Girl on Fire
February 24th, 2013
Todd plays Girl on Fire on his piano, which is in a new location, although still facing to the left
ALICIA KEYS - GIRL ON FIRE
A pop song review
Todd: [noticing that] Hey! Uh, new place! [chuckles] Roommates kicked me out...again...don't know why that keeps happening.
In the previous location
Todd: Oh my God! This song sucks so much! Like, I can't even...
Roommate: [off-screen] Shut up!
Todd: I'm working! Do you want me to pay rent this month or not?
Roommate: [off-screen] You haven't paid the rent in 4 months and it's 2 in the morning!
Todd: I have to film when it's dark!
In the current location
Todd: Hey, I got a new place and a new piano. Yeah, the roommates kinda took and sold the other one to pay them back, but you know what, this one's better anyway. [pause] Anyway, review, Alicia Keys... remember her, yeah.
- Video for "A Woman's Worth"
- Alicia Keys: You can buy me diamonds...
Todd (VO): Alicia Keys burst on the scene some 13 years ago amid a flood of hype and for obvious reasons. She was a music critic's dream girl. [photoshot of magazines, clip of live performance, clip of the Grammy Awards] She was soulful, obviously talented, classically beautiful but without overtly making a big deal out of it, took a lot of inspiration from the legends of the past, but modern enough to not just be a throw back. This woman was genetically engineered to win Grammys, which of course she did, over and over again.
- Clip of "You Don't Know My Name"
- Alicia: Ohhhh...
Todd (VO): I can't say I ever bought the hype completely, though.
Todd: It's not because I'm personally threatened by any woman who can play piano better than I can. Not just because of that, at least.
- Video for "Karma"
- Alicia: What goes up, must come down.
Todd (VO): You see, to me, it looked like over time, the hype for the new great soul voice of our time decayed into her being just another R&B singer. Now keep in mind that I do not think she is a bad artist, by any means—I think she's very, very talented, I really love her second album. But there are a number of things that damage her claim on true greatness. First and foremost being...
Todd: ...she's not a very good lyricist.
- Video for "If I Ain't Got You"
Todd (VO): Look, she's a good singer, she's a great musician, she's a very good composer, she makes music that sounds great. But you know, the actual lyrics...
Todd:...she struggles sometimes.
- Video for "Fallin'"
- Alicia: Sometimes I love you, sometimes you make me blue.
Todd (VO): Yes, love can make you happy, love can make you sad. Okay, so she's got a few corny songs with some dud lines here and there. You can overlook those, but there's...there's a much bigger problem with Alicia Keys.
Todd: Which is that all her music sounds the same.
- Clip of live performance
Todd (VO): She's never really stretched herself in piano, power chords, big soaring chorus, let Alicia going, "whoa whoa whoa," a few times, you know the drill. The only hit I could think of that took her out of her comfort zone even a little bit was the ragged, minimalist [clip for...] "No One".
- Alicia: Where you can stay forever...
Todd (VO): [over the song] Bash, Thud, Thud, Thud, Bash, Thud, Thud, Thud, Bash, Thud, Thud, Thud, Bash, Thud, Bash, Bash, HONK! HONK!
Todd: And even that song is basically just another Alicia Keys song with a few tweaks here and there.
Todd (VO): Five albums in, she's starting to look like a bit of a one trick pony. She's trapped herself artistically in her wooden ivory box. And that is very, very, very much true about her first solo hit in some 5 years, [clip of] "Girl on Fire", a "you go, girl" statement about a woman going out there and making it in a tough world. And she's been flogging the shit out of this song everywhere. [shot of Alicia singing with Adam Levine] At the Grammy's, [clip of Citi commercial] in commercials, they...they really want this song to do well. I mean, gotta make sure she doesn't get forgotten or replaced in case that [cover of Elle featuring...] Janelle Monáe thing ever takes off.
