‘Jet Black Heart’ is the third single from 5 Seconds Of Summer’s second studio album, Sounds Good Feels Good. The song was released in December 2015 along with the official music video, which featured fans of 5SOS, whose personal stories were put on the official 5SOS website. Calum Hood and Michael Clifford had a helping hand in writing the song.
From first hearing the song, it’s easy to tell it’s a very personal one, and can be considered slightly darker, in terms of lyrics, compared to other 5SOS singles. It touches on individual struggles, mental health, and the brutal reality of human emotions, along with the situations they can put us in.
Before we get started on delving deeper into this song, we would like to state that song’s are down to interpretation, and this is just one of them. The meaning we think is behind this song is not fact, and we simply would hope that you enjoy reading it; taking ideas and inspiration from it, possibly looking at the song in a different light to before.
Everybody’s got their demons, even wide awake or dreaming, I’m the one who ends up leaving, make it okay
This first verse is straight away acknowledging human emotions; “demons” is a common word people use to describe the war they have with themselves, something they’re battling with that they want to change. “Even wide awake” may perhaps be expressing how the character is being confronted with the “demon”, that they’re trying to fight it. It’s real, and it’s a harsh reality of something they need to face. Whereas, “dreaming” has so many different connotations. “Dreaming” could be referencing daydreaming, is the “demon” a dazed emotion they’re unsure of; nightmares, the demon could just be a figment of the imagination, coming to life in the unconscious mind; or it could be that the demons you face while wide awake, you’re now facing while dreaming, they’re inescapable. The use of ‘I’ puts the listener into the song, making it feel very real and personal to the individual. “I’m the one who ends up leaving” might be the character in the song leaving a friendship or a relationship. This continues on to the next point of the last line in this verse, “make it okay”. Are they leaving because they think it will make the situation okay? Are their “demons” causing them to think they’re a burden, therefore they think leaving will take that factor away from the other person in the relationship/friendship? Or are they suggesting that they’re leaving because they always leave; the struggles they face puts too much pressure on the relationship/friendship, resulting in them “leaving”, hoping the other person can make the situation okay now since they’ve gone.
See a war I wanna fight it, see a match I wanna strike it, every fire I’ve ignited, faded to grey
The use of ‘I’ is continuos throughout the entire song, implying that it’s very unique to each individual while listening to the song, and that the listener can put themselves in the song and adjust it to their own personal situation. “See a war I wanna fight it, see a match I wanna strike it” both have angsty and angry emotions connected to them. It’s as if the character in the song cannot control their own emotions, they can’t hold back. This might be in reference to the “demons” in the first verse, the inability to control their own emotions might be something they wish to change; it could be one of the things they’re battling with. “Every fire I’ve ignited, faded to grey” suggests that the ‘fire’ doesn’t last. It fades and loses it’s colour. Grey and loss of colour have connotations of sadness, like being stuck in between happy and sad. It could be described as a hazy feeling, knowing things can be good, but not knowing how to reach it. The fire could symbolise friendships, relationships, possible anything the character within the song has made, since they’ve “ignited” it. But fires can’t last forever, they’ll burn to the ground, bringing everything around it down too, which is what the character has realised. They can’t keep up with what they’ve made and end up ruining it.
But now that I’m broken, now that you know it, caught up in a moment, can you see inside?
This section seems to be all about confronting the situation, or someone else knows something is wrong. “But now that I’m broken” is the character openly admitting they’re not okay, it’s very personal to the individual because “broken” could be anything, in this case, possibly emotionally broken. The use of the personal pronoun, “you”, can, too, make the listeners feel included; they’re aware of the feelings being presented through the song. “Caught up in a moment” gives us very vivid imagery of sharing a special moment with someone, perhaps where you’re talking about anything and everything, and somehow, your true feelings are revealed. It sounds like it wasn’t an intended conversation, but more of one in a time of need or desperation. The last line of the pre-chorus is heart-wrenching. “Can you see inside?” rings out sounds of feeling really sincere, hurt and concerned. It’s as though the main character in the song is asking the other person if they understand now; “inside” meaning their true emotions. Lastly, it might perhaps seem like the main character is scared that now the other person in this song knows how they feel and who they truly are, this might change their opinion on them.
