Bruce Springsteen‘s hit version of “I’m on Fire” burns with quiet desire. The Boss didn’t feel the need to shout about his passion. He kept the embers of love glowing by holding back. His voice barely rises above a whisper until it transforms into a howl. The instrumental backing creates the tension by picking up the pace in contrast to the more slowly articulated vocals. The song was a top ten hit back in 1985 and since has been covered by artists as dissimilar as Tanya Tucker, John Mayer, Barry Gibb, Lorde, Tori Amos, and Soccer Mommy.
And now, Ron Pope. The Georgia native has often declared that the impetus for his musical career was his teenage obsession with all things Bruce. The single came out on 1 October as part of his current cover songs project (the EP is scheduled for a 12 November release). Pope used to play the song the conventional way by accompanying himself on guitar. However, he decided to take a different approach. It’s just him and a piano, and he takes it slow and easy in the spirit of the original.
Pope understands why Bruce kept the vocals on the down-low. Singing a line like “Sometimes it’s like someone took a knife, baby, edgy and dull / And cut a six-inch valley through the middle of my skull” works best when presented in a cool, balanced tone. There’s no need to shout. Holding one’s emotions in suggests a more profound urgency than letting it all out.