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Released: 2011

With heart-tugging vocal prowess, Adele delivers “Set Fire to the Rain,” an emotive contemplation on unreciprocated love laced with self-emancipation. The song resonates with themes of deceit, destructive love, and the debacle of emotion that comes when you extinguish the very thing you’ve allowed to consume you.

The first verse, “I let it fall, my heart… Until you kissed my lips and you saved me,” Adele poignantly paints a picture of her vulnerability, a heart ready for the taking, only to be swept up in the thrill of a seemingly saving romance. The narrative of a strong yet physically weak woman draws on an age-old pop trope, highlighting the power of love to unsteady even the most steady of hearts.

The chorus, “But there’s a side to you… You would always win, always win,” exposes the stark reality of her lover’s deception. These lines underscore the duality of her lover’s persona and the false promises that have marred their relationship. The “games” offer a colloquial metaphor for manipulative behavior, painting her lover as a victorious puppet master in a love turned cruel contest.

Her proclamation, “But I set fire to the rain… ‘Cause I heard it screaming out your name,” is where we witness her liberation. On the surface, one might find the phrase “set fire to the rain” paradoxical. But pop music often embraces such melodramatic hyperbole to amplify the emotional intensity. With this, Adele symbolizes her determination to conquer an impossible feat – extinguishing her love for him, as hard as it would be to set fire to falling rain. The visceral image of her touching his face as she does this signifies a heartbreaking farewell.

“When laying with you… nothing is better”, she expresses how their physical closeness made her feel eternal. This verse gives us a clear articulation of the profound emotional bind that makes breakups in even the most damaging relationships so devastating.

The heartrending conclusion in, “I set fire to the rain… ‘Cause I knew that that was the last time, the last time,” she drops the bomb – acknowledging the demise of their relationship, and with it, the death of a part of herself. Yet, the mournfulness of these lines holds within them an echo of liberation – the freedom that comes from letting go, even when letting go feels like a little death.

In “Set Fire to the Rain,” Adele navigates the tortuous terrain of love’s demise brought on by deceit. She serves up an anthemic heartbreak ballad brewed with romantic betrayal, emotional liberation, and self-discovery – a recipe for pop perfection if ever there was one.

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