Occasionally I will poke around iTunes to see what music is out there. Sometimes I will scroll through the top 100 songs and listen to the previews. Every now and then I will stumble across a new artist and instantly become obsessed with the song. This just happened with the song “Burning House” by newcomer Cam.
I’ve seen the song on the top songs chart for a while now, but I finally decided to listen to it and I instantly could feel the heartstrings within me being pulled by the beauty of the song. So I quickly googled it to hear the whole song and stumbled across this live version and I was struck by how unreal and beautiful her voice is. It was within the first five seconds of hearing the song that I went back to iTunes and bought the song.
The mixture of Cam’s vocals and the acoustic guitar makes the song so fragile and raw, which amplifies the heartbreak within the song. My only criticism of the song (if there had to be one) is that the background vocals slightly take away from the song; they were rather unnecessary in my opinion. For instance, if you listen to the first part of the first chorus in the studio version (below, about 1:03-1:09), it leaves out the background vocals and it gives Cam more room to shine and stun with her vocal work. I also think they somewhat cover the warmth of the strings and fill a space that doesn’t need to be filled. Listen back at Sugarland’s hit song “Stay.” It featured just an acoustic guitar and Jennifer Nettles’ striking voice (there may have been an organ in there or something along those lines, but it was very subtle) and it made the song incredibly powerful. The same principle should’ve been applied here to make this gorgeous song even more beautiful.
But like I say, I think this is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard this year. It just has this rawness to it that really makes you feel something and connect with Cam. If I were a Grammy voter – and I’ve long since thought I should be, but I don’t “qualify” – I’d definitely nominate this song for Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance. I can’t promise or even predict that this will happen because Cam is so new to the music scene, but I’ll be very happy if it does happen.
Do you know how many songs there are entitled “Stay?” A lot. There’s that Rihanna song, the Lisa Loeb one, and the Grammy Award Winning one by Sugarland. I decided to make another playlist, but with all songs titled “Stay.”
My favorite is Lisa Loeb‘s version (it also was a #PhillipsSongOfTheDay). That song to me is rather refreshing; she’s admitting she was wrong, and is pleading with her loved one to come back. There is a rawness in that song that conveys a relative deep level of hurt that I really connect with. A close second to Lisa Loeb’s “Stay,” is “Stay” by Sugarland. The guitar in that song is phenomenal, and Jennifer Nettles is an incredible songwriter (she won many awards for writing that song, including the Grammy for Best Country Song), but I find Nettle’s vocals rather…um…harsh. I mean, Jennifer Nettles is an incredible vocalist and has an intense passion for making music, but I feel like “Stay” by Sugarland is supposed to be a softer than the way she actually delivered it.
I bring up this playlist of all songs named “Stay” because I think it emphasizes exactly what not to do as a songwriter: give your song a common title. If you search iTunes or Spotify for “Stay,” there are hundreds of songs, a lot of them are covers. As a musician, you want to stand out (from a business perspective). Why would you give a song a name that a hundred other songs are named?
One counterargument would be that, as a songwriter, you don’t write to the name of the song. You tell the story the way it needs to be told, and the name just kind of stands out in the lyrics (at least that’s how I do it). However, there is a way around this. For example, on her latest album Red, Taylor Swift had a song that clearly should be named “Stay.” Instead of falling into that trap, she named the song “Stay Stay Stay,” a very unique and original title. Another thing the songwriter could do is give the song a title that does not come from the lyrics. Lorde is a big fan of doing this; the phrase “400 Lux” does not appear once in the song “400 Lux,” and the phrase “buzzcut season” appears once in “Buzzcut Season,” like how “ribs” appears once in “Ribs.” I’m not telling other songwriters how to write their songs, but my opinion is that you want to give your song its own identity that people want to listen to that song as opposed to any other song. If I have a song “Stay,” then why would you listen to me over Rihanna? We’re both clearly demanding our loved one to stay, regardless of the situation.
"Anything's possible if you've got enough nerve." – JK Rowling