Cause I’ve got a jet black heart, and there’s a hurricane underneath it, trying to keep us apart
(We’ve split the chorus into two separate parts, just so it doesn’t get too confusing to follow along.) The chorus seems to continue on from the pre-chorus, as though it’s a story. They’re explaining their feelings and what is going on in their head/heart which is causing them so much suffering. ‘Jet black’ is commonly known as the darkest black you could get. The colour black tends to have very negative connotations, e.g. death, the unknown, fear, sadness, which links in the the nature of the song. Whereas the connotations of ‘heart’ tend to be quite warm and loving, e.g. love and the soul. It’s thought that the heart contains the deepest emotions and secrets we can hold, so a jet black heart means we can assume that these deepest secrets aren’t always positive ones. When you put the connotations of ‘jet black’ and ‘heart’ together to get “jet black heart” they cancel each other out, in a way, which makes us come to the conclusion that the “jet black heart” could either be emotionless, or ambivalent. To further this even more, “hurricane” is used. To put it into context, the hurricane is underneath the jet black heart. Therefore, the jet black heart could be an emotionless exterior, used as a way of dealing with random outbursts, but in reality, once you’ve gotten through the jet black heart, there’s a hurricane; a hurricane of mixed or contradictory emotions. This could perhaps be the reason that relationships and friendships keep failing. The main character within the song cannot cope with their feelings properly, which makes them believe that they shouldn’t or can’t maintain the friendship/relationship.
I write with a poison pen, but these chemicals moving between us, are the reason to start again
The “poison pen” could symbolise letters, texts, messages, or anything that the character has created, but since it’s come from a jet black heart, the pen is poisoned. This might result in the texts, letters, etc. being mean/unfair or not true to who the person actually is. Yet, “I write with a poison pen” could be a way of the character confronting the wrongs they’ve done. The use of ‘but’ is a turning point in the chorus. It has a sense of hope, that things can change and they know it can. “But these chemicals moving between us, are the reason to start again” suggests that the chemistry, history, and feelings between the people in the song are too strong to lose. There’s a connection between them which makes the character believe that they can start over, they can try to fight through this, whatever it may be, together.
Now I’m holding on for dear life, there’s no way that we could rewind, maybe there’s nothing after midnight, that could make you stay
Continuing the narrative, this verse is all about how the other person in the relationship now knows their true feelings. ‘Holding on for dear life’ is quite a common phrase meaning using a lot of effort to keep something. Therefore, we can infer that the main character in the song is holding tightly on to what’s left of the friendship/relationship. We can further this by saying that by keeping the relationship, it might help them get better, and to fight those demons that were mentioned at the very beginning. Additionally, this verse also suggests that they’ve accepted that the other person knows their true feelings from the line, “there’s no way that we could rewind”. This implies that whatever has been said is too deep and too much to easily forget. Furthermore, it sounds as though they have a slight regret of opening up, as they’re thinking of what would have happened if they didn’t. The use of ‘maybe’ sounds as if they’re doubting themselves and the relationship, different to in the chorus when there was some hope. “Maybe there’s nothing after midnight, that could make you stay” suggests that the other people might not fully understand what’s going on within their emotions, and the main character is worried they’ll leave, even though they want them to stay. Lastly, you could link “nothing after midnight” to other 5SOS songs, e.g. Wrapped Around Your Finger (“throwing rocks at your window at midnight”), to create an even deeper narrative.
The blood in my veins, is made up of mistakes, let’s forget who we are, and dive into the dark, as we burst into colour, returning to life
Alas! The final section of our analysis into the meaning behind ‘Jet Black Heart’. Blood is a vital part of the human body, so admitting that the “blood in my veins is made up of mistakes” is very powerful as it’s suggesting that the character has very deeply rooted regrets. They could have behaved badly due to their emotions, or they could regret not expressing themselves beforehand, which could have potentially lessened how they feel now. “Let’s forget who we are, and dive into the dark” is like they’re leaving their old self behind. Both people are included in this, through ‘we’, so it’s not just one person doing this alone, they have someone else with them to support them through this change. Diving into the dark could be relating to the jet black heart emotions. Both people delve right into the source of the issue. As the saying goes, it gets worse before it gets better. “As we burst into colour, returning to life” sounds that they could be overcoming something as a pair, not alone. To us, this sends out the message that help is okay. It’s okay to ask for help if you’re not feeling right, and there’s no shame in having help from others for you to overcome something. The transition from ‘dark’ to ‘colour’ signals a sign of hope again. To continue this further, they’re “returning to life”, a life with colour. Before they “returned”, they may not have felt there, and if they did, it was gloomy. But since they’ve sought help, they’ve been able to return to a life full of colour.
In short, the song is a very personal one, to which each individual listener can interpret it to however they want. But the overall feel is that if you have problems or heavy, changing emotions, it doesn’t mean that it has to come between you and things you love. You can get help and get through whatever it may be without ruining the things or people closest to you. In the words of Ashton Irwin, “Everyone’s got their problems, everyone’s got their demons but we wanna be the band for you, we wanna be here for you”. And remember, it’s true, 5SOS will always be there for you.