Why Did Alicia Keys Set President Obama On Fire at the Inaugural Ball?

Alicia Keys performed at President Barack Obama‘s Inaugural Ball Monday night (Jan 21) and switched up the lyrics to her song “Girl On Fire” in a special tribute to honor the president on his special day.

A longtime supporter of President Obama, Keys began by telling the audience, “today is an incredible day. And you can feel the energy everywhere that you go. Every day is a new day and a new chance to be our best. To serve our highest purpose.”

She intorduced the new lyrics, “He’s president and he’s on fire…he’s living in a world and it’s on fire” and paused for a few seconds to cheers from the crowd before belting “Obama’s on fire!”

While it was nice and quite thoughtful of Alicia to change up the lyrics to her song just for the President … we think she may have missed the boat with that whole “Obama’s on Fire” thing, which if taken literally, sounds really really bad.

L.A. Times Pop Music Critic Randall Roberts seems to think so too, referring to the R&B singer’s ode to Obama as “ill-advised casualness gone wrong” and calling it “awkward,” “mediocre,” “confusing” and an outright “mistake.”

Roberts even offered his own interpretation of Keys’ updated lyrics:

“He’s president and he’s on fire/Hotter than a fantasy, longer like a highway,” she sang, turning the autobiographical song of determination into an increasingly awkward presidential ode. “He’s living in a world and it’s on fire/Filled with catastrophe but he knows he can fly away,” she went on to sing, and to my ears the suggestion here is that the president just may cut and run when the going gets tough.

“He’s got both feet on the ground,” she continued, “and he’s burning it down/Got his head in the clouds/As he’s not backing down.” Did anyone else interpret that to mean he’s out of touch and stubborn? And how can anyone burn down the ground? She then went into a recast version of the song’s chorus: “Obama’s on fire! Obama’s on fire! He’s walking on fire! Obama’s on fire!”

Perhaps he’s the devil? No? Then, why in the following line did Keys sing, “Everyone stands as he goes by/They can see the flames that’s in his eyes/Watch him as he’s lighting up the night.” OK, maybe I misread it. She was just saying he’s a charismatic guy.

Then Keys acknowledged that the president, hot though he may be, is taken — “Everyone knows Michelle is his girl/And together they run the world — and we’re gonna let it burn, let it burn,” and in these lyrics she seemingly confirmed the fear of many right-wing conspiracy theorists.

“Obama’s on fire,” concluded Keys. Good to know. Maybe Hank Williams Jr. could cover the song next.

We know Alicia meant well and all, but when she was rehearsing this over and over … did it not sound strange to her (at all) that she was using her lyrics to set our President on fire?

Not cool Alicia. Not cool.