You can feel a wildfire burning in “Pyromaniac,” Ohio-based artist Anna Kathleen’s fourth single. From the very first line, we hear Kathleen address a lover, telling them, “Don’t start fires you aren’t ready to tame.” Lyrically, this serves as somewhat of a thesis statement, or the first match dropped in the brush, setting the tone for the rest of the song. As we’re told that a fire has begun that can’t be contained, the song erupts in flames, upbeat banjo chords, and mysterious piano changes.
“I now know why they call it an old flame
A crush may yield some bruises but this
Kind of love leaves you burned”
While at one point, Kathleen felt fire for the person she’s singing about, ultimately she’s been left burned. Lyrically, the use of the word “leaves” paints an interesting image, as we understand it as a verb, but also hear its other meaning, imagining leaves burning in a forest fire.
“Pyromaniac” was written originally when Kathleen was 18 and revisited and finished 6 years later. Lyrically, we can hear that teenage angst and passion coming through in the song. It makes sense that at a younger age, Kathleen would want to make a clear and necessary distinction between a crush and love, showing that what she’s feeling is something heavier than she’s ever felt before.
As the song develops, the story of the relationship it’s about further unfolds. The listener can see that while the person on the other side of the song may not be the most quality, Kathleen is fully immersed in wanting to be with them.
“I write on smoking paper all the lessons that I’ve learned
And you can fill it with position light it press to the mouth I’d die to kiss
Watch you get high off my mistakes just like a moth drawn to a flame I can’t resist”
As the lover gets high on Kathleen’s mistakes, she’s still intrigued, and wanting this relationship to work. She can’t resist it.
“Don’t start fires
That you aren’t trying to quell
Feels like heaven
Headed straight for hell”
And yet, a few lines later, power seems to come back to Kathleen lyrically in this story as she states, “Don’t start fires that you aren’t trying to quell,” a command to the other person that fires started in love must be put to an end, or else what once felt romantic will burn to rubble.
“Collapse under the weight of carrying around this torch
It always stays ignited I can’t hide you’re the green light that guides me home”
No matter how difficult and heavy it is to have these feelings for someone, the lyrics show that while this might not be what the singer wants, it’s what she needs. She doesn’t have much control over how she feels as she writes the song, burning for someone.
“Darling if you’re an arsonist
I’m your pyromaniac”
And those lines sum up tragic, painful, love perfectly. Isn’t that the scariest part of it, after all, made so much more real in the teenage years? This song is like finding an old diary, realizing how powerful your emotions were at one time in the past, in their most pure form. It doesn’t matter if this lover is an arsonist, this song shows Kathleen’s teenage obsession fueling the fire, as in the end, she is the song’s focal point: Anna Kathleen is the pyromaniac.
“Honey I’m on fire
(Might be my death so take me down)
Honey I’m on fire”