61st Grammy Awards – Record of the Year nominations seen in colour

by Sigourney Young

The Grammy awards are full of colour – elaborate gowns, stage lights and costumes. But did you know the music has colours too? As a synesthete I experience sound as colour and every song is a unique combination of colours and textures. Those nominated for a Grammy are no different and are filled with some of the most beautiful colours. I guess that’s why they’re award nominees!

What colours tell us

Over the last few years I’ve explored my synesthesia through painting and delved deeper into my experience. I can identify the exact colours of different moments and instruments in a song and have also learned to recognise similar features across the charts.

This Is America, Childish Gambino
Purple and magenta gospel, magenta synth, orange harmonies, Childish Gambino’s blue vocals, dark blue synth and bass, black drums and green highs.

Shallow by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
Orange and brown guitar, red guitar slides, Cooper’s brown vocals, Lady Gaga’s magenta vocals and orange highs, magenta strings, light blue piano, purple lows and black drums.

As songs move up and down the top 100, I can see popular colours that start to appear and others that start to fade. A few years ago, purple started appearing as brass trumpeted its way into hit songs and I could see hints of that in hits from the year before. Seeing these colour compositions and changes help me understand the sorts of sounds that are coming next and what the long-lasting hits of the charts have in common with the colours that define the moment.

To celebrate the 61st Grammy Awards next week I thought I’d take a look at the Record Of The Year Nominations and see if I could identify and common themes in terms of colour.

I listened to each song and painted the colours that stood out to me the most. Each song, of course, has a huge variety of colours but with these paintings, I just wanted to capture a visual snapshot.

God’s Plan by Drake
Magenta synth, blue and dark blue vocals, purple lows, light blue synth, black drums, green, yellow and orange highs.

I Like It by Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J Balvin
Purple brass, orange melody, Cardi B’s magenta vocals, blue and dark blue vocals from Bad Bunny and J Balvin, black drums, brown hi-hat and light blue piano.

I noticed four common trends across the eight Record of the Year nominations

1. Dark and bright blue male vocals

Most of the songs feature male vocals that are dark blues and bright blues. These colours are usually created by low voices. In contrast, many common pop songs have male vocals that are brighter blue and purples. Last year higher falsetto magentas were also popular. Perhaps the distinctive low vocals in these songs make them extra memorable.

2. Magenta female vocals

Many of these songs feature female vocals that are magenta and move to high orange. These vocals are usually mid-range vocals and have a richer tone. Other female vocals are often light blues and are higher and airier.

The Joke by Brandi Carlile
Magenta and purple strings, light blue piano and vocals, bright blue lows, brown hi-hat, orange highs, red and magenta strings, and black drums.

Rockstar by Post Malone feat. 21 Savage
Light blue synth and piano, dark blue low vocals, purple and dark blue bass, green and magenta synth and highs, black percussion.

3. Fewer strings and brass

I paint a lot of songs packed with a sweeping string section. Not only are they beautiful but they add bulk to the music and are perfect for ballads. Brass notes have also been popular but were present fewer times than in previous charts. These songs are more characterised by bass and synth, and light blue pianos. Shallow and The Joke are exceptions to this, as they are accompanied by lovely magenta strings.

All The Stars by Kendrick Lamar and SZA
Lamar’s dark blue and purple vocals, dark blue and purple bass, SZA’s blue and magenta vocals, magenta strings, green and magenta highs, orange high vocals and strings, grey synth.

The Middle by Zedd, Maren Morris and Grey
Orange magenta and purple, brown, light blue, black and yellow

4. Distinct sections

While it’s always been common for choruses, verses and bridges to have distinct sounds, these songs are characterised by distinct changes across each section. This is especially noticeable in This Is America, but you also hear hints of it in All The Stars and The Middle. As you can see, the powerful combination of bright and vivid colour and dark and sombre tones, highlight this trend in the Grammy nominees for 2019.

Would you like to know the colours of your song? Let me know the details and I’ll email you sneak peek of the colours of your song!

Sigourney xo

February 4, 2019


  1. Brooke

    What interesting observations about these songs as well as commonalities! Love the spherical format too. Well done Sig!

    • Sigourney Young

      Thanks so much Brooke! I’m so glad you loved reading and like this new style. I’m doing some experiments and will be using this style for my #100dayproject later this year!

I’m Sigourney

I’m a synesthesia artist that will be forever found with paint on my nose, dancing around the studio in my yoga pants. I love travel, gluten-free brownies and working from the home studio I share with my husband. My goal? To bring you into the world of synesthesia and to create a space online that celebrates the colour and meaning of music.

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