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Falling For You

Imagine my surprise when, in researching the previous post, I found out that Rivers Cuomo called “Beverly Hills” and “Falling For You” – two diametrically opposed pop songs – his two proudest musical achievements. Then imagine my surprise when, after “Beverly Hills,” the very next song to come up in the TVS randomizer was…”Falling For You.”

Cuomo specifically cited the solo, bridge, and last chorus — in other words, the entire second half of the song — as one of his two proudest moments, and it’s refreshing to hear him say something like that in 2007. Because he’s right: the last minute and 38 seconds of “Falling For You” is Weezer’s pinnacle, a dizzying high the band could never hope to reach again, and it’s surprising to consider that Cuomo can even remember it after his long descent into simple-minded pop (Green), numbskull “metal” (Maladroit), and Shrek-tier mainstream (Make Believe). True, Cuomo copped out of the question by concluding that “it’s impossible to decide,” but “Falling For You” and “Hills” were the only two songs he mentioned during his consideration.

“Falling For You” is the ninth in a 10-song suite called Pinkerton. I was tempted to say it’s the crux of the entire storyline Pinkerton tells, but then my mind drifted to “Butterfly,” the ultimate track, which this one penultimately sets up. Then I thought to call it the “emotional center” of the record, but had to check that against “Across the Sea.” Convenient superlatives won’t serve us well when discussing “Falling For You:” its greatness is too elusive for that.

The song begins with a cyclical bit of guitar noodling, sounding dazed above a brief clip of a Korean advertisement — purportedly a stray radio frequency the band picked up one day in the studio, perhaps from K-Town — in which a voice asks, “What company makes this product?” It’s not the meaning of these words that matters, for they bear no clear relation to the song or the album in general, but rather the serendipitous way in which it was stumbled upon. (It’s possibly some clue to the ethnicity of the girl for whom Cuomo is falling, though, considering how Pinkerton is such a candid document of Cuomo’s preferences.)

The riff that envelopes this half-buried found sound actually began playing during the faded conclusion of “Pink Triangle,” wherein Cuomo found himself hopelessly in love with a girl who, so the story goes, wound up being a lesbian. Now Cuomo seems to have finally found the answer to his long and painful loneliness, a girl he’s known for quite some time but never pursued. Two more guitars enter and build gracefully towards the coarser distortion of the verse, which deliberately masks the eloquent brilliance of the chord progression (in a genre usually defined by three- and four-chord riffs, “Falling For You” crafts a poetic chain of more than twenty – covering, in fact, every one on the chromatic scale). The lyric begins: “Holy cow, I think I got one here / Now just what am I supposed to do?” He’s finally found an anchor, but feels more lost than ever. The next couplet, emotionally underscored by bassist Matt Sharp’s vulnerable falsetto — “I’ve got a number of irrational fears / That I’d like to share with you” — sets the tone for all the ambivalence that follows. That split between the first two lines and the next two – the excitement, the uncertainty, and then the honest admission — really is an arresting little summary of falling in love. The sentiment is repeated with greater clarity during the chorus, to great effect: “I’d do ’bout anything to get the hell out alive / Or maybe I would rather settle down / With you.”

Unlike most of even the best-written Weezer songs, there’s actually enough nuance and allusion in this song’s lyric sheet to sustain a term paper. At the beginning of the second verse, Cuomo briefly rues having to turn in his “rock star card” so soon (a reference to the album’s opener, “Tired of Sex” – and a beautifully efficient way of reminding the listener how long ago that was, how quick Cuomo is to forget all the desperate loneliness he’s felt between then and now, and how unhappy he felt even when he was pulling that rock star card every night of the week; this moment also foreshadows “Butterfly,” the record’s final acceptance of that unhappiness and Cuomo’s tendency to choose it), “just as [he] was bustin’ loose” (a reference to “The Good Life”). But as the first verse ends with that perfectly parenthetical admission, “But I do like you,” it returns in the second one, no longer some kind of aside but stated plain as day: “And I do like you.” Even then, the conflicting feelings remain: Cuomo tells her she’s “the lucky one,” the one to finally win his heart, but then he doubles back on himself: “No, I’m the lucky one.”

