Written by Darah Welch. 4 November 2015.
“Burning House” by Cam is a fresh and moving perspective on a love story as told by a woman who has broken up with her boyfriend. It was written with producers Tyler Johnson and Jeff Bhasker and was released on June 16, 2015. The song and Cam herself were little known in the country music world until this hit the radio and shot up to billboard’s top 20s in country music almost overnight. The tone of the song is one of remorse, accompanied by a slow, simple and catchy melody. It is a very interesting song to analyze because it offers a riveting backstory regarding its inspiration and creation.
Cam—or Camaron Marvel Ochs—began her love affair with country music when she was just a little girl. Her grandfather was a cowboy who raised horses and avidly listened to country music. According to Rolling Stone, she began to gain inspiration through artists such as Patsy Cline, Bonnie Raitt, the Dixie Chicks, Tim McGraw and Shania Twain.
According to The Tennessean, “Burning House” was written following a disturbing dream Camaron had in which her ex boyfriend was trapped inside a house that was burning to the ground. She was in so much despair that she lay down with him inside and died with him. Firefighters told her that the situation was unsolvable and there was nothing she could do. She had this dream the night before she was going to attend a party where her on-again off-again college boyfriend would be in attendance. She planned on apologizing to him at this party after rudely breaking off their relationship. She was so moved by the dream that she contacted her songwriter the next day and they began to produce lyrics and music.
The song at first can be slightly confusing and maybe interpreted as purely a metaphor. It is, in a way, a deep metaphor however when analyzed we find that it is simply a dream. “’It feels like a certain kind of relief,’” Cam reports to The Tennessean, “‘It’s my story and my co-writers helped tell this amazing story and for people to know what I’m talking about, it’s a big hug. It’s really nice because it’s a sad story and it’s something that’s not really fun to tell, to be honest.’” Cam clearly shares an emotional connection with the song, which is apparent through her music video and interviews.
Cam’s success can mainly be attributed to a familiar talk show host Bobby Bones. Rolling Stone reports that, “The country newcomer simply known as Cam is fueling fan attention with ‘Burning House,’ partly thanks to on-air support from outspoken radio personality Bobby Bones.” The song was so catchy that listeners tuned into the station immediately wanted to hear more. According to Billboard, “Cam played just one verse and chorus of ‘Burning House,’ and it became the fastest-rising country download on iTunes, bolting from obscurity into the top 20 that day.” There are critics of Bones’ intentions in promoting smaller artists like Cam who have signed under big labels, which shows his power in swaying his audiences. Regardless of any controversy, Cam’s overnight success is well deserved.
Part of the success of this song can be credited to the unique perspective on the love story described earlier. America is so used to hearing country music (and other genres for that matter) that come from the perspective of the cheated on wife or the ex lover who has been done wrong. Cam flips this perspective, which makes it interesting to her listeners. Taste of Country identifies this concept in their analysis on Cam, “Cam is the one who wronged her man, not vice-versa. The other way around is an over-told story, but there’s nothing unoriginal about ‘Burning House.’”
As an advertising major I have learned the value of gaining insight on the audience that a certain company or performer wants to target. Cam certainly is making herself a trademark with her shortened and more memorable name and her outstanding, girly album cover (featured on the right). Her sound and take on the story she sings resembles that of Taylor Swift. Even her bouncy, blonde curls and eye-popping red lipstick may be reminiscent of the pop icon. She still has a country sound and style yet it seems like she verges on the pop side of country music. This says something about the audience she desires to target—female millennials. Taylor Swift’s audience is typically young women ages 18-24 who value what is popular and trendy. Cam seems to embody this style through the simple and catchy melody and her lyrics that are slightly thought provoking.
The first line that caught my attention as to how Cam has gone about targeting young women is the concept of her being at a party with her ex: “see you at a party and you look the same.” A young woman can almost envision herself in Cam’s shoes—awkwardly reuniting with an ex boyfriend from high school or even college at a crowded house party.
Further down in the same verse there is a subtle hint at the idea many young women have of finding “the one”: “I’d be the one I thought you’d find.” Cam here suggests that although she was not “the one” he is on the hunt for a woman who could potentially be his soul mate. This captures the attention of young people in a similar life stage. The song also has a modern approach to music with multiple refrains of the line “in this burning house” within the bridge “the flames are getting bigger now.”
After being recognized by USA Today as an On the Verge artist this past week, one Instagram follower commented on Cam’s photo with a heart-felt compliment that perfectly summarizes the affect Cam has on her audience. The user says, “I just watched your behind the scenes of making the ‘Burning House’ video and I have tears in my eyes.. You seem like such a sweet & beautiful soul. This story really touches my heart and I just want to give you a hug! Thank you for sharing your beautiful music xx.” Cam clearly has a meaningful impact on her followers. This young lady seems to aspire to gain the same respect Cam is currently building for herself.
This emerging artist is one that will definitely blossom into a strong, country female vocalist of this era. After hearing this amazing song, I am very excited to see what Cam and her songwriters produce next.
|0:00||Intro||Guitar||A soothing and simple yet ominous guitar melody sets the tone for a sad story.|
|0:36||Verse 1||“I had a dream…”||Introduces the song as a possible metaphorical narrative. Emphasizes “smoke” by drawing it out longer.|
|1:00||Prechorus||“Love isn’t all…”||This line builds up in sound, indicating the chorus is coming. Emphasis on the word “dream” in a higher pitch.|
|1:12||Chorus||“I’ve been sleepwalking…”||Emphasis and higher pitch on the word “sleep.” with added piano. Voices join in and harmonize at “but it’s the only place…”|
|1:44||Verse 2||“See you at a party…”||“Find” similar to “smoke in verse 1. Strings added in.|
|2:07||Prechorus||“Love isn’t all..”||Building up the song once more to prepare for chorus. “Till this dream is gone” in a higher, more dramatic pitch.|
|2:20||Chorus||“I’ve been sleepwalking…”||More voices at the beginning and at “try to take.” The voices start and end the verses.|
|2:52||Bridge||“The flames are getting bigger now…”||The bridge builds up and intermittently refrains to “in this burning house.”|
|3:10||Refrain||“In this burning house.”||Repeated throughout Verse three for emphasis.|
|3:13||Chorus||“I’ve been sleepwalking…”||The same as the choruses before. Multiple voices come in and harmonize.|
|3:41||Refrain||“In this burning house.”||Repeated for a final emphasis on the entire theme of the song.|
|3:44||Outro||Celo and violin||Wraps up the song in a dramatic way that symbolizes a somber finale.|
Shelburne, Craig. “Hear Cam’s Haunting New Single ‘Burning House.'” Rolling Stone. 18 June 2015.
Watts, Cindy. “Cam’s ‘Burning House’ Inspired by Bad Breakup.” The Tennessean. 8 June 2015.
Roland, Tom. “Country Singer Cam Dreams Up a Smoldering Ballad with ‘Burning House.'” Billboard. 15 July 2015.
Dukes, Billy. “ToC Critic’s Pick: Cam, ‘Burning Council’ [Listen].” Taste of Country. 17 June 2015.
Ryan, Patrick. “On the Verge: Cam.” USA Today. 1 Nov. 2015.
brooke.l. Instagram. 1 Nov. 2015.