I See Fire

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For other uses, see I See Fire (disambiguation).
"I See Fire"
Single by Ed Sheeran
from the album The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and × (Deluxe edition)
Released 5 November 2013 (2013-11-05)
Format Digital download
Recorded 2013
Genre Folk
Length 5:00
Writer(s) Ed Sheeran
Producer(s) Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran singles chronology
"Old School Love"
"I See Fire"
Music sample

"I See Fire" is a song recorded and produced by English singer-songwriter, Ed Sheeran. The song was commissioned for the soundtrack of the 2013 film, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, where it played over the closing credits. The Hobbit director, Peter Jackson, asked Sheeran to write a song for the movie, after Jackson's daughter, Katie, suggested Sheeran. Sheeran saw the film, wrote the song, and recorded most of the track elements on the same day.

The song was released as a digital download on 5 November 2013; its music video was released the same day. It entered the UK Singles Chart at No. 13 and reached No. 1 in New Zealand on its sixth week, marking Sheeran's first number-one single in the country. "I See Fire" was nominated for a Satellite Award for Best Original Song.


"I See Fire" plays over the first section of the closing credits of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,[1] an epic fantasy adventure film directed by New Zealand filmmaker, Peter Jackson. Released on 13 December 2013, it is the second installment in the three-part film series based on the novel, The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien.[1] The Hobbit follows the quest of a home-loving hobbit, a fictional, diminutive humanoid, to win a share of the treasure guarded by the dragon, Smaug.

Sheeran has a lifelong devotion to the novel of Tolkien.[2] His grandfather owns a first edition copy. It was the first book Sheeran's father read to him as a child,[2] and the first book that he read himself.[3] On 5 November 2013, Sheeran announced his involvement in the soundtrack in a series of online posts, which included his thanking Jackson for the opportunity.[3] He is also a fan of Jackson's films.[4]

Jackson was introduced to Sheeran's music through his daughter, Katie,[5] who attended Sheeran's concert in Wellington, New Zealand, in March 2013.[4] Jackson, having learned Sheeran's regard toward his films,[5] met him over lunch the following day where they exchanged email addresses.[4]

In late 2013, Jackson and Fran Walsh, who co-produced and co-wrote the film, were searching for an artist who would write and record the song. Following Katie's advice, they decided to tap Sheeran.[6] Jackson sent a message to Sheeran, who was in the Mediterranean island of Ibiza attending a wedding ceremony,[5][7] asking if he would be interested in the project, which Sheeran accepted. Departing from London, Sheeran and his manager, Stuart, arrived in Wellington within 48 hours.[6]

Writing and production[edit]

Park Road Post, a film post-production facility located in Wellington, New Zealand, where Sheeran wrote and produced "I See Fire"

Sheeran watched the film at an early screening[8] in Park Road Post, a film post-production facility located in Wellington, New Zealand. Jackson advised Sheeran to focus on the film's ending: "Focus on the last 10 minutes. That's what the song needs to reflect[. ...] Write a song that takes the audience by the hand and leads them from Middle Earth back into reality."[8] Capturing his reaction to watching the film,[5] Sheeran immediately began writing the lyrics "from the perspective of being a dwarf".[8] Jackson required a folk song and Sheeran, who is "known for songs that wouldn't fit in a Hobbit film", attempted to follow in that direction.[5]

Sheeran wrote and recorded, in only one day, most of the elements present in the released version.[6] Further revisions were made in a course of three days that Sheeran stayed in the facility.[2] Sheeran revealed he was given complete freedom in the creative process, while receiving ready inputs from Jackson and his co-filmmakers.[3] In particular, Sheeran notes: "[Jackson] knows the colours and templates of what the song should be rather than how the melody should go."[2]

Sheeran also produced the song, playing all the instruments except for the cello.[9] Despite having never played the violin, he chose to perform it himself through overdubbing.[6] Flight of the Conchords' touring cellist Nigel Collins added cello parts as dictated by Sheeran. Pete Cobbin of Abbey Road Studios mixed "I See Fire"; Cobbin was at Park Road Post at the same time, responsible for mixing the musical score of The Desolation of Smaug.[6]

"I See Fire" is a folk ballad,[8] characterized with gently strummed acoustic guitar. Sheeran revealed he took inspiration from the 1970s Irish folk band Planxty.[8] According to Entertainment Weekly's Jodi Walker, the song is "touch reminiscent" of "The Parting Glass", an Irish traditional song that is a bonus track in Sheeran's debut album, +.[10] The themes in The Hobbit are present in the song's lyrics, which refer to "fire, mountains and brotherhood".[8]

Single and video release[edit]

