[#19] Lee Hi - "Fool For Love"

From: "First Love" (Part 2)
Released: March
Territory: South Korea
Previous Best of Entries: 2012: [#37] "1, 2, 3, 4"
Other notable song(s) from 2013: "Rose", "Turn It Up", "It's Over"

As much as I live for stunning up tempos that can sweep me off my feet with dynamics in the extremes, every now and then I also love a beautiful ballad. But the problem is that not a lot of people put creativity into a lot of the ballads I hear nowadays, as if ballads can't have character. When that's definitely not the case, because "Fool For Love" is one of those ballads that have proved the assumption wrong.

Several elements of "Fool For Love" give it character, first and most obvious of which is Lee Hi's voice. The default action for ballads is to make the singer sound a lot older and he/she is in reality, and what I like about her vocals here is how she sounds a lot younger than she usually does. How she actually sounds closer to her real age, but with the same timbre and technique all in place. The melody plays a part in that, because it covers a narrower range and doesn't have that many of those dips between falsettos and belting, and because the chorus is double tracked, something that isn't done much for ballads. As a whole the melody is also stunning -- it's a relaxed, slow melody, but it's the simplicity that grips you.

But what I really want to focus on is the instrumental, and in particular those cymbals at the chorus and middle 8. The other instruments are standard for a "jazzy" ballad -- lounge piano, some guitar here and there -- but those cymbals really do change everything. They're sharp and so you hear them over the comparatively heavy bass line, they give some urgency to balance the rather lazy melody, and those cymbals are what really give the song character.

"Fool For Love" is what I mean when I say that pop songs that want to sound "jazzy" don't have to be boring, that they're not just flat instrumentals with mousy singing and watered down melodies. Because this song is none of those -- it has dynamics, the vocals have guts, and the instrumental is confident. And it's a ballad.

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