover, the ‘dangerous work’ of trying to reach someone, paralleled to mining, conveys the perils of emotional vulnerability. It’s a task that can feel Sisyphean, leading to self-destruction, as symbolized by the repeated ‘kill.’

The Quest for Accountability Amidst Love’s Fog

The stanza discussing ‘watching all the time’ and searching for ‘the tack’ shows Apple’s character in a state of introspection and doubt. There is an uncertainty about whether her struggles in the relationship are her own fault – ‘Is it my lack?’ This self-questioning is a relatable plight for many who’ve found themselves wondering where to place the blame in matters of the heart.

This intimate confession also underlines the idea that understanding and clarity are not easily achieved. There’s an ambiguity that persists, making the journey towards comprehension as torturous as it is necessary.

Letting Go and Leaning Into the Inevitable

One of the most poignant admissions within ‘Red Red Red’ is found in the lines speaking to submission and the concept of embracing what’s to come. Apple speaks to the futility of resisting the natural flow of events, whether joyous or tragic. This surrender isn’t painted as defeat but as a powerful and perhaps painful acceptance.

This section adds a layer of existentialism to the song, suggesting that certain aspects of life and love are predetermined, with roles assigned, and parts to play. The embrace of this idea offers solace, albeit one that is ‘fitfully, cryptically true,’ acknowledging the complicated nature and the often cryptic journey of understanding life’s vicissitudes.

The Eternal Struggle to Understand in a Vortex of Red

Toward the song’s closure, the repetition of the phrase ‘I don’t understand’ strikes a chord of universal longing for comprehension. Apple discloses a common human condition – the quest for understanding in a reality that often defies it. Red emerges as the symbol of this struggle, the chromatic representation of love’s passion and life’s pain intermingled into a singular, vivid experience.

Despite the lack of understanding, Apple’s determination ‘to try to understand’ encapsulates the essence of the human experience. It’s a recognition of our limitations and the paradoxical power found in our attempts to transcend them, making ‘Red Red Red’ a testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of emotional complexity.

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