Full disclosure: SAER’s May 2020 release “Start a Fire” will definitely make you cry on the drive home – and I mean that in the best way. SAER, a multi-skilled artist who serves as the singer, songwriter, and producer of his own music, approaches grief with a tender curiosity in this song…and it’s powerful stuff.
“Call out/To put an end to this/I swear /Somebody listened to me that night/Knew you were leaving here.”
Although SAER is often known for his electric production style, this song takes a minimalist approach. “Start a Fire” is framed in cool, contemplative piano tones, granting some needed space for the commanding vocals – and let me tell you, those vocals do not disappoint. They have a style reminiscent of SYML, floaty and emotive, delivering a gleaming falsetto with utmost control, even when the song reaches its emotional peaks.
“Last chance/To get your feelings out/You freeze/No words can come to you/To hold a hand is all that is needed now.”
SAER confirmed in the song’s YouTube release that these lyrics are about the artist’s deceased father, and the weight of sitting alongside a person you love in their final moments. The song seems to be an attempt to interact with the complicated emotions that arise throughout such a painful process. SAER’s “Start a Fire” puts these complicated emotions under a microscope, adjusts the lenses, and grapples with what it finds. The production maintains a sweet tension, holding back to give loving attention to the vocals.
“We had no choice, it’s unstoppable/We laugh and we cry, uncontrollable/You and I and we/We’ll be together/Right until to the end/It matters.”
What I love about this section is the relationship between the lyrics and their vocal delivery. The lyrics insist upon a lack of control, using words like “no choice,” “unstoppable,” and “uncontrollable,” which seem to acknowledge the inevitable relationship between love and loss – the importance of holding on through every rise and fall of emotion as it arises. Yet the delivery is an exercise in the opposite. The vocals don’t waver for a moment. They stay in absolute control, as SAER walks a tight-line of falsetto notes, each shift kept perfectly in line, each melody falling neatly into place. The dialectic relationship between the lyrics and delivery seems reminiscent of the grieving experience in general: we learn hard lessons that we imperfectly embody. Listening to this song is like listening to someone say, “I’m going to be okay,” while their eyes are full of tears. It’s devastatingly human, and expertly executed.
“Start a fire/Start a war/Do whatever to have like before.”
At this point, the song reaches its emotional climax; in rising chains of repetition, SAER repeats this mantra with a grief that spins and flares without ever losing vocal control. It’s elegant. Painful. Real. And just as the emotion becomes all-consuming, SAER drops back with a final line that gives purpose to the pain:
“You have a beautiful grandchild/ She knows you in all of your photographs/You’ll live on, we’ll make sure of it.”
SAER’s “Start a Fire” is raw, honest, and curious. It’s hopeful even in its most agonizing moments. This song is an exercise in storytelling, in control, and in ceaseless love. If you’ve lost a loved one, this song will help you through it. Otherwise, it’ll make you appreciate who you have.
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