First Hit #1: January 26, 1991
Bernard Jackson, the lead singer for Surface, is a pretty good singer. He gives himself the challenge of singing the wimpiest line possible – “The first time I ever looked into your eyes I cried”, which is just, well it’s sad is what it is – and not only pulls it off, but turns it into something that’s kind of catchy. You want to sing along, even though you soon realize that unlike Jackson, you’re unable to pull it off and instead sound like you’re mentally unstable. He’s got charm, and that charm carries The First Time, which is otherwise not very good.
I don’t know why ’90s ballads sounded like they did, there was probably a good reason for it, but it’s not a sound that has aged very well. The only way a ’90s ballad can survive is by having a vocalist that helps distract you from the myriad of flaws in the arrangement. Jackson is good, he makes the song much better than it could be, but he’s not quite good enough to completely negate the First Time’s problems.