The music itself, meanwhile, is maybe the single best summation of the Pinkerton aesthetic, arguably one of the most idiosyncratically performed and produced records in rock history. (There are those superlatives we were looking for.,..) The way that, two lines into every verse, that second guitar timidly rouses itself from silence, feeding back slightly as it gathers its courage, then tears into effusive allegro shredding like fireworks, great big arcs of feeling and color trailing down from the night sky. (This is maybe the very best example of Cuomo’s onetime signature, the pairing of classical beauty with metal aggression.) The rest of the band’s contributions aren’t to be overlooked, either: Pat Wilson’s drumming here is a deft blend of passion and precision, all big tom rolls and exacting cymbalwork; Sharp’s falsetto is as purposeful and crucial as it was on “Say It Ain’t So” two years prior; and Brian Bell’s guitar work is unhinged and instinctual, descriptive – like everything here – of the song’s complicated emotional core.

And then there’s the solo. The way it starts out mumbled and messy, burdened by the mire of Wilson’s heavy beat and Sharp’s leaden bass, before rising up and out, two lead guitars beginning to converse like awkward crushes before gradually closing the distance between them, ending intertwined in a sublime triumph of Romantic harmony. Their twinning makes for the seamless segue into the bridge and one of the single smoothest key changes in rock history, whereupon a plaintively double-tracked Cuomo intones: “Holy sweet goddamn, you left your cello in the basement / I admired the glowing stars, and tried to play a tune.” In an instant, it recalls – like the beginning of the duelling solo – the simpler times of that awkward but exhilarating crush in”El Scorcho” (where Cuomo, backed by the famous Sharp falsetto, doted above Wilson’s stilted, eye contact-avoidant beat: “Oh, the redhead said you shred the cello / And I’m jello, baby…”), now having quite literally modulated into something strange and confused and beautiful, like the wandering guitar lead that continues to wail beneath these words. They’ve become so close now that she’s left that same cello – the very one the mere thought of her playing used to make Cuomo melt, just two songs ago – in his house. (The “glowing stars” are a reference to the cheap children’s stickers this girl had put on her hugely expensive instrument – she sounds pretty cool indeed – though the more literal image of her boyfriend taking the cello up from his basement to the yard and trying to find a way to play the thing while she’s not around is of course intentional, and wonderful.)

From there, Cuomo does the self-deprecation thing better than he probably ever has (“I can’t believe how bad I suck, it’s true / What could you possibly see in lil’ ole three-chord me?” – an especially clever bit in a song that’s got roughly four times as many), before concluding: “I’m ready, let’s do it baby.” But in circumventing the traditional rock patterns to which he so readily ascribes himself, and by being so self-contradictory throughout the lyrics, it seems clear that this love is one that’s not quite right, desperate and troubled as it seems. The foreboding in these many mixed emotions seems to be confirmed with the song’s amelodic conclusion — a screaming swell of feedback that abruptly cuts out after ten tortured seconds — which sets us up for the next song, and the album’s gutting conclusion.

42 Comments

  1. allpwrtoslaves wrote:

    Possibly the only song i can think of that goes up against SIAS for my favorite song of all time.

    Wednesday, September 10, 2008 at 5:26 pm | Permalink
  2. CountChocula wrote:

    My absolute all-time favorite song ever. I really can’t say anything more than you already have. Really this song is just so perfect and captures the Pinkerton sound. And the contrast between this and Butterfly, it is just so perfect. I’m not as good with words as you, so there really isn’t much I can say to express my love of this song, but I LOVE this song so much.

    Wednesday, September 10, 2008 at 6:04 pm | Permalink
  3. PKMN Trainer Red wrote:

    Ah! I definitely will need to cut myself short on this one, or I would go on forever… Let me say that it’s a very close second for me, too (and it’s also very likely Weezer’s greatest musical accomplishment ever). Too much, too much.

