Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 2016
Original album - Super
Producer - Stuart Price
Subsequent albums - (none)
Other releases - (none)
The very first time I heard this track, I had a precognitive vision: This will be a dance-club hit. Even if it's not released as a single. DJs will play it in their clubs and the crowds will love it, packing the floor and dancing their proverbial heads off. It's destiny.
As Chris and Neil told BBC Radio Scotland interviewer Nicola Meighan, the musical origins of "Burn" date back to a demo they recorded in 1996: a prospective b-side for which Chris supplied the lead vocal. They decided at that time, however, that they didn't like it, so they scrapped the track, only to repurpose portions of it twenty years later with new lyrics and additional music. Elsewhere they've noted that they reused portions of their unreleased Nightlife-era track "Nu Sleaze." (Whether, however, these two unreleased antecedents to "Burn" are actually one and the same is uncertain at this time.) Despite this history, the final product is a thoroughly modern take on an idea immortalized by The Trammps in their 1976 classic "Disco Inferno" (aka "Burn Baby Burn"): that of dancing and partying so hard at the dance club that one might think the building itself could erupt into flames. It's proven a popular conceit. Michael Jackson revisited it himself with the Rod Temperton composition "Burn This Disco Out," the concluding track of his 1979 album Off the Wall, and the Talking Heads employed it on their 1983 hit "Burning Down the House" (though David Byrne's artfully nonsensical lyrics obscured its meaning). It's not hard to find other examples as well, such as Shed Seven's 1999 U.K. hit "Disco Down" (when comes right out and says, "It's time to burn this disco down"), Kylie Minogue's 2000 album track "Disco Down" (despite the title, a totally different song from Shed Seven's), and Sister Gray's 2015 single "Burn This Disco."
The PSB spin on this concept repeatedly shifts back and forth between techno and high-gear house, thereby ensuring that the track maintains a fresh, exciting sound and feel. An especially nice lyrical touch is the way they suggest it's not just the dancing itself that's incendiary: "Feel the sudden heat between you and me." If the ecstatic dance music alone weren't enough, it would seem that the lyrics—with their irresistible refrain "We're gonna burn this disco down before the morning comes"—were written with a very determined eye toward making this track a modern-day anthem for the dance floor. At less than four minutes in length, all it needs now is an extended mix. But, again, if the Boys don't do it themselves, enterprising DJs will do it for them.
Well, at least that's what I thought. My vision for this song never materialized. As they revealed, however, in their publication Annually 2017, the Boys had planned on releasing "Burn" as the fourth and final single from Super. But then the infamous "Ghost Ship" warehouse fire in Oakland, California on December 2, 2016, in which 36 people died during a dance party, put an end to those plans. As they rightly noted, suddenly a song with the refrain "We're gonna burn this disco down" seemed horribly inappropriate. Instead, a remix of "Burn" (almost certainly one originally envisioned as part of a "Burn" single package) later surfaced as a bonus track with the release of its replacement as a single, "Undertow."
- The opening of this track bears a marked resemblance to that of "Why Don't We Live Together?"—the final song on the Pet Shop Boys' first album, Please.
- Mixer: Stuart Price
- Album version (3:53)
- Mixer: Baba Stiltz
- Baba Stiltz Remix (10:22)
- Released on limited-edition 12-inch vinyl and on a bonus CD accompanying the limited-edition 2017 hardback publication Annually
- Baba Stiltz Remix (10:22)
- My 6 favorite live performances of PSB songs
- The 14 strangest (good and bad) things the Boys have done (at least in public)
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