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Lighters (song)

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For the song by Gabz, see Lighters (The One).
Flames in the background with Bad Meets Evil featuring Bruno Mars spelled in white and Lighters in yellow. Contains a parental advisory sticker.
Single by Bad Meets Evil featuring Bruno Mars
from the album Hell: The Sequel
Released June 14, 2011 (2011-06-14)
Recorded Effigy Studios (Ferndale, Michigan), Isolation Studios, Levcon Studios (Los Angeles, California)
Genre Alternative hip hop
Length 5:03 (album version)
4:23 (radio edit)
Label Shady, Interscope
Writer(s) Marshall Mathers, Ryan Montgomery, Bruno Mars, Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine, Roy Battle
Producer(s) Eminem, The Smeezingtons, Battle Roy
Bad Meets Evil singles chronology
"Fast Lane"
Bruno Mars singles chronology
"The Lazy Song"
"Marry You"

"Lighters" is a song by American hip hop duo Bad Meets Evil, a group composed of Royce da 5'9" and Eminem, from their first EP, Hell: The Sequel. The track features American singer-songwriter Bruno Mars. It was written by Bad Meets Evil, along with Mars, Philip Lawrence and Ari Levine of The Smeezingtons, and Roy Battle. The production was handled by all aforementioned names, except Royce. It was released on June 14, 2011 by Shady and Interscope Records, being later serviced to mainstream radio airplay in the United States by the two latter labels along with Aftermath Entertainment as the second single from the EP. After writing and recording their own verses for the song, Eminem and Royce da 5'9" met Mars in Los Angeles, and the singer's vocals were added after minor adjustments were done by him and Eminem to the original cut.

"Lighters" is an alternative hip hop song with elements of soul and synthpop music. Music critics noted it for being musically different among other tracks on Hell: The Sequel, with some praising and other criticizing the change in style. The song's main structure relies on strings and piano, which throughout the song are combined with bass and synths. "Lighters" received mixed reviews; some critics praised Mars' performance on the chorus, while the duo was met with criticism for their lyrics, which regard one's downfalls, comebacks while dismissing the "haters" and conveys a message of genuine supporting and celebration by the accomplishment of dreams. The song reached the top ten of several countries, including number two in New Zealand, number four in Canada and the United States, and number ten in Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The record has been certified two times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA).

The accompanying music video was filmed in Los Angeles, California in July 2011 and it was directed by Rich Lee. It features both Royce and Eminem, the former in a prison cell, finding a way to escape by discovering a way through a door compartment and a trap door on the floor of a living room, respectively. Throughout the entire visual, Mars is singing while playing an upright piano. "Lighters" was performed at the several music festivals, including the 2011 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival and the Lollapalooza. The performances were met with positive reviews from music critics. "Lighters" was nominated for "International Video of the Year – Group" at the 2012 MuchMusic Video Awards and won "Most Performed Song" at the 2012 ASCAP Pop Music Awards.

Background and production[edit]

When speaking to Cannadian music magazine Exclaim!, Royce da 5'9" confessed that "Lighters" was originally intended to be featured on Royce's fifth solo studio album, Success Is Certain.[1] It was solely produced by Battle Roy. After Royce presented the track to Eminem, he was inspired to write his verse which prompted Royce to write his the day afterwards.[1] Bad Meets Evil then flew to Los Angeles, where Mars heard the song. Along with Eminem, the latter made made minor changes to the musical arrangement.[1] Subsequently, Mars' vocals were added on the original cut.[1][2] The singer joked saying that he got on the song after beating Eminem on a rap battle.[2]

