Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain” Lyrics Meaning

Many say Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain” is filled with emotions that are beyond raw. We totally agree with that assertion. The song is loaded to the brim with emotional intensity.

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Adele's Set Fire to the Rain at

The Lyrics

The lyrics tell the tale of a meaningful relationship that has sadly met its demise. And according to the narrator’s side of the story, the relationship collapsed due to the dishonest and selfish acts of her lover (who she was deeply in love with.

At the start of the relationship, everything apparently moved smoothly. The narrator was head over heels in love the subject of the song. But as time progressed, he began to literally misbehave (i.e. lying, being dishonest, being very controlling, etc) to the point where the narrator is left utterly disappointed and hurt.

And to add insult to injury, she realizes that all those beautiful words he said to her at the beginning of their relationship were nothing but a pack of lies.

Now she’s had enough of his wicked games (which always ended up with him being the winner). Owing to this, she has decided to let him go. Her broken heart can’t take his BS anymore. She therefore breaks off the relationship in order to save her bleeding heart from suffering more injury.

What really is the meaning of “Set Fire to the Rain”?

As used in the context of the lyrics, the aforementioned phrase can mean a number of things. But of all the possible things it could mean, one stands out more prominently than the others. And that is the accomplishment of something that is extremely difficult or impossible.

Everyone knows that literally setting the rain ablaze is an impossible task. It is akin to walking on the air (something virtually impossible to do). By virtue of this, it is beyond clear that Adele is using the phrase in question as an idiomatic expression. Simply put, “set fire to the rain” is used figuratively throughout the song.

But how is accomplishing something impossible connected to this song? We hear you ask!

There is actually a strong connection! The accomplishment of the impossible is apparently one of the prominent themes of this song. How so?

Think of it this way. Here is a young woman totally smitten and in love with a man who turns out to be a toxic lover. In other words, this young woman has found herself in the trap of a textbook example of a toxic relationship. And the saddest part of it is that she happens to be the victim or the weaker person of the said relationship.

And it is common knowledge that a woman leaving a toxic union is one of the most difficult things to do. So if Adele (the narrator) has been able to summon up the strength and courage to just walk out of the relationship even though she still obviously has feelings for him, she technically can be said to have accomplished a very difficult task.

The Figurative Blaze

Now, it should be noted that this accomplishment is something many a victim of toxic affairs is unfortunately unable to achieve. So by doing this, Adele has “set fire to the rain” (i.e. accomplished the impossible).

And having set fire to the figurative rain, she proceeds to throw the toxic relationship into the figuratively blazing fire. At the end of the day, the said furnace burns the relationship into ashes and sets Adele free at long last.

Adele, "Set Fire to the Rain" Lyrics

Was “Set Fire to the Rain” a single release?

Yes. It was a single, released on July 4 of 2011 from the singer’s record breaking album, “21”.

The album won many accolades, including being the first album in the United Kingdom to sell over 3 million in a calendar year. It was also the United States’ most successful digital album of 2012.


The song was written by Adele in collaboration with Fraser T. Smith who was also responsible for its production. Smith, an English musician, songwriter and producer is credited with co-writing a number of great songs including the 2008 hit, “Broken Strings” By James Morrison and “Break Your Heart” by Taio Cruz.


At the 56th Annual Grammy Awards in 2012, the live rendition of “Set Fire to the Rain” won the “Best Pop Solo Performance” category. It competed with the following songs:

  • Lady Gaga’s “You and I”
  • Bruno Mars’ “Grenade”
  • Katy Perry’s “Firework”
  • Pink’s “F–kin’ Perfect”
Set Fire to the Rain

Chart Performance

The song peaked at number one and number eleven in the United States and the United Kingdom respectively. Furthermore, it enjoyed top-10 status in the countries listed below:

  • Belgium – 1
  • Brazil – 3
  • Canada – 2
  • Czech Republic – 1
  • Denmark – 5
  • Finland – 2
  • France – 9
  • Germany – 6
  • Greece – 6
  • Hungary – 9
  • Ireland – 6
  • Israel – 1
  • Italy – 3
  • Netherlands – 1
  • Norway – 4
  • Poland – 1
  • Portugal – 2
  • Switzerland – 4

More Accolades

“Set Fire to the Rain” is considered one of the best hit singles of 2012.

By the end of April of 2020 digital downloads of over 5.2 million had been sold in the US alone.

A Brazilian soap opera created by João Carneiro, “Avenida Brasil” had “Set Fire to the Rain” featured on its international soundtrack.

1 Response

  1. Turner says:

    Before watching Adele’s “Live at the Royal Albert Hall” concert album in November of 2011, “Chasing Pavements” had been my favorite song from her. However, my opinion changed after experiencing her incredibly flawless rendition of “Set Fire to the Rain” on the said album. As the name suggests, the album consisted mainly of footage from her performances at London’s Royal Albert Hall which was part of her “Adele Live” concert tour in 2011. The tour was aimed at supporting her second studio album, “21.” It features some songs from “21” as well as her debut studio album “19.” “Set Fire to the Rain” (Live) played a significant role in the success of the “Live at the Royal Albert Hall” concert album, which garnered numerous accolades. In fact, aside from topping major charts globally, in April of 2012, the album spent a record 19 consecutive weeks at number one in the United States, making it the music DVD with the longest continuous run at the top spot since 1999. The live edition of “Set Fire to the Rain” also ended up winning the “Best Pop Solo Performance” award at the Grammys in 2013. I highly recommend watching the concert album to fully appreciate “Set Fire to the Rain.”

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