First Hit #1: August 18, 2001
Fallin’ is the kind of thing that can feel refreshing if you hear it at the right time. A polished piano ballad with a big hook isn’t anything new, but it builds smartly and quickly, with clean vocals and direct lyrics. If you’re in the middle of a heavy electronic moment, something as clean Fallin’ can really stick out. It takes a lot of confidence to start a capella, but it’s also the kind of thing that grabs attention immediately, because it’s just a fresh way to begin a song. It moves on from there, steadily building elements into the song and even throwing in a couple nods to Keys’ hip hop influences. I keep resisting the urge to call it simple, because it really isn’t – it starts simple, but it moves rapidly in the other direction. It’s clean, that’s different. There’s no element that feels superfluous, it’s polished, there’s not a stray bit of dirt or grime in the performance. The chorus sometimes feels a bit disconnected from itself – words don’t really flow together, instead leaping up and down the scale in between the letters – but that’s also what gives it the hook and makes it catchy, and might also be a symptom of the cleanliness of the song – unnecessary transitions have been binned.
It’s a song that slowly reveals its odder elements, but as a whole it’s refreshing. The musical equivalent of a fancy salad.