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Released: 2012

Ellie Goulding’s “Burn” can be understood as a passionate hymn to youthful energy and the invincibility of spirit. The lyrics, steeped in the language of insurgence and resistance, speak to the resilience and verve of humanity; suggesting that our collective light is so powerful it can be seen from outer space, that it quite literally sets the world on fire.

The initial verse introduces the theme, “We, we don’t have to worry ’bout nothing/’Cause we got the fire, and we’re burning one hell of a something”. Goulding posits that there’s a potent force within us, a fire that burns vivaciously, and it’s something fantastic and universally admirable. With phrases like “burning one hell of a something,” Goulding incorporates colloquial language to depict the magnitude of this internal flame.

The following lines, “They, they’re gonna see us from outer space, outer space/Light it up, like we’re the stars of the human race, human race,” indulge in a bit of hyperbole but they capture the essence of the song – a celebration of an indomitable spirit that illuminates the world, equating it to celestial bodies seen from space.

The chorus, “We gonna let it burn, burn, burn, burn/We gonna let it burn, burn, burn, burn”, is seemingly simple; but it’s a forceful declaration of intent. Goulding has that “fire”, a metaphor for several possible elements – passion, love, spirit, fury, rebellion, and she’s going to let it blaze away, refusing to put it out or dull it down.

In another illuminating verse, “And what we see, is everybody’s on the floor/Acting crazy, getting loco till the lights out,” Goulding uses the “lights out” and “loco” as clever innuendos to picture a scene of uninhibited dancing, of living in the moment, of expressing oneself without fear – again, a manifestation of that internal fire.

Lastly, “When the lights started out, they don’t know what they heard/Strike the match, play it loud, giving love to the world,” encapsulates Goulding’s message: giving love to the world, even when faced with adversity (when the lights started out). The use of the phrase “strike the match” implies the initiation of this act of defiance and resilience.

Overall, “Burn” could be read as a call-to-arms for the human spirit. Goulding’s use of poetic devices like metaphor and hyperbole, combined with the atmospheric melody, creates an empowering ode to resilience and the power of ‘lighting up’ the world with our individual and collective fires.

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