The single was written by Eminem and Royce as Bad Meets Evil, The Smeezingtons, a production and songwriting team consisting of Mars, Philip Lawrence and Ari Levine, and by Battle Roy, all of whom, except Royce, also produced the track. It was recorded at Effigy Studios in Ferndale, Michigan by Mike Strange, Isolation Studios by Asar and Levcon Studios by Levine, both located in Los Angeles, California.[3] Battle Roy and Joe Strange engineered the single. Luis Resto provided additional keyboards for the record, who also did for six other tracks on the EP.[3] Mike Strange and Eminem mixed the track, while Brian Gardner was in charge of mastering the single.[3] On May 25, 2011, when the album track listing of Hell: The Sequel was announced, "Lighters" was publicly revealed to feature Mars.[4] The track leaked on June 2, 2011.[5][6]

Composition and lyrical interpretation[edit]

"Lighters" is mainly an alternative hip hop track.[7] It has also been described asa blend of rap/hip-hop and pop, further incorporating parts of a synth ballad.[7][8][9] The record differs from the hardcore hip hop style used in other songs by Bad Meets Evil in the EP, as it takes influences from synthpop ballad and soul music, mainly on the track's chorus.[7][9][10] The song opens with piano chords while Mars sings with his "warm" and "pleasing" vocals in a tenor tone on top of a pop and soul chorus, "This one's for you and me living out our dreams". The singer finishes his verse saying, "All I want to see is a sky full of lighters".[7][6][8] Afterwards, the bass drops along with synth chords and Eminem starts to rap with his "crescendos build up to fist-pumping levels",[11] being followed by Royce.[6][8][9]

The song has a length of over five minutes on the album version, making it the longest song on Hell: The Sequel.[12] The radio edit lasts four minutes 23 seconds.[13] Its main structure is backed by strings and piano, which throughout the track are combined with bass drum and synths[6][8][14] The A.V. Club's Genevieve Koski found similarities between B.o.B's "Nothin' on You".[14] Jason Newman of MTV said that the track is unlike the duo's "late-'90s string of dark, misanthropic singles".[11] According to the digital sheet music published by Alfred Music Publishing, the song was composed in common time and in the key of C major with a tempo of 92 beats per minute.[15] Bad Meets Evil's and Mars' vocals range spans from the low note of C4 to the high note of C5.[15]

Lyrically, the recording shows one's downfalls and comebacks while spreading a message to the "haters".[8][11] It also conveys a message of genuine supporting and celebration through the accomplishment of dreams.[7][8][10] During his verses, Eminem refers to his "legendary rise through the rap rank" and his recovery from addiction as he did on his seventh studio album, Recovery (2010).[6][8][9] Royce raps about cars, "Eminem's greatness", how he struggled to reach the top and gives a "warning to all the haters".[6][8] Mars verses show "emotional solidarity" and "genuine humanity".[8][10] The song's usage of profanity has attracted negative attention from critics.[7][8][16] Royce da 5'9" responded to the criticism of "Lighters" and according to him, he and Eminem wanted to be versatile with the EP by making a couple of personal records.[17] He further explained in another interview, "People who don't like listening to straight-up, raw, rappitty-rap lyrics. One joint to show versatility."[1]

Critical reception and accolades[edit]

Mars' (pictured) appearance and vocal delivery on the song's chorus was complemented by music critics.

"Lighters" received mixed reviews by most music critics. Most of them commented on the different style of the song when compared to other songs on Hell: The Sequel,[7][10][18] which was met with both positive and negative reception. Both Idolator's reviewer Becky Bain and Rob Markman from MTV News spoke about the new song after it leaked on June 2, 2011. Bain found the track to be "saccherine sweet", as well as, "warm-and-fuzzy". She carried on saying that it was an "inspirational" and "anthemic" track and concluded that Mars knows how to "rockin’ a hook".[5] Markman had a positive opinion regarding "Lighters". He wasn't surprised to hear Eminem's performance, "It's hard to imagine a time when Eminem wasn't regarded as one of rap's elite".[6] Not only did he commented on Royce da 5'9"'s verse, "The gritty Detroit MC recalls his own battles to the top, referencing doubters at every turn", but also noticed that the track was "inspirational", addictive and made to be sent to the radio.[6] Magazine XXL commented on the single, saying it is "inspirational" and set to be on heavy rotation during the summer time and "another break from the typical vicious lyrical assault."[19]'s Bill Lamb gave a generally positive review, awarding the song 4 our of 5 starts, naming it "an engaging, soulful pop hip hop blend", by having humorous lyrics and "Mars' soulful, memorable rap", but went on to mention that the track "sounds a bit schmaltzy at times."[7] The recording's chorus was praised by Nathan Rabin of The A.V. Club. Rabin also added that it wouldn't give a "welcome relief from the claustrophobic darkness of the rest of the album."[20]

