What Songwriters Can Learn From “Burnin’ It Down” By Jason Aldean

Jason Aldean’s “Burnin’ It Down,” written by Rodney Clawson, Chris Tompkins, Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley is one of Aldean’s biggest singles to date. It’s (pun intended) burning up the radio, and fans are buying the heck out of it.

And most of you probably can’t stand it.

Am I right? Don’t you, as a songwriter, cringe a little at lines like, “I wanna rock it all night, baby girl, will you rock it out with me…” My wife feels dirty just listening to it (and not in a good way).

But if you want to get cuts…

DON’T HATE. INVESTIGATE.

Here are some lessons for us all:

Right beats great.

I’m sure none of the songwriters would hold this one up as their best work, as their greatest song. But it’s the RIGHT song for Jason and the right song for his audience.

It fills a gap in his brand.

Musically, it fits in beside “Dirt Road Anthem,” but the concept is very different. Lyrically, it’s closer to “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” but it’s way more sexual. It pushes the outer edge of Aldean’s catalog, taking it to a new place. He hasn’t quite done this song before, yet it’s undeniably a Jason Aldean song.

I probably couldn’t get this song cut.

This is where proximity wins. These guys could give it directly to Aldean. They didn’t have to go through several gatekeepers, many of whom might have either hated it or just not “gotten” it.  The fewer people who have to say “yes” to your song, the fewer people there are that might say “no.”

Those lyrics are… what they are… for a reason.

The songwriters on this song are real-deal writers. They aren’t just lucky hacks. No, they made those lyrical choices for a reason. They know Aldean’s brand, and they bet his audience would eat that mess up.

And they were right.

You might or might not think it’s a dumb song. But the writers? They’re definitely smart.  What do you think?

God Bless,

Brent

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Brent Baxter is a hit songwriter with cuts by Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, Joe Nichols, Gord Bamford, Ray Stevens, and more. He’s written a top 5 hit in the US and a #1 in Canada… so far.

19 thoughts on “What Songwriters Can Learn From “Burnin’ It Down” By Jason Aldean”

  1. It’s so great to hear a writer’s perspective on things like this! Would also like to hear from a musician/producer perspective…. I kept waiting for something bigger after the first chorus, or maybe a bigger sound to the chorus….seemed like the song stayed on one level musically. Just sayin’ 😉

  2. Totally smart writers. All if this is the truth. For me, I don’t appreciate he haters who hate bc they don’t like the song. I’m always thinking “well how did that song get to that point? Work for that artist and audience?” For example: (and don’t hate on me for saying this) but Taylor Swift writes to her audience and she is smart about the songs she purposely writes to get her audience going! She’s mastered that for her world and it’s brilliant. No matter what you think of her songs or voice or how she got her start… The bottom line is She plays the cards right for business and sustainability and the numbers show that people are listening and enjoying. All of that said… yes BB… Right on as usual at the right time!

  3. I actually mentioned this very song during our last NSAI chapter meeting. Personally I have to change the station when this song comes on – do not like it at all. First of all the “burning it down” nearly burns a hole in my brain – over and over. The line “I like doing my thing, you love it when I sing”…..is he singing naked in the bed? That line seems a little out of nowhere. I think the success here is having direct access to a well established artist is what made the difference. Without that connection I seriously doubt this song would have ever made it past the fist evaluator or publisher. But a hit is a hit….. congrats to the writers.

  4. Like the opinion. I actually like the song. Part of the beauty of song is that it’s subjective. No, I don’t like when people just write/record the same song over & over with slightly different lyrics. I like diversity in my music. There’s a time for introspective, soulful songs and fun, catchy, talk-about-nothing songs. I don’t love everything on the radio and there are some artists I just can’t listen to who record great music but I can’t stand their vocals or something. I know it’s just me because these are songs/artists that go number one so I can’t fight that. Just not my thing. I do agree – the writers behind this song and others know the business and know what they are trying to do. All the observations in this piece make sense and lead back to the question, “what is your goal?” A little open-ended, but I ‘ll leave my thoughts there 🙂

  5. Success: when you accomplish what YOU set out to do. Yeah, this kinds of song does little for me either. I do think Aldean is one of the true artists out there right now, and could probably carry some questionable or ‘weak’ songs perfectly well to his aud. Plenty of artists have done, and will continue to do just that.

    Songs are life and death and serious business for us, but it’s just some music on the radio for 80%+ of the audience, a trivial and fleeting part of their life. Meaning, they don’t take it too seriously. They just like what they like. Like TV and Movies and fashion, you can’t really say it’s “wrong” or even bad. Industry pro’s think in terms of either it works (people like it) or it doesn’t (people don’t like it).

  6. I am a Jason Aldean fan but this is not a favorite. Because of his marital issues this songs sparks a little curiosity about whom he is thinking of as he sings it. Brent, by your analysis you force me to be more open-minded about my likes and dislikes. Isn’t there a melodic similarity to one of his previous songs in this one? It sounds like something I have heard before (can’t remember which one).

  7. Ok, I’m new here- just making an observation from the song, the post and the comments. I think life is just so serious that a lot of people don’t even want to ‘think’- this song does that well! I listen to KSON (San Diego) and have heard the song a LOT but couldn’t have told you any of the lyrics before this post.
    Conversely, I wrote a song about Domestic Violence (from the perspective of a survivor) and I can’t even get anyone to ‘look’ at it. I figured it’s because I’m an unknown… but ‘Burnin’ It Down’ just may have changed my perspective =)
    Thanks Brent- always LOVE your perspective!

    1. Thanks for joining in, Shell! I’d say that serious “issue” songs have a much harder time getting cut in today’s environment, especially from unknown writers. But we still need those songs to be written to build our chops (and our souls) as writers. Plus, you just never know when one might beat the odds. Or even if it helps people locally, that’s worthy.

      1. Talk about irony! The UK Govt Adult Services sent me an email this morning inviting me to an awards ceremony in England, that the lyrics for “Last Time” (my song as a Domestic Violence Survivor) were chosen to be published in an anthology to help victims…. And yesterday, I had a well known country singer tell me she LOVED my song- and that she would love to record it if I took out the ‘Jesus part’. The entire song is ABOUT the ‘Jesus part’ as she called it. Well, as I always say: Hope is not a Strategy, Luck is not a Factor, Fear is not an Option and the World does NOT make sense! =)

  8. The other thing I’ve noticed about this song is that the last chorus “ends” in a way that feels unresolved (leaving you wanting to hear the rest of it), basically tricking your brain into wanting to hear the chorus again.

  9. Here’s another thing you can learn from it: once you have a melody that works well in one song, re-use it in another song at a different tempo. I’m kidding… but my gut tells me Rodney Clawson drove the melody. It’s very similar to Take A Little Ride.

  10. Brilliant song choice for Aldean. I wouldn’t consider myself a big fan of his before. I’d bought a few singles but that’s all. Can’t say that anymore. I’ve purchased ALL of his albums since I heard this song. They’ve got me hooked!

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