Arlo Parks – ‘Black Dog’: A Review

‘Black Dog’ is the latest single gifted to us by Arlo Parks, a heartrending ode to mental health struggles and the hopeless, terrifying feeling of trying to support someone you care about while they battle with feelings of depression. The song is tenderly apt during these bizarre times when the entirety of society is being forcefully isolated, ostracised, and stripped of their freedoms on mass. The fear of COVID-19, the social unrest and injustices that have led to the current BLM movement, and a collective outrage and despair about the general state of society have left many struggling with their own Black Dog.

Arlo Parks is a 19 year old poet and Rnb/Soul musician hailing from South London, and she has already skyrocketed to immense success with almost 2 million monthly listeners on Spotify. Undoubtedly a big portion of why so many people love her is due to Arlo’s remarkable talent for speaking directly to your heart through her relatable lyrics and sultry, smooth, almost-whispered vocals. She first caught my attention a few months ago with her sweetly sorrowful single ‘Eugene‘, an ode to unrequited love and the unfortunate circumstance of falling in love with your best friend while excruciatingly watching them fall in love with someone else. Lyrics such as “You play him records I showed you, you read him Sylvia Plath, I thought that was our thing” are so painfully real that you can practically physically feel Arlo’s heartbreak, and you’re indignant on her behalf.

‘Black Dog’ follows a similar vein to ‘Eugene’, in that the lyrics are so poignant and close to the knuckle that you can’t help but connect and relate to it from the very first listen, whether you yourself are the one in possession of the black dog, or you’re someone who cares about someone else who has one. The rawness of such lines as “You do your eyes like Robert Smith, Sometimes it seems like you won’t survive this, And honestly it’s terrifying” immediately hit home for anyone who has cared for someone with depression; which let’s face it, is all of us.

‘Black Dog’ is nothing short of a beautiful olive branch to some of society’s most vulnerable individuals who often may feel alone in their struggle. Equally, it’s an easy-going listen which is undemanding; despite the weighty subject matter of Arlo’s words, the song is anything but heavy and certainly doesn’t belong in the melancholy or “emo” category. She manages to remain very matter of fact, practical, and realistic in her portrayal of wanting to help someone who is plagued by mental illness, simply encouraging them to come shopping for some fruit or to eat some food. There’s no melodramatics or over the top displays of emotion, Arlo just places a gentle hand on yours and quietly lets you know that hey, we’re in this together. Which honestly, I think is exactly what we all need right now.

Published by Alice Shuttleworth

I am a freelance content and creative writer studying a Postgraduate MA in Children's Literature.

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