Dolly Parton’s “World on Fire” Lyrics Meaning

Dolly Parton is still going strong in the music game. For example, a couple of weeks ago she dropped the song “Seasons” with Bebe Rexha, a singer who is over 40 years her junior. And as for “World on Fire”, it is the lead single from Dolly’s 53rd studio album, “Rockstar”. 

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Dolly Parton's World On Fire at

And with Big Machine Records and Butterfly Records releasing this track on 11 May 2023, the Queen of Country is concurrently 77 years old, with a discography that dates back to the early 1960s.

Parton is what some would refer to as a permanent A list musician, i.e. a singer who has established herself to the point that she can release new music for as long as she likes and still draw headlines. To illustrate that reality, Dolly was afforded the opportunity to debut “World on Fire” at the Academy of Country Music Awards, i.e. the premiere award show of her genre, on the day as the song’s release.

The Lyrics of “World On Fire”

Dolly Parton wrote this song herself (in addition to co-producing it with Kent Wells). And the reason we’re pointing that out in the lyrics’ section is because, to reiterate, the songstress is now reaching 80 years old, and the wording of this piece accordingly reflects her wisdom, if you will. 

Dolly may not be as deep as other senior singer/songwriters who are still in the game, such as Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton. But this song still possesses, let’s say a more-pertinent tone than that of traditional mainstream fare.

“Liar, liar, the world’s on fire
What you gonna do when it all burns down?
Fire, fire, burnin’ higher
Still got time to turn it all around”

It’s a bit challenging pinning down what Dolly comprehensively means in the chorus by “liar, liar, the world’s on fire”. But when taking all of the wording of this into consideration, it may be that “liar, liar” is a reference to those who refuse to rightfully acknowledge that the “world is on fire”. 

And as for that latter statement, it of course alludes to the vocalist’s belief that the current state of things is a deeply-troubled one.

It reads as if, since Dolly uses the term “in God we trust” – which happens to be the official motto of the United States – in the second verse, that she is more specifically speaking to American society. And what the vocalist implies in the first verse, as well as based on the explanation of this song she offered to Good Morning America, is that the nation has become too angry and divided. 

In making that observation, Parton notes that she isn’t the type of artist to regularly chime in on social issues. But at the same time, that doesn’t mean that she isn’t “in touch”, i.e. knowledgeable of what’s going on in the world around her and able to perceive that matters are less-than-ideal.

As relayed in the second verse, she perceives the heart of this problem as being twofold. On one hand, it’s as if her countrymen have totally lost interest in being righteous. And at the same time, the Most High too “ain’t listening” to them any longer. 

But to reiterate, this is the selfsame country built on the ideological principle of “in God we trust”. So it’s as if Dolly is saying that Americans have forsaken God and He too has forsaken them.

“Don’t get me started on politics
Now how are we to live in a world like this?
Greedy politicians, present and past
They wouldn’t know the truth if it bit ’em in the a-s”

Then, the way the songstress sets off the third verse makes it sound like a more macrocosmic segment, as if she is in fact speaking to the whole world. And what Dolly observes as a major part of the problem is its citizens being plagued by “greedy politicians, present and past”. So obviously, she’s one of those types of people who doesn’t have much faith in our leaders.

Meanwhile, the fourth verse is arguably the most interesting, depending on how it is interpreted. That’s because what it appears Parton is arguing in this passage is a notion akin to the likes of protests having now grown out of control. 

Or as inferred, it’s as if people no longer know how to vent their frustrations peacefully. And when they get angry and go about saying this or that, those harsh words do have an overall-negative effect.

“Marchin’ in the streets with sticks and stones
Don’t you ever believe words don’t break bones”

But by the time all is said and done, Dolly pointing out that “the world’s on fire” is the premise upon which this song is based, even though most of the lyrics are dedicated to buttressing that argument. Its actual conclusion, as inferred in the bridge, is that we need to modify our behavior accordingly, i.e. replacing hate with love and frustration with empathy.

We Can Make Positive Changes to Save this World!