    Two interesting things about the lyrics that you didn’t mention: 1) Cuomo manages to say the word “like” 5 times in the first verse (and 11 times in all), yet concludes the first verse with the line “You say ‘like’ too much.” And 2) Despite using chords based on every single note in the chromatic scale in this one song, he still refers to himself as “little old 3-chord me.”

    …And 9 years later, we get “We Are All on Drugs”.

    Wednesday, September 10, 2008 at 6:14 pm | Permalink
  4. Art Vandelay wrote:

    This one deserves to be filed in The Very Best, for sure.

    I think your entry summed up a lot of thoughts I share about the song. It’s just greatness… it has all of the compositional qualities (and intensity of performance) that make Pinkerton such a rewarding listen.

    The very end, and especially the “I’m ready let’s do it baby!” show the most effective use of amp feedback since the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Mayonaise”.

    The lyrics are very special. The fact that Cuomo followed this record up with TWO records built around asinine/generic lyrics about nothing, and still maintained a fanbase is something that boggles the mind.

    Aside from the lyrics, the musical composition is obviously far more sophisticated than much of anything Weezer has done in the last decade. It shows an ambition that completely disappeared… we started to see hints of a return this type of creativity on The Red Album, unfortunately those moments are few and far between.

    I hadn’t heard the quote about Rivers valuing BvH and FFY as his best work, but that’s certainly interesting. Could you post where you found that?

    Wednesday, September 10, 2008 at 6:14 pm | Permalink
  5. HowCoolIsThat wrote:

    Wow. That’s all I can say. Just wow.

    It never ceases to amaze me just how inifuckingcredible every single song on this album is.

    Wednesday, September 10, 2008 at 6:15 pm | Permalink
  6. ...Ournameisjonas wrote:

    This song has probably my favorite moment in any Weezer song. The Key Change in the middle of the guitar solo, where the song goes from being in the key of E to the key of G. You know, it’s THAT moment in the guitar solo. I think that’s what makes the third verse so key too! It’s that key change. He does it so subliminally. I like to ask my friends to point out the key change in the song. Not one person has done it. It’s flawless.

    Great post!

    Wednesday, September 10, 2008 at 7:53 pm | Permalink
  7. NoobcakesMcGee wrote:

    This song didn’t click with me right away, maybe due to the fact that I didn’t find the melody as catchy as say, Why Bother? or The Good Life or perhaps because I didn’t know the lyrics yet. But after truly listening to it several times later, I was just overcome with love for this song. Now I get chills every time I hear it. If Cuomo can pull another one of these out of his maddeningly inconsistent hat, I’ll forgive all of Weezer’s transgressions over the past 8 years.

    Wednesday, September 10, 2008 at 8:03 pm | Permalink
  8. GumbyTom wrote:

    Art:
    I think Rivers talking about this and BvH was from the ’06 fan interview.
    Noobcakes:
    Same with me- I’m not ashamed to admit it took me a while (a few months) to “get” FFY. Sure, I think it’s awesome now, but when Pinkerton first came out, I didn’t appreciate it for what it was.

    Wednesday, September 10, 2008 at 8:16 pm | Permalink
  9. Jonny wrote:

    Well said! Can’t do nothing but agree. 12 years on, the genius that is this song still sends them ole shivers down my spine. Every microscopic part of every vocal and instrumental delivery in this song has a meaning, the entire sonic spectrum is employed completely and perfectly during those 3 minutes & 48 seconds.

    Now, if they only let Scott sing this on stage…

    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 1:30 am | Permalink
  10. Low wrote:

    perfect post. i love this song so much and the “I’ve got a number of irrational fears that I’d like to share with you” line is the best ever. some time ago someone asked me to show him the lyrics that describe myself best, and i pointet that line out. but whole lyrics are just so fucking great. what happened that we ended up with emo-blogger-crap like “Tell me there’s some hope for me. / I don’t wanna be lonely”? eh.