Todd: Which it probably won't
Todd (VO): But the song, unfortunately is pretty bad. Probably the first Alicia Keys song I've ever heard which I actively disliked.
Todd: I suppose I should explain further what I mean. Now let's take a look right at the opening line.
- Intro for the music video with a 1950's style
- Nicki Minaj: Spirit of Marilyn callin' me audibly
Todd (VO): Whoawhoawhoawhoawhoawhoawhoawhoawhoa, wait...this is not the version I'm familiar with. [Looking at script] Uh...shit, I...I didn't take any notes on this part.
Rap Critic: Yeah, they clearly just jammed in an awkward appearance by another artist at the last second.
Todd is confused as to what Rap Critic is doing here.
RC (VO): Man, you can tell how quickly they were trying to rush this out. That chroma key background preset you see is the only thing happening in her part of the video. That's so lazy, they might as well skip any notion of presentation and just show us the green screen.
Todd: Okay, dude, you gotta stop doing this. This is, like, the third video in a row you've butted in on.
RC: Oh, I'm sorry for bailing your obviously unprepared self from this floundering review. Now let's keep listening.
- Nicki: Spirit of Marilyn calling me, audibly
- Bawling she, said that she would never leave
- Continued to torture me
RC: Okay, now this is a callback to Nicki's song "Marilyn Monroe" on her Roman Reloaded album.
RC (VO): And since she's telling us that Marilyn Monroe's ghost is torturing her...
RC: ...I can only assume that Ms. Monroe didn't like the song too much.
- Nicki: Telling me to come with her
- Underneath my comforter
RC: Wait, the ghost of Marilyn Monroe wants you to come with her underneath your sheets? [The image goes through his mind] Nice.
- Nicki: And she brought a gun with her
- Nicki: Pills and some rum with her
RC: Oh... uh, uh, OH!
- Nicki: Took me on the balcony, telling me to jump with her
RC: She really didn't like that song, did she?
- Nicki: But I got ‘em aggy cause I win the gold like Gabby
- Alicia: She’s just a girl and she’s on fire
- Hotter than a fantasy
RC: Wait, that's it? Wow, that was a clumsy transition.
Todd: Yeah, I mean, the song just...stopped.
Todd (VO): I mean, there's no transition at all—the music drops and Alicia starts singing. My...my mp3 player does better transitions between random songs than this song does with its own guest verse.
RC: I mean, dude, [clip of "Fantasy"] when Ol' Dirty Bastard featured on a Mariah Carey song flows more naturally than your feature does...
- ODB: West Coast, are you in the house?
- Japan, are you in the house?
RC: ...you need to work on the song a little bit.
Todd: But anyway, before I was so rudely interrupted, [shot of Rap Critic glaring] we were actually talking about an Alicia Keys song. So let's actually look at that.
- Alicia: She's just a girl and she's on fire
- Hotter than a fantasy, lonely like a highway
- She's living in a world and it's on fire
- Filled with catastrophe...
Todd: Mm-hmm. Okay, so she's on fire...and that's good. And the world is on fire...and that's bad.
- Alicia: Filled with catastrophe, but she knows she can fly away
Todd: So...she's on fire, and she's flying away from the fire. Was...she the one that set the fire? Is she fleeing the scene of the crime?
- Alicia: Ohhhh oh oh oh oh
- She got both feet on the ground
- And she's burning it down
Todd (VO): She's...she's...she's burning what down? The ground? Or her feet?
- Alicia: This girl is on fire
- This girl is on fire
Todd (VO): Yeah, she's on fire. You kinda led off with that. No need to repeat yourself.
- Alicia: This girl is on fire
Todd (VO): Yep, still on fire.
Todd: Mm-hmm, you know, you could maybe expand on that thought a little. You know, like how this girl's on fire, why this girl's on fire, maybe. No? At this point, they might as well have just renamed the song "Girl Doing Stuff".