In a mixed review, Billboard editor Jason Lipshutz published a track-by-track review of each song on the album. He thought that the single did not fit in with the rest of Hell: The Sequel, but alone, is a good song, "[The] track doesn't fit with EP, but Em's effortless confidence carries the celebratory anthem."[18] Chad Grischow of IGN gave a shared a similar opinion, calling the song odd and uncommon. Grischow did not favor the influences of "gooey synthpop" and soul fusion genres.[9] However, the critic appreciated the "inspirational verses" from Eminem and Royce and summarized, "In the end, this brief look at the duo's skills does not fully deliver what you expect, but still leaves you wanting to hear more."[9] Web magazine Plugged In Online, once a magazine that published reviews from a Conservative Christian's perspective, praised Mars' singing but harshly criticized the duo's lyricism, "These two Detroit rappers use a lot more nasty words to get the job done".[8] The reviewer, Adam Holz, went on to analyze Royce's verse, "Toss in nods to toking marijuana and two allusions to oral sex, and you've got a pretty good picture of what Royce's vision of 'living out our dreams' looks like in action."[8] While exploring the Billboard charts on their segment at The A.V. Club, writers Genevieve Koski and Steven Hyden, commented on "Lighters". Koski said that the single shared some similarities with "Nothin' on You", which also featured Mars. Despite noticing the contrast between the rap verses and the hook, she focused her attention on the various elements of the recording which "are each uplifting in their own way" and awarded it a B–. On the other hand, Hyden gave the song a harsh critic calling it the, "absolute worst in pop music right now". He criticized Eminem for spitting in his verses, Mars for singing a "melodramatic chorus" and the type of music the rapper, Eminem, was embracing dubbing it, "maudlin power balladry". He gave the record an F.[14]

In a negative review, David Jeffries of Allmusic said that "the glossy 'Lighters' feels more like a Bruno Mars track than Detroit diesel."[21] Tiny Mix Tapes critic Jakob Dorof stated that the hook is "awful" and sounds like "If I Were a Boy". Dorof continued, "It’s touching, in a Backstreet Boys meets "Forever Young" kind of way". He criticized Eminem for his rapping lyrics "so long as he keeps rapping as fast and shoutingly as he has been on every last verse he’s released in the past couple of years".[16] Consequence of Sound's reviewer Winston Robbins gave a rather negative review on "Lighters". Robbins believes that Mars' vocal delivery in the chorus does not fit into a rap song and would have done better on a solo record or with another artist, "it is so far from home next to the hard verses of two of rap’s bad boys."[22] David Amidon from music website PopMatters said that "Lighters" was the only disappointing recording of the 11 tracks on the EP deluxe edition and "it’s easy to press the skip button if you’d like to."[23] At the 2012 ASCAP Pop Music Awards it was awarded "Most Performed Song".[24]

Commercial performance[edit]

"Lighters" debuted on the Billboard Digital Songs chart at number eight, before the single's release, on the issue dated July 2, 2011, while it entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 16.[25][26][27] However, on the following week, the track dropped on the Hot 100 to number 36.[28] Nevertheless, two weeks after, it moved up to number 33 on the Hot 100, after dropping to number 44 on the previous week.[29]The recording further moved up to number 17 on the Hot 100 on the subsequent week and to number 10 the week after, giving Mars his sixth top ten hit and Bad Meets Evil's first.[30][31] On the issue dated August 10, 2011, "Lighters" entered the bottom of the top five on the Hot 100 and held the Airplay Gainer honor.[32] The song eventually reached its Hot 100 peak at number four.[33] "Lighters" spent 20 weeks on the Hot Rap Songs chart, peaking at number six.[34] On the Pop Songs chart, the track peaked at number two, and was on the chart for 20 weeks,[35] with it further topping the Rhythmic Songs.[36] As of September 2012, "Lighters" has sold 2,208,000 copies in the United States,[37] which led it to be certified two times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[38] On the issue date of September 10, 2011, the single reached a peak at number four on the Canadian Hot 100.[39]