"I See Fire" was released on 5 November 2013 through iTunes, initially in the United States and then worldwide within the next 36 hours.[11] It was later released on 10 December 2014 as part of the film's soundtrack, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, through WaterTower Music and Decca Records.[12] Sheeran released "I See Fire" while on tour in support of his debut album; it was the first solo record that he released, two years since his last. Initially, the track was announced as a non-inclusion in his next album,[3] subsequently titled x. However, it appeared on the deluxe edition of that album. Sheeran announced the inclusion on 9 April 2014.[13]

The official music video for "I See Fire" premiered on 5 November 2013, along with the release of the song. The video shows Sheeran performing and recording the vocals,[9] the songwriting and recording of live instruments, behind the scenes,[6] all throughout interspersed with shots from the film. The footage which shows Sheeran performing and recording the song is shot in black-and-white, while the rest shown in full color.[14] The video, which is uploaded in the Warner Bros. Pictures channel in YouTube, had accumulated over 50 million views as of August 2015.

Critical reception and accolade[edit]

"I See Fire" attracted critical commentaries. In his review of the single, Nick Catucci of the Entertainment Weekly stated that although looming in the song is a "flame-broiled disaster", Sheeran "keeps his strumming cool, and a hopeful flame burning for Bilbo".[15] For Rolling Stone, Ryan Reed wrote: "The haunting track is right in line with Sheeran's trademark style, filled with dramatic crooning and quiet acoustic guitars."[9] Delia Paunescu of Vulture.com found "I See Fire" "so calming it may put you to sleep".[16]

In December 2013, Sheeran said he would be promoting the song until end of the awards season,[17] in his bid to bagging a nomination at the 2014 Academy Awards (although it was not nominated).[18] "I See Fire" was nominated for Best Original Song at the 2014 Satellite Award.[19] It also received nomination for Best Song Written for Visual Media from the 2015 Grammy Award.[20]

Commercial performance[edit]

Since its release on 5 November 2013, "I See Fire" has been listed for 727 weeks in 19 different charts.[21] Its first appearance was on 7 November in the Ireland Singles Top 100, where it debuted at number 22.[22] The song was successful in many European countries, with a peak position of number 1 in Norway and Sweden.[23][24] In Sheeran's home country, the single peaked at number 13 on the UK Singles Chart, spending 65 weeks on the chart.[25] The British Phonographic Industry certified the single silver on 26 December 2014, denoting sales of 400,000 units.[26]

"I See Fire" was well received in Oceania. In New Zealand, single peaked at number 1 for three weeks.[27] It was certified triple platinum by the Recorded Music NZ, denoting sales of 45,000 copies. "I See Fire" is the 6th top-selling single in New Zealand in 2014.[28] In Australia, the single peaked at number 10 for 3 non-consecutive weeks.[29] It has been certified two-time platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association, denoting sales of 140,000 copies as of 2014.[30] In Australia's 2014 year-end chart, "I See Fire" was ranked at number 78.[31]

According to commercial streaming company Spotify, "I See Fire" was the most streamed song from a soundtrack between 2013 and 2014, outperforming other popular contemporaries.[32] In April 2015, Spotify released a report of the most streamed tracks worldwide under the category sleep. "I See Fire" was placed at number 4, joining Sheeran's other 6 songs ranked in the top 20. Sleep is one of Spotify's most popular categories "that people also use for general relaxation and to help themselves unwind".[33][34] The Guardian columnist Tim Dowling suggests that the report is an indication of "very popular, slightly mellow songs that keep cropping up on sleep playlists" but not a list of a "carefully curated journey to unconsciousness".[35]


American singer-songwriter Peter Hollens recorded a version of the song. Hollens had previously recorded "Misty Mountain" off the soundtrack for the first installment of The Hobbit series. His version of "I See Fire" features "98 different sound tracks" layered onto "8–14 vocal parts" that Hollens recorded.[36]

Norwegian DJ and record producer Kygo released a remixed version of the song which became viral.[37] Kygo's success is attributed largely in part to the reception of his remixed version of "I See Fire".[38] Less than two years later, the remix had been played 26 million plays on SoundCloud.[39] As of August 2015, the version has been played over 34 million times on SoundCloud.[40]

New Zealand musical trio Sole Mio released a cover of "I See Fire" in support of New Zealand's participation at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.[41]

Irish musical ensemble Celtic Woman performed a cover of the song on their album Destiny, sung by debuting member Mairead Carlin.

Credits and personnel[edit]

Charts and certifications[edit]

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format Label
Worldwide[83] 5 November 2013 Digital download


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  41. ^ "Amazing Rugby World Cup song – Ed Sheeran's I See Fire by SOL3 MIO". Daily Express. Retrieved 2 November 2015. 
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External links[edit]