“Burn the Bed”
Written by Candi Carpenter, Jerilyn Sawyer, and William Alden Robert Witt
Even among country music’s storied history of songs about confronting an unfaithful lover, Candi Carpenter’s “Burn the Bed” boasts an opening line that is memorable for the sting of its blunt turn-of-phrase: “Most people take out the trash/They don’t bring it home.” It’s a line that immediately invites comparisons to some of the genre’s most fearless women, from Loretta Lynn to Miranda Lambert, and Carpenter spends the remainder of “Burn the Bed” announcing herself as a brash and wry new talent worth following and worthy of those comparisons.
The single impresses for its brevity and for Carpenter’s and her co-writers’ economic use of language. There’s nothing especially poetic about a line like, “Did you take my pictures down, or did I have to watch?” but it conveys a bitterness that is lived-in and authentic. Still, the song wants for a few more details along those lines– there’s some real bite to the references to a wedding ring and to borrowed perfume– to make all of the principal players come across as more than ciphers. The one real knock against the single is that neither the cheating husband nor the “other woman” register as living, breathing people.
Carpenter, for her part, fleshes out her narrator with her measured performance. She’s equal parts “woman scorned” and a confident, independent hellraiser, and the smoky timbre of her voice lends itself perfectly to the ruefulness of her kiss-off. When she closes the song by repeating that killer opening line, there’s a sense of finality to her delivery that lays to rest any chance of reconciliation: Carpenter sounds like a woman who is ready to strike a match.