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The song contains an interpolation of the drums from the song " The Big Beat " by American rock guitarist Billy Squier , who received a writing credit on "Girl on Fire". Keys recorded a three-track suite for the song, consisting of the main version in addition to two remixes. The first remix, titled "Inferno", adds two new verses from American hip hop artist Nicki Minaj , whilst the second mix titled "Bluelight" strips back the drums and piano leaving a sparse bass-led production and re-recorded "smokey" vocals.
The song has sold over 4 million paid downloads in the United States. Alongside the main single, Keys recorded two other versions: the Inferno Remix which features new verses from Nicki Minaj and a Bluelight Remix which strips back the vocals and production from the main single.
Debuting a new song at the VMAs is definitely special. It's the right energy. It's the right vibe. People are so excited about the night of music and hearing different styles that it just goes over really well.
I can't wait! She got her head in the clouds and she's not backing down. This girl is on fire! The Inferno version features Nicki Minaj , who wrote and rapped two new verses on the song. By contrast, the Bluelight version features a slower production and re-recorded vocals.
Kennedy particularly noted a difference in Keys' vocal tone, describing it as "smokey" and comparable to that see on Keys' single " Un-Thinkable I'm Ready ". Williot described how Keys' vocals take on a "more emotional performance" while the melody is replaced with "faint bass drops and a hushed drum machine ". The song received widespread critical acclaim. Jon Pareles from the New York Times described "Girl on Fire" and the previously released song " New Day " as "booming anthems" and the complete opposite to Girl on Fire ' s ballads which feature just Keys' vocals and a piano.