Design by Erin Shi

Yellow is not always the warm color everyone thinks it is. People always seem to assume that things that carry the color yellow automatically convey the spirit of the color: the warmth of the sun, the prosperity of coins, the sweetness of a ripe banana. Besides the fact that the sun is a blinding ball of heat, music made with this color possesses so much more than warmth. Like afternoon shadows, yellow covers a ground that is constantly shifting.

In “yellow is the color of her eyes” by Soccer Mommy, all of this yellow holds intense grief. It is the warmth of the sun, yes, but also her mother’s illness. When I think of yellow, I often picture it as a solid color block. My mind becomes a length of yellow, stretching out and wrapping over the insides of my eyes. But, as any painter will tell you, colors never exist as something defined by a singular word. Yellow is not one bright shade, providing a beach backdrop to everything. In this song, yellow ribbons are wrapped around her melancholy, tying everything together, gathering many emotions into one song as her mother’s illness fades into yellow.

Yellow is unexpectedly the color of loss. This is again the case with “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell (a woman determined to give her listeners a color palette). The song is upbeat, the color is specified, but the content is sad. It details someone, possibly a lover or father, leaving her unexpectedly in the middle of the night. Yellow and love have their fingers linked and their hair braided together, a mix at times goofy and at other times melancholic. Somehow, this song is both.

“Yellow Eyes” by Rayland Baxter carries mostly melancholy. It has the syrup of heartbreak in it, the kind so sad that it’s also kind of lovely. There is a kind of light engulfing the song, unclear whether from the sun or elsewhere. The song carries its subject tenderly, acknowledging that yellow is more breakable than we think.

It’s funny to think of a color as an object. How many different emotions can yellow objects convey? There is the slow drip of yellow-honeyed love in “Just Like Honey” by The Jesus and Mary Chain. It does not rush itself to you; it acknowledges that it is worth the wait.

Meanwhile, in “Yellow” by Myles Cameron, the romantic pair is suspended in a yellow hour, mangos hanging around them and daisies at their feet. And, of course, the classic “Yellow Submarine” by The Beatles submerges you in an ocean of pure weirdness. However, even this is not straightforward in its drug-induced state. “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,” also by The Beatles, features yellow as well in its color-heavy lyrics. There is a swirling confusion added to the color. Unlike most confusions, there’s nothing ominous or worrying about them, but it does introduce an added layer to an already complex color.

“Yellow” by Coldplay is viewed as a top-tier love song, as evidenced by its recent incorporation into TikTok culture. People will post about their significant others to the tune of the song, answering the question, “Who’s your yellow?” To give someone a whole color, to allow them to fully take up its meaning, is a powerful thing. But in the song itself, the love is parasitic. When you give absolutely everything inside yourself to love, what is the point of separation between romance and breaking? When everything turns one color, does everything become the same?

There is an excitement to yellow — there is an excitement to any color — but does one want to experience love as the same shade?

The loophole of this, perhaps, is that yellow holds infinite things in its pockets. Surprisingly, yellow is rarely used to be the sun; yellow is specified as its own thing. It has a deep identity overwhelmingly its own.

Daily Arts Writer Fia Kaminski can be reached at