    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 3:17 am | Permalink
  11. Sick Nick wrote:

    This has always been my favorite Weezer song alone with ‘The Good Life’ and I was happy to see you see the songs strengths the same as I. The “holy sweet goddamn…” portion of the song, to me aswell, is the greatest moment in Weezers career. Back in 2000 when Weezer started touring again I wanted nothing more than to hear this song in a current set but after the Lion and the Witch’s souless version I thought it was maybe better left a memory (unless they can harness that emotion again).

    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 11:42 am | Permalink
  12. John wrote:

    Great post!!!!!

    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 1:31 pm | Permalink
  13. modestmark wrote:

    it seems like the song has created a really strong image in your head, so i hope i don’t destroy it, but rather, provide insight into the song.

    i remember reading an interview a few years ago (or maybe it was a post on the RCB?) and this song is about an actual girl. rivers isn’t outdoors on a back porch or admiring actual stars.. this portion of the song takes place in the girls basement and the “glowing stars” were stickers she put on her cello.

    i wish i remembered where i read this, so i know i’m not just making this up in my head.

    does anyone else remember this?

    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 1:37 pm | Permalink
  14. tapegun wrote:

    as always, great post…and amazing timing right after BvH.

    although it doesn’t top my all time favorites as in ATS or SIAS it really does capture the ethos of the pinkerton sound.

    god, i love it.

    the korean voice, the off key singing at points and the wonderful feedback.

    no other album captures that messy, “let it all hang out” sound as well as quality of song writing. (i would nominate “in utero” but it’s not as loveable or intimate as an album as pinkerton is).

    i think it was due to falling in love with this album’s sound that made me hate any pop music due to (primarily) the sound. i have come to get over that bias now.

    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 5:30 pm | Permalink
  15. Jason-From A6 Boards wrote:

    this post was nothing short of fucking incredibly spectacular.

    and don’t even get me started on FFY.

    can we just get a big Teenage-Victory-Songs-Song-Blog electronic group hug? It’s songs like FFY that make me love you guys so much. This post seriously made me significantly happier than I was before reading it.

    Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 9:34 pm | Permalink
  16. Sick Nick wrote:

    When I was in collage many years ago I wrote a paper compareing Nevermind and In Utero to Blue album and Pinkerton. The both bare many similarities.

    Friday, September 12, 2008 at 8:09 am | Permalink
  17. tapegun wrote:

    soy – as much as cobain was great and as much as i love nirvana, he is overrated as a songwriter. although, he had a ceiling that we will never see. rivers also is a much more diverse and surprising songwriter (although I think you have to be a “hard core” fan to really know that).

    sick nick – you should just post that essay if it’s not too embarrassing. what did get on the essay?

    Friday, September 12, 2008 at 10:58 am | Permalink
  18. Martin wrote:

    I remember when it really hit me just how unbelievably brilliant the line, “Holy cow! I think I got one here.” is. I’d been waiting forever for a girl to come by that I could possibly have a chance with and then as I was walking to my English class listening to the song (I remember it vividly), just entering the hallway, the song came on and I went “OH WOW!!” It’s phenomenal, that opening line. Waiting and waiting for a girl and finally she appears, but of course, like Cuomo, I messed it up.

    “I can’t believe how bad I suck, it’s true.” Even though I liked her and she liked me, my stupidity (For all I knew she wanted me too?) caused her to get bored and split.

    His delivery on the line “Holy Moly” at 1:6(I memorized the time of it) is phenomenal.

    Monday, September 15, 2008 at 4:15 pm | Permalink
  19. Martin wrote:

    **Time at 1:16

    Monday, September 15, 2008 at 4:16 pm | Permalink
  20. Q wrote:

    They played this live in 2002. Thought it sounded really good! Got the bootleg somewhere…

    Friday, September 26, 2008 at 4:38 am | Permalink
  21. Cesar wrote:

    About the “how crappy Weezer has become onstage” — I thought their last tour was fantastic. They were really on. Elaborate?