Todd (VO): [singing] This girl is doing things
This girl is doing stuff
Todd: Okay, she's on fire, the world's on fire.
- Alicia: Looks like a girl, but she's a flame
Todd (VO): She is fire. She's a flame on fire. This...this fire is on fire.
- Alicia: 'Cause they can see the flame that's in her eyes
Todd (VO): Her eyes are on fire.
- Alicia: This girl is on fire
Todd (VO): Everything is on fire. Fire, fire, and fire. Man on Fire, "Light My Fire", Fire Down Below.
- Clip from Beavis and Butt-Head
- Beavis: Fire! Fire! Fire!
Todd: [tired] Fire, fire, fire...look. Fire is one of the most overused metaphors in all of symbolism. If you're gonna build a whole damn song out of it, you have to take it at least somewhere new. Why don't you take a tip from Adele?
- Clip from Adele's performance at the Royal Albert Hall
- Adele: But I set fire to the rain
Todd (VO): At least she mixed it up by combining [gif images of fire and rain] her overused metaphors.
- Alicia: She's walking on fire
Todd (VO): I give the song points for not rhyming fire with desire, but I'm not sure the girl she's singing about even has desires.
- Alicia: We got our feet on the ground
- And we're burning it down
Todd (VO): Oh, it's we now. Alicia Keys is on fire too.
Todd: "We" meaning all of femaledom, right? Like, all girls are on fire.
Todd (VO): Seriously, you couldn't think of a single place to take the "girl on fire" metaphor, so you just added more girls on fire. I...I haven't had to deal with this many girls on fire since I accidentally set the...the...okay, hold on...
Todd: ...is anyone else seeing this? [Shot of Alicia snapping her fingers and the room is clean] What the hell was that?
Todd (VO): [singing to tune of "A Spoonful of Sugar"] Well, the girl who's on fire helps the medicine go down
Todd: Medicine go down
- Alicia: She's walkin' on...
Todd (VO): Oh, this video is...this is bad. I mean, I realize the song tells us nothing basically, but still, the vibe is very, you know, single girl in the big city, not beleaguered mom. I mean, no offense to moms and housewives the world over, but chopping vegetables is not being on fire. She should be walking down the street throwing her beret in the air, not this. What...
Todd: What little we know about this girl, she's aloof and untouched by the world. You know? Flying away from catastrophe?
Alicia: Filled with catastrophe, but she knows she can fly away
Todd (VO): So exactly what catastrophe on fire is she flying away from, her kids? I mean, she should try putting them out instead.
Todd: Let me make it clear. I don't think this song is bad because it uses an overdone cliche. Some of my favorite songs are basically just the singer shouting the word "fire" as loud as possible.
- Clips of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown - "Fire", Ohio Players - "Fire" and The Cult - "Fire Woman", each only saying, "fire!"
Todd (VO): But at least they all offered some, you know, punch to it. I mean, you know, Alicia Keys, even at her beltiest, is too classy and too restrained to pull it off. This isn't fiery at all, it's watery and weak.
- Alicia: So bright, she can burn your eyes
- Better look the other way
- You can try but you'll never forget her name
Todd (VO): Oh, bullshit! Bull and shit! You describe this girl in nothing but the vaguest terms, and then tell me that she's so dynamic and successful that I'll never forget her?
Todd: I don't even know the slightest thing about her. I'm not even allowed to look at her!
- Alicia: Watch her as she's lighting up the night
- Nobody knows that she's a lonely girl
- And it's a lonely world
Todd (VO): God, this is lame.
Todd: "Lonely girl in a lonely world." Of all the hackneyed...let, let me guess. Did she take the midnight train going [sings to clip of Journey - "Don't Stop Believing"] anywhere? Journey, by the way, is one of the only bands with the conviction to properly sell cheese like "lonely girl in a lonely world."
