Burning House

Jan 10, 2017 | Hip tunage

At the Grammy’s last year, “Burning House” by Cam lost Best Country Solo Performance to the regrettable “Traveller” by Chris Stapleton, the dull lyrics of which somehow, miraculously, manage to be emotionless and sentimental at the same time (though perfectly crafted for shallow listening), and the title of which is spelled incorrectly (unless you’re British).

“Burning House,” however, is a magically crafted song, and a wonderful example of why mainstream Nashville songwriting teams exist. It’s beautiful, precise, and never says more than it needs to. It’s clearly based on real human experience. Its arrangement is in perfect harmony with the soul of the song. It’s the type of song I wish we only received from Nashville.

Nevertheless, I’ve been racking my brain for the last half hour, trying to determine why songwriter Cam, not to mention her two co-writers, left the final line of the chorus hanging…

I’ve been sleepwalking
Been wondering all night
Trying to take what’s lost and broke and make it right…
I’ve been sleepwalking
Too close to the fire
But it’s the only place that I can hold you tight…
In this burning house…

Tonight? Why not fulfill that rhyme? It’s easy, obvious, and satisfies the circularity extended by “night” in the first line of the chorus. Yeah yeah yeah, silence and longing and desire and all that, but if that’s what you’re going for, why not only leave it hanging at the very end of the song? Why not give the listener that sense of auditory fulfillment in the middle, and then leave them hanging at the end? Would it create too much space before the beginning of the next verse? To me it’s the difference between a sad thread of hope…and utter despair. To me, it leaves the listener staring, instead of crying.

And no, it’s not a valid argument that the song would then be indirectly rhyme-linking “night” and “tonight.” They’d be at opposite ends of the chorus, with a plangent beat of silence before the resolution. Trust me, no one hates more than I when a song rhymes a word with itself. That’s not the case here.

Really, though. I love this song…but why? What drove that decision?