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Song You Need to Know: Chris Stapleton, ‘Watch You Burn’

The country songwriter addresses the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting with direct lyricism and a furious din

Chris Stapleton doesn’t say a lot. And his songs, while personal, often don’t belie his most dark, tortured feelings. Which is what makes “Watch You Burn” so stunning. Over four fiery minutes, the country songwriter allows himself to get pissed off, furious even, as he recounts the 2017 mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas that left 60 dead.

It’s Stapleton’s directness that rocks the listener to their core.

“Only a coward would pick up a gun/And shoot up a crowd trying to have fun,” he growls in the first verse, not couching his words. He moves quickly on to a karmic promise, guaranteeing the gunman he’s going to “get your turn” in the chorus: “Devil gonna watch you burn!”

Stapleton admits in the lyrics that he wasn’t in Las Vegas on that October night, but his friends were, and that’s enough for him to pick up this particular weight — and wish his own ill: “If I could snap my fingers, if I could flip a switch/I’d make that last bullet first, you son of a bitch.” This isn’t the Stapleton of Jimmy Kimmel skits, mugging for the camera. Nor is it the gentle husband duetting with his wife Morgane at the CMA Awards. This is the Stapleton you don’t want to cross.

By the end of “Watch You Burn,” the drums are pounding, the guitars slashing, and the eight-member All Voices Choir are raising their voices in indictment. It is a terrifying din. But Stapleton cuts through with one last blanket warning, “to the evil ones” who may seek to cause further mass harm: think twice. Because the devil — and Stapleton — are waiting.

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From Rolling Stone US