the world is going up in flames. we didn’t start the fire, though

we didn’t start the fire by billy joel and the world is going up in flames by charles bradley, released nearly 20 years apart, both use the metaphor of the world on fire/burning to represent humanity’s problems but there is a clear difference in perspective.

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the world is going up in flames is told from the streets of brooklyn. images in the video bring to mind apathy, homelessness, a detached police force, prison & racism.

the first line says

the world is going up in flames and no one wanna take the blame

flame can be thought of as a singular representation of firein flames is equivalent to on fire.

flamea flame

blame means that no one is willing to take responsibility for the world being on fire.

charles bradley gotta be a better daygotta be a better world

additionally the song ends with positive lyrics and a call for change that includes examples of the reduction gotta which is a reduction of have got to or has got to and is a synonym for must

gotta be a better world
gotta make it baby
gotta make it right

billy-joel-didnt-start-the-firethis fire behind me was already burning when i got here

we didn’t start the fire takes a more pragmatic position.

the images in the video are presented via the evolution of an american middle class kitchen and the lyrics are a rundown of events that took place from 1949-1989 that support the idea that the fire has been burning forever. the chorus claims

we didn’t start the fire. it was always burning since the world was turning
we didn’t start the fire. no we didn’t light it, but we tried to fight it.

and later adds

when we are gone it will still burn on and on

in other words, joel is resigned to the fact that the fire was here before us and despite our efforts it will continue after we are gone.

which song is closer to your personal world view? share your feelings under leave a reply


 

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