In Denmark, the single entered at number 25, in the beginning of July, 2011, and later peaked at number 18.[40] The song's 13th and final chart appearance in the country was at number 37.[40] "Lighters" didn't enter France's single chart until August 13, 2011, when it debuted at number 85.[41] It lasted eight weeks, and reached a peak position of number 11 on September 24, 2011.[41] In Ireland, the song rose from its 25th position to a number 11 peak.[42] In the United Kingdom, the song debuted at number 37 on June 25, 2011.[43] It rose to number 30 the week after, but left the chart, six weeks later.[44][45] However, it re-entered the chart on August 28, 2011.[46] On October 8, 2011, the song peaked at number 10.[47] On August 6, 2011, the track peaked at number 13 in its fourth week on the Dutch Top 40.[48] On Norway's VG-lista, "Lighters" reached its peak of number nine in its third week, leaving the chart four weeks later.[49] In Scotland, "Lighters" peaked at number nine and spent fifteen weeks on that country's respective chart.[50]

"Lighters" entered the Australian Singles Chart at number 30 and rose to number 19 the following week; it peaked at number 17 at the end of July 2011.[13] The song was certified platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA).[51] In New Zealand, the single debuted and peaked at number two, making this the track's highest debut and peak position.[52] September 26, 2011 marked the song's 14th and final chart appearance, at number 36.[52] The song was certified gold by the Recorded Music NZ (RMNZ).[53] It sold 445,708 copies in South Korea by the end of 2011.[54]

Music video[edit]

Background and concept[edit]

Filming sessions for an accompanying music video for "Lighters" began on July 20, 2011 Los Angeles, California.[55] It was conducted by American music video and commercial director Rich Lee, who previously shot the "Not Afraid" visual with Eminem.[55] Mars told MTV that the video would "leave fans inspired" and that it is "a very beautiful [video]. I haven't even seen it yet, but I think it's going to be beautiful."[56] Not revealing any specific details about the video clip, he jokingly added, "I'm doing handstands, and I'm juggling naked."[56] The video was uploaded to VEVO on August 22, 2011.[57]

Development and synopsis[edit]

Royce da 5'9" rapping in an underground system tunnel illuminated by red highway flares.

The video begins with Mars singing while playing an upright piano.[58] Eminem, who is laying on a couch in an untidy living room while wearing a white T-shirt and red baggy pants, subsequently picks up a notepad with lyrics and begins to rap his verse.[58] He discovers a trap door on the floor and climbs down a ladder, and then finds himself in an underground tunnel with pipes, while red highway flares illuminate the setting.[58][59] He lights a flare to navigates through a series of tunnels. While Mars sings the chorus once again in the same setting as shown in the beginning, Eminem continues to search through the tunnels.[60][61]

Royce begins rapping in a prison cell, until he finds a poster and peels it off the wall to find a door compartment, a reference to 1994 drama film The Shawshank Redemption.[59] He crawls through it and finds himself in the tunnel. Royce lights a flare to help navigate through the system.[58][60] As Mars sings the bridge, the two rappers find their way out of the tunnels, through a manhole which leads them to a field where Mars sings.[58][60] As the sun starts to set, couples, along with Bad Meets Evil, gather to see a large group of rising sky lanterns aglow.[60] Beats by Dr. Dre headphones are advertised in the video and one couple gathers in front of a Chrysler 300.[61][62] As the video reaches its conclusion, the setting gets dark and Mars sings the last lines.[60]


