Performer: "Setting the World on Fire" currently sits at #1 on the Hot Country Songs chart. Kenny Chesney has had an impressive 21 songs at #1 on the Hot Country Songs chart, and another 11 songs at #2.
Writers: Ross Copperman, Matt Jenkins, Josh Osborne
Title: A phrase; although somewhat unrelated to what the song is about.
Structure: Verse / Chorus / Verse / Chorus / Guitar Solo / Chorus / Outro
Points of Interest:
1) The lyrics of this song are impressively written in so many ways. One aspect that I'm particularly interested in here is the use of subtle shifts in rhythmic phrasing that keep the song moving forward. The first four lines of the verse start on the first beat of a measure (not counting pickup syllables). We as listeners get in a solid and comfortable groove based on the first downbeat. In the second half of the verse, the emphasis shifts and each line starts on the second beat of a measure (again, not counting pickup syllables at the one-and-a-half beat). The shift gives the listener a little more of a syncopated bounce as we spin inexorably down the street toward the hotel and straight into the chorus. And the chorus that we bounce into shifts us back to solid ground again, emphasizing the first downbeat in the same way as discussed above. We feel solid, comfortable, at home. There are harmonic and melodic reasons working to make us feel at home as well, but the rhythmic push is important, and it works nicely with what's going on in the lyrics to boot.
2) I talk about syllabic emphasis a lot because I notice it pretty strongly. The syllabic stress of each word in this lyric hits on an appropriate rhythmic stress in the music, making the lyric sound clear and natural. In this song, I'm struck by how Kenny Chesney shifts his phrasings subtly to keep stressed syllables lined up with the musical stresses. He can do this because the writers left room for subtle shifts in phrasing, but many performers still wouldn't do it for many possible reasons. Kenny Chesney makes those shifts in phrasing because he is a talented performer.
3) The arrangement casts a wide net in terms of target genre. We have the steel guitar for the country market, the electric guitar for the rock end of the pop market, and the electronic beats and synth pads for the dance end of the pop market.
4) There's a guitar solo here INSTEAD of a bridge. Whoa.
5) The lyric is beautiful with great imagery throughout the verses particularly. But the title kind of fails as a payoff, I think. It doesn't really seem like the characters are setting the world on fire. In fact it seems like they're ignoring the world entirely while they have fun together, separate from everything else. The world doesn't really seem to matter to the lyric at all. Setting the world on fire suggests to me something more like buying people drinks, dancing, partying, and generally having fun in a mundane world. I'm also a little confused about what it means to strike matches down to the ashes. Mentioning matches does prime the listener for the subsequent mention of fire, but fire doesn't seem that important to the lyric either.