"Set Fire to the Rain" is a song by British singer-songwriter Adele from her second studio album 21. Written by Adele and Fraser T Smith and produced by Smith, the power ballad was released as the second single from the album in Europe. It was released as the third single in the United Kingdom on 4 July 2011, where the song has peaked at number 11. The song has peaked at number one in Belgium, Poland, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and the United States. The song has charted within the top 10 of Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa and Switzerland.
"Set Fire to the Rain" was released on 21 November 2011 as 21's third official single in the United States, and has since peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The song is the third consecutive number-one single of the same album; the last female singer who achieved this was Katy Perry in 2010 when "Firework" hit number one. Adele is the first female British artist in history to have three consecutive US number ones. With "Rolling in the Deep", "Someone like You" and "Set Fire to the Rain" Adele logged a total of 14 weeks atop of the Billboard Hot 100, this is the most number of weeks at number one a British female artist has had from the same album. The song was voted by readers of Billboard as their favorite number one hit of 2012.
"Set Fire to the Rain" was written by Adele and Fraser T Smith while the production was handled by Smith. On 28 October, during an interview with Billboard, Columbia Records revealed that "Rumour Has It" would be released as the third single from the album and serviced to pop and adult contemporary radio. However, the release of the song was scrapped and "Set Fire to the Rain" was released as the third US-single on 21 November 2011. A spokesperson for Columbia, Pete Cosenza stated: "Our research found more programmer preference for 'Set Fire to the Rain'. [...] Both 'Rumour' and 'Fire' came back strong, but 'Fire' was a bit stronger. [...] It's a better plan to go with 'Fire' over 'Rumour' at pop and adult radio. [...] Everyone, from radio to the buying public, seems to be on board."
"Set Fire to the Rain" is the fifth track on Adele's second album 21. It was written with producer Fraser T Smith. It is written in the key of D minor with a tempo of 108 beats per minute, following the chord progression of Dm–F–C–Gm–Dm–F–C–Csus4–C, and Adele's voice spans A3-D5. The song describes the contradictory elements of a relationship, and the impossibility of letting go which is displayed in the lyrics "You and me together, nothing gets better/But there’s a side to you that I never knew, never knew/All the things you'd say, they were never true, never true/And the games you play, you would always win." One of the most pop-influenced of the album, the song is characterised by John Murphy of MusicOMH as a "power ballad". In contrast to the understated production of most songs on the album, the song features lush instrumentation and a swelling string arrangement over a mid-tempo rhythm, creating a wall of sound for the singer's mourning vocals. Dave Simpson of The Guardian in an article revealed that Adele got inspiration for the song "when mah lightah stopped workin'" in the wet.
The song has received critical acclaim from various critics with many complimenting on Adele's vocals. A writer for the magazine URB said that the song had "Starbucks-friendlier content" and further called it "melodramatic". Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly concluded that the song had "scorned-woman balladry" and it "surge[s] on the pure force of her titanic wail." While reviewing 21, a writer of The New York Times said, "the vocal effects on 'Set Fire to the Rain,' produced by Fraser T Smith, the most pop-minded of the assembled team, are superfluous." John Murphy of MusicOMH gave a negative review towards the song calling it "real misfire" and "overproduced". However he added, "it's a decent enough song, but Adele's always sounded best when it's just a piano and a voice." Writing for the newspaper Herald Sun, Camreon Adams called the song a "triumphant radio-hit-in-waiting of next single" and concluded that "once the chorus kicks in, you're a goner."
Gary McGinley of No Ripcord highlighted "Set Fire to the Rain" calling it "the catchiest song" on 21. Another writer of Daily Herald said that Adele sounds "epic" on the song. Allison Stewart of The Washington Post found the song to be "galloping, out-of-place synth-rock number" and added that "even Adele can't save" the song. Nick Freed of Consequence of Sound said that "Set Fire to the Rain" finds Adele at "her strongest and most open." He further called the song "one of 21's angrier tracks" and concluded: "The chorus' hooks are crazy catchy, and by the final one Adele releases and her hurt slips through the anger to give you a damn real and forward show of emotion. I’d imagine seeing this song live or in a stripped down setting would make one bawl like a child. You’ll want to pump your fist and pound your chest. That’s a guarantee." Robert Copsey of Digital Spy praised the song saying, "'It was dark and I was over/ Until you kissed my lips and saved me,' she admits over a gloomy piano riff, before launching into a ballsy, hands-in-the-air chorus. 'I set fire to the rain/ and I threw us into the flames,' she belts with growly vocals against cinematic strings. Rounding out with a suitably breathtaking blast from her impressive pipes and the result sounds like classic, though it's anything but camp."
"Set Fire to the Rain" was very popular in Europe, where the song charted within the top 10 of Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa and Switzerland and topping the charts in Belgium, Poland, Slovakia and the Netherlands. The song debuted at number 79 on the UK Singles Chart and it moved to number 44 the next week selling 6,286 copies. It later peaked at number 11 on the chart on the week ending 16 July 2011 and it stayed on the same position for two weeks selling another 24,978 copies. Before being released as a single, the song charted on the Billboard Hot 100 for 6 weeks and re-entered 3 times, peaking at number 72 on 13 September. On the issue dated 4 February 2012, "Set Fire to the Rain" peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and became Adele's third consecutive number one single from the album 21. With 21 also at number 1 on the Billboard 200, the song makes the set the first by a single artist to have led the Billboard 200 concurrently with three Hot 100 number one singles. It took 21 non-consecutive weeks for the song to reach the top spot in the United States.
As of June 2013, it has sold 4,552,000 digital downloads in the United States.
Adele performed the song live for the first time on 29 April on The Graham Norton Show. She also performed the track on 3 May at Jools Holland along with the selections "Rolling in the Deep", "Don't You Remember" and "Take It All". Adele also added the song to the set list of her second worldwide tour.FX used "Set Fire to the Rain" to promote the final season of Rescue Me and the show's series finale. The song was also featured in promotional ads for the TV series Ringer and Revenge, which brought it airplay in the United States without her label having to release it to radio stations. It was also used as an "insert theme" on the 2012 Fuji TVseriesIki mo dekinai natsu.