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Released: 2011

“Little Black Submarines” by The Black Keys in essence is a poignant exploration of love and heartbreak, underscored by a permeating sense of melancholy and nostalgia. The gripping lyrics unfold a narrative steeped in lament and introspection from an individual dealing with the aftermath of a broken relationship.

The song kicks off by invoking the imagery of “Little black submarines”, a metaphor perhaps implying the depth of the protagonist’s sorrow and the way it submerges him, much like a submarine in the vast ocean. The phrase “Operator, please/Put me back on the line” indicates a plea for connection or communication, possibly with a lover or a past self, the protagonist is desperate to reconnect with.

The line “Told my girl I’d be back” further contextualizes the narrative, alluding to a past promise, perhaps made in a healthier relationship phase. However, the subsequent revelation, “This is wreckin’ my mind,” signifies the emotional turmoil that’s eating the protagonist up, highlighting the toll unfulfilled promises can have.

When we delve into the chorus, “The voices calling me/They get lost and out of time/I should’ve seen it glow/But everybody knows/That a broken heart is blind” – this transcends into a deeper emotional realm. The “voices calling me” speaks to lingering memories and regrets that continuously haunt the protagonist. The glowing he’s missed could refer to the initial spark or love that he overlooked or perhaps the warning signs of a crumbling relationship.

The second verse, “Pick you up, let you down/When I wanna go/To a place I can hide”, further emphasizes the emotional depth of the protagonist’s struggle, oscillating between holding on and letting go. The line also insinuates his longing for a safe haven, a place to heal.

The phrase “Treasure maps, fallen trees” perhaps stands metaphorically for cherished moments in the past (“treasure maps”) and the obstacles that came in their way (“fallen trees”). The lines that follow “Stolen friends and disease/Operator, please/Patch me back to my mind” communicate his crippling loneliness and mental disarray.

Repeatedly, “The Black Keys” return to the refrain “But everybody knows/That a broken heart is blind,” grounding the painful truth of heartbreak. Regardless of how aware one is of love’s risks and the warning signs, when the heart shatters, it paints everything in its blinding hue of pain, making the heart “blind”.

So, fundamentally, “Little Black Submarines” is a sumptuous narrative wrapped in a sonorous ballad, exploring the depths of love, heartbreak and the blindness that accompanies it.

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