Dolly assures us that even amidst these challenging times, there is still some hope for the world and its inhabitants. Yes, we are facing difficult times, but all isn’t lost. Our collective positive actions (which primarily includes showing love) can lead us towards a brighter future.

How Love can Heal this World

Love has an immense capacity to positively change and heal this world. It is a universal language that transcends all cultures, races, religions and all manners of manmade boundaries.

Showing love to one another has the power to effect transformative change in our world. This simple yet powerful act bridges all kinds of divides and heals wounds.

Love fosters empathy and understanding and it encourages us to look beyond our individual concerns and recognize our shared humanity.

The more love we display, the easier it becomes for us as a people to tackle global challenges facing us today such as poverty, climate change, wars and all forms of social injustice.

Moreover, love fuels altruism. It inspires us to extend compassion and kindness to others, to care for their welfare as we would our own. It motivates acts of charity, volunteering, and everyday kindness, each contributing to a ripple effect of positive impact.

Love also gives us the strength and courage to challenge and get rid of all systems of oppression. It empowers us to stand up against prejudice, discrimination, and hate, advocating for justice and equality. Love can motivate social and political action that leads to fairer societies (which is exactly what Dolly Parton is preaching in “World on Fire”).

Furthermore, love promotes peace, reconciliation and unity. Ultimately, the strong power of loving one another can indeed change the world and create a paradise right here on Earth.

World on Fire

Likely Inspiration for “Liar, liar, the world’s on fire”

It is apparent the aforementioned line is a reference to the popular children’s phrase: “liar, liar, pants on fire”.

This is a phrase that children use a lot when they are accusing someone of lying. It is a playful and non-offensive way to call someone out for not telling the truth.

The phrase actually doesn’t have a literal meaning. Put simply, it doesn’t mean that the pants of the person telling lies will actually catch on fire. Instead, it’s a fun and imaginative way for children to express their skepticism towards someone’s statement which they believe isn’t true.

What genre is “World On Fire”?

It is a pure Rock song. Despite Parton being primarily a country singer, she has actually over the years experimented with other music genres. So this is not the first time she has ventured into rock music.

That being said, “World On Fire” contains elements that appear to have been inspired by the works of the iconic British rock band, Queen – most notably their 1977 classic “We Will Rock You“.

Notable Live Performance

Dolly Parton put up an impeccable performance of “World on Fire” at the 58th edition of the Academy of Country Music Awards. The ceremony was held at the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas on May 12 of 2023.

It was hosted by Dolly herself with support from American singer/songwriter Garth Brooks. One thing that caught my attention was Dolly’s choice of costume at the start of her performance. She wore a huge brightly colored skirt-like attar with a world map design over a black costume. As part of the act, the skirt was taken off by choreographers a few minutes into the performance.

Apparently the map design was a signal that she had a message for the world in the song. Additionally, she incorporated dancers with diverse physical appearances, sex and race, which is likely a move that conveys a message of unity, all-inclusiveness, and a world free of racism and discrimination in any form.

“World on Fire” has an explicit message of highlighting our society’s tendency towards aggression and cruelty, which can quickly escalate into fear and suffering when coupled with lies and impoliteness, especially from politicians and people of power.

2 Responses

  1. Carly says:

    I see “World on Fire” as a plea from Dolly to me to take action and make a positive impact not just in my life but in the lives of people around me. It addresses issues such as lies, selfishness, political gimmicks, loss of faith, and the great divide. “Still got time to turn it all around” in the chorus suggests that there is still time for us to make a difference, and the song encourages me to show love, take a stand, lend a hand, heal the hurt, and help in my own way to let kindness work. “World on Fire” also stresses on the need for me to care enough to try to make a change. In general, this song by Dolly Parton conveys a sense of weariness with the state of affairs in the world, prompting her to speak out. She appears to recognize that the most effective way to capture the world’s attention is through her music, which is why she is using it to express her concerns.

    • Burning Up And Watching Florida Burn says:

      World on Fire–Global Warming. The lady is a courageous prophet who dares to speak the truth. She had the nerve to combat the anti-vexers with her admonition, “Don’t be chicken squat. Get the shot.” I admire her tremendously.

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