James Montgomery from MTV News wrote, "It's a stirring image, for sure, and yes, you can probably read plenty into it."[59] Consequence of Sound's Chris Coplan explained that "all three men emerge to exactly what they’d been singing for: a sky full of decorative lamps."[63] Becky Bain from Idolator said, "Bruno jams out on his 88 keys while the 'King Of Hip-Hop' and his Bad Meets Evil cohort Royce da 5′9″ go underground, emerging to the sight of thousands of lanterns lighting up the sky."[57] Kyle Anderson of Entertainment Weekly gave a mixed review, criticizing the lack of sufficient lighting in the video. However, he praised the final scene of glowing lanterns, naming it "the most compellingly beautiful thing to appear in an Eminem video."[61] The music video was nominated for the category "International Video of the Year –Group" at the 2012 MuchMusic Video Awards.[64]

Live performances[edit]

Eminem performing at Lollapalooza on the second day of the festival.

Eminem and Royce da 5'9" made their debut live performance as Bad Meets Evil for "Fast Lane" and "Lighters" at the 2011 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival.[65][66] They were accompanied by Eminem's hypeman from D12, Mr. Porter,[66] with Mars not attending the concert.[67] The live show was complimented with animated lighters displayed on the background screen,[67] while the duo wore Bad Meets Evil T-shirts and black hoodies.[66] Eminem also sportd camouflage shorts.[68] In the beginning of the show, Eminem asked the audience to hold their lighters, if they had brought one, which most of them did.[66] The performance was widely praised, with James Montgomery from MTV confessing, "It's the same renewed vigor Eminem has displayed on his most-recent efforts."[66] News reporter Adam Graham from The Detroit News favored the concert, commenting on its effect on the audience, "Royce joined his partner-in-rhyme on stage for two songs, 'Fast Lane' and 'Lighters,' the latter of which lit up the humongous field in front of the [stage] in a sea of Bic lighters."[69]

Magazine The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "Bonnaroo's crowd may be a hippie enclave, but you wouldn't have known it Saturday night."[68] Mars joined Bad Meets Evil to perform "Lighters" on the second day of Lollapalooza 2011, which took place in Chicago, with them being once again accompanied by Mr. Porter.[70] Piet Levy from USA Today newspaper named the show "the evening's highlight".[70] During the show, many fans held up Bic lighters, and lit their cell phones and cameras.[71] Leah Greenblatt from Entertainment Weekly called the show as "a set heavy on hard-spat hits".[72] Gil Kaufman from MTV News thought of Mars' chorus being "a feathery pop sheen to the harder-edge".[71] Mars also brought a silver guitar that he occasionally played.[73] "Lighters" was included on Eminem's set list at V2011 (V Festival), which took place in Staffordshire and Chelmsford on August 20 and August 21, 2011, respectively.[74][75] In 2013, Bad Meets Evil performed the song on Pukkelpop. Emily Webb praised the "ambiance" of the act as the crowd raised their lighters, further calling it "fantastic".[76] Occasionally, Mars also sung the track solo on his first tour, The Doo-Wops & Hooligans Tour.[77]

Track listing[edit]

Credits and personnel[edit]



Credits adapted from the liner notes of Hell: The Sequel.[3]

Charts and certifications[edit]



"Lighters" was first released on June 14, 2011 by Shady Records and Interscope Records.[8] Later, on June 20, 2011 and on July 4, 2011 a promotional CD single was made available by the previous two labels. The latter one included an edited version of the song.[13] It was serviced to contemporary hit radios stations as the second single on July 5, 2011 by the same labels, along with Aftermath Entertainment.[94]


Country Date Format Label Ref
Unknown June 14, 2011 Unknown Shady Records, Interscope Records [8]
June 20, 2011 CD single [13]
July 4, 2011 CD single (edit) Shady, Interscope
United States July 5, 2011 Contemporary hit radio Shady, Interscope, Aftermath Entertainment [94]


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