    Tuesday, November 25, 2008 at 12:24 am | Permalink
  22. brado8 wrote:

    This song took me longer than the rest of Pinkerton to hit me as well, but now I can see it’s friggin’ fantastic. I just re-listened to it in my car and was blown away by it – again. The whole song has this sort of mean spirit to it until it gets to the solo, at which point it becomes gentler and more optomistic, all the way through the ‘holy sweet god damn’ part. Then, just when everything seems great, right back into the minor chords with ‘I can’t believe how bad I suck…’ Totally brilliant. I love this song.

    Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 2:17 am | Permalink
  23. GuessWho wrote:

    Unlike Brad, I loved Falling For You from the moment I heard that beautiful little lead guitar intro. It also contains one of the two most emotional moments on the whole album – the final verse of the song is beaten only by the “words and dreams…” segment of Across the Sea in its ability to swell up my chest and bring tears to my eyes.

    There is no doubt that the music is absolutely the best thing that Cuomo has ever composed. The way the rhythm guitar comes crashing in after the quiet intro, the feedback before the lead comes in with an aggressively strummed harmony, the stunning dueling guitar solos, and the step-and-a-half leap in key that helps to make that final verse so profoundly more emotional than the prior two (and also fills the “three-chord me” line with irony – thanks to the key shift during the solo, the song covers every chord on the chromatic scale) are just the most obvious qualities that pop in to my head. FFY is just filled to the brim with little intricacies.

    Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 4:44 pm | Permalink
  24. brado8 wrote:

    Pkmn Trainer Red pointed out the ‘uses every chord’ deal in the third comment on this song.

    Just sayin’.

    Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 5:27 pm | Permalink
  25. waitingandwaiting wrote:

    Just re-read this, what a magnificent piece of writing, worth of the song itself. Also you used my favourite word ‘juxtaposition’.

    Sunday, May 17, 2009 at 10:29 am | Permalink
  26. waitingandwaiting wrote:

    Yeah, I just hope Josh Freese isn’t a permanent feature or becomes a band member. I like my Rivers with a guitar.

    Monday, May 18, 2009 at 10:48 am | Permalink
  27. ThomYorke wrote:

    “(but give this one to Brian and I WILL storm the stage):

    I love Brian, but if I had been present for one of his Susanne performances in 08, I likely would have summoned your spirit and stormed the stage in a rage for this one too.

    Monday, May 18, 2009 at 12:26 pm | Permalink
  28. OOS wrote:

    I actually think that he did an alright job with Susanne. In any case, i’d say that the Troublemaker Tour version is my favourite arrangement of the song. Although, yeah FFY just can’t be given off.

    Monday, May 18, 2009 at 2:58 pm | Permalink
  29. clore wrote:

    Rivers definitely needs a guitar so he stops making those awkward hand gestures.

    Wednesday, May 20, 2009 at 11:17 am | Permalink
  30. ThomYorke wrote:

    Agreed, Clore.

    He’s got a real Frankenstein thing going on right now because he clearly doesn’t know what to do with himself when he doesn’t have a guitar.

    Thursday, May 21, 2009 at 10:58 am | Permalink
  31. clore wrote:

    No other songs in =w= canon have or will ever top the one-two punch that is “Falling for You” and “Butterfly.” Weezer at the pinnacle of its career indeed.

    Also, I’m surprised neither you nor anyone in the comments mentioned the nails-on-chalkboard guitar screeching at the brilliant delivery of “I’m ready, let’s do it baby!” It reinforces the schizophrenic tone to the song so well. Too well.

    As Rivers irrationally decides to commit to a relationship after second-guessing himself the whole song, the guitar EXPLODES into feedback as if it were being mutilated in a maniac manor. I always interpreted this as not only complementing Rivers’ indecisiveness — as he clearly isn’t emotionally stable for a committed relationship like he has been longing for the entirety of Pinkerton until this moment — but as foreshadowing as for what’s to come in “Butterfly.”

    I don’t know anything about murdering guitars (or living creatures, for that matter), but I’m pretty sure if guitars were alive, this is the sound one would make after being brutally tortured and seconds away from death.

    This effect is mind-numbingly beautiful, yet so painful. I think that sentence would ordinarily not make much sense in any other context, but I have a feeling everyone who understands this song knows exactly what I mean here. I get chills and cringe simultaneously — it’s extremely effective.