Todd (VO): Alicia Keys is just too classy and dignified to make music this boring. God, I'm sick of trying to decode this. Why not replace every single goddamn word with "fire". Girl, girl, girl, fire, girl, fire, fire, girl, flames, girls are flaming, girls burning, matches, lighters, fire...
Todd: All this song is is a creatively exhausted, meaningless pile of...
RC: And then the featured guest randomly comes back in, ruining the momentum of the video.
- Nicki: Dear God, If you’re here, God
- Make the fire disappear when they stare, God
RC: Wait, I'm confused. How exactly is this fire metaphor supposed to work again? I thought the fire was supposed to represent your strength as a woman or something. Do you want that fire to go away when people look at you?
- Nicki: Make the fire disappear when they stare, God
- Take away my fear when they interfere, God
RC: You know, I shouldn't actually detract from what she's doing here. I think she's showing a vulnerability that you rarely see in rap songs. And...
- Nicki: Do you fear God? Cause I feel God
- And in my backyard, that’s a deer, God
- And that's a horse ranch
RC: I'm sorry, are you bragging to God about having a horse ranch and a deer in your backyard?
RC (VO): That's a little forceful for a prayer, Nicki, especially for something that's unimpressive, to be honest.
RC: Like, what do you think God is saying to that?
- Nicki: And in my backyard, that’s a deer, God
- And that’s a horse ranch
God: Thank you, Nicki Minaj, but I know what a deer is. I kind of made them. [Pictures of deer] I'm not sure if anyone has informed you, but in North America, they're pretty common. Wait a minute, why am I even listening to this? They didn't even bother to get a good green screen effect!
Todd: You done?!
RC: Yes. Yes, I am.
Todd (VO): None of Nicki's verses have anything to do with anything. Then again, I don't even know how they could because this song only has, like, seven words in it otherwise. What was all that crap about God? This song isn't about God, it's about a girl on fire.
Todd: It's about someone who's in the clouds, distant from all the troubles of the world, and is so amazing, you can't even look at...[realized] holy crap, this song is about God.
Todd (VO): I...I think it is, I think it's about God. Alicia Keys is singing about a vengeful fire goddess [picture of flaming Earth] burning down the whole world with her merciless wrath.
Todd: I certainly hope so, at least, because otherwise this song is a tired, hollow pile of cliches. No, no, not even that. It's a pile of...
Todd (VO): ...one cliche repeated over and over again. It trades on cheap "you go, girl" sentiment that's too weaksauce to actually mean anything, and it's...it's a little condescending in that regard. Obviously no one's going to write "Boy on Fire". No one congratulates guys for [picture of man with mouth wide open, giving thumbs up] basically doing whatever.
Todd: I mean, she didn't even come up with the phrase "girl on fire."
Todd (VO): Yeah, I'm sure it's just a coincidence that the name of her song is also the nickname of [poster of...] Katniss, the main character of The Hunger Games.
Todd: Just a complete coincidence. If she had written the song ten years ago, it'd be called [cover of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows] "Boy Who Lived".
- Alicia: This girl is on fire
Todd (VO): How is she on fire? Maybe this girl is an assassin, working hard and making it in the professional contract killing industry, and she's trying to make it in a lonely world, which is lonely because of all the people she's killed.
Todd: You can make it be whatever you want.
Todd (VO): Maybe she's a senator. Maybe she's a nun. Maybe she's a businesswoman, or maybe she's a stripper. Maybe she's a recording artist chasing another hit long after her creative energy ran out. Maybe she's a housewife, of all freaking things.
Todd: That girl on fire can be whoever you want her to be. Maybe that girl is [Hunger Games poster featuring Katniss] borderline copyright infringement. Whatever. This boy is bored. I'm Todd In The Shadows, and I'm out.
Gets up and leaves
- Alicia: She's just a girl, and she's on fire
Closing tag song: Billy Joel - "We Didn't Start the Fire"
"Girl on Fire" is owned by RCA Records
This video is owned by me