    Thursday, August 27, 2009 at 10:09 pm | Permalink
  32. clore wrote:

    I forgot to mention although it’s pretty obvious:

    I feel similarly to this screeching as to how you described the foreboding and indecisive ending with the suspended feedback. I think the screeching before the final “I’m shaking at your touch!” helps escalate this ending to bigger proportions, along with the nice suspended feedback that abruptly mutes at the end.

    Thursday, August 27, 2009 at 10:32 pm | Permalink
  33. clore wrote:

    Thanks, Soy. Haha, I guess I’m just too passionate about this song. =]

    Tuesday, September 1, 2009 at 7:23 pm | Permalink
  34. GuessWho wrote:

    Guest writers wouldn’t be a bad idea for those times when you’re too occupied to update, Soy.

    Wednesday, September 2, 2009 at 3:50 pm | Permalink
  35. brado8 wrote:

    ‘perhaps the single greatest moment in the Weezer discography, wherein a plaintively double-tracked Cuomo intones: “Holy sweet goddamn, you left your cello in the basement / I admired the glowing stars, and tried to play a tune.”’

    I might have to agree with you there.

    Wednesday, December 30, 2009 at 11:43 pm | Permalink
  36. Windxtravelerx wrote:

    Speaking about Pinkerton, i just found out that the girl that Rivers fell in love with, that is mentioned on the song “Pink Triangle”, wasn’t actually a lesbian,he found out that almost 1 year later after the release of “Pinkerton”. If you guys want to hear the full interview and why he thought that she was a lesbian, here’s the link. (Be aware that this is a looong interview).

    2009 Interview with Rivers Cuomo:

    http://www.npr.org/templates/player/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=99636767&m=99646414

    Interview duration : 39 minutes.

    I know that this specific subject is kinda off-topic here,but i thought that it would be nice to share this little info with other fans.
    Someone else knew that? I didn’t.

    I don’t know if it’s okay to put links here,so if you don’t like it,Soyrev,you can delete my comment or the link that i posted.

    Oh, and if you hear the interview until the end you can actually hear Rivers correcting the woman who interviewed him, only because she kept saying that he was the “Songwriter from the band Weezer”. He kinda got mad at her and said that now he just wants to be called “Rivers Cuomo,member of Weezer” rather than “Songwriter from the band Weezer”… He managed to make the woman feel embarassed… I laughed!
    I hope you guys like it.

    Friday, February 19, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Permalink
  37. noobcakesmcgee wrote:

    Just wanted to note there’s a pretty sweet live Falling For You (dueling solos!) that was just uploaded to YouTube along w/ the rest of an amazing Pink-era setlist.

    FFY: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMJp_lZEOIQ&

    Whole concert: http://www.allthingsweezer.com/forum/index.php?topic=21865.0

    Sunday, June 13, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Permalink
  38. Lams wrote:

    thanks a lot, that’s awesome. really interesting to compare that show with yesterday’s bonnaroo webcast. for one thing, matt sharp was a great presence live, yeah he does some mistakes but he’s funny (in my opinion) and energetic.

    Monday, June 14, 2010 at 9:23 am | Permalink
  39. Thegreatestscorch wrote:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMJp_lZEOIQ

    what once was…

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 7:59 pm | Permalink
  40. Thegreatestscorch wrote:

    god dammit. you can delete that last post….

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 8:00 pm | Permalink
  41. Burgess wrote:

    Since the song hasn’t been done yet, I’ll just pop in here and talk about how awesome the little counterpoint guitar melodies are on “No Other One.” MAN! And that might be my least favorite song on Pinkerton. But even on that the texture is so nice, the layers blend so well, the parts are so great… I’m glad they made this album.

    Tuesday, August 10, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Permalink
  42. Yim_yecker wrote:

    The incredible guitar screeching/feedback is one of the top reasons this recording is perfect. Legendary.

    Sunday, December 4, 2011 at 11:51 am | Permalink

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