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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Kassel

"I'll Never Fall in Love Again" is Bacharach and David at their collaborative best

And Dionne Warwick's light, polished vocal performance takes the onetime show tune to the next level.

Alright, let's get back to the music. By that I mean, let's get out of the lyrically analytical weeds in which I've found myself the past few days and really get back to enjoying a song for what it is instead of tearing it apart.

In looking through the various tracks I've chosen those far — all 222 of them — I was shocked when I realized I had yet to feature a Burt Bacharach and Hal David composition. One of the premiere songwriting duos of the mid-century, Bacharach's easy-on-the-ears, yet sophisticated productions feature jazz-inclined harmonies, sometimes eclectic light orchestration, and a freer approach to time that sees beats and measures added or removed to fit the lyrical scheme. Said lyrics from David tend to be on the lovelorn side, leaning into a wistfulness that optimally welds his and Bacharach's musical negotiations.

I essentially had the pick of the litter when it came to which Bacharach/David collaboration I wanted to discuss, but after a good deal of thinking, I landed on "I'll Never Fall in Love Again." I don't know what it is about this one, but it's always been a track toward which I've had curiosity. It isn't their most well-known composition, but there's no denying it's an established one.

What I didn't know until investigating for this post was that "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" began its life as a show tune, having been a late addition into the Tony-winning musical Promises, Promises. In that show, it's a duet between its leads (originally Jill O'Hara and Jerry Orbach), but in its pop-release form, it's a solo endeavor, and I think that better suits David's lyrical theming. And who better to cut a version than the masterful Dionne Warwick, who had already found success working with Bacharach and David? Warwick's restraint is what stands out to me about her performance, matching the level of the instrumental and helping stylistically join the two.

Even if I didn't know this particular song, I could tell it's a Bacharach and David tune soon as I listened to a few seconds. The soft acoustic guitar and drum rim clicks would cue me in enough, but it's the horn on the second beat that would make me 100% sure. The French horn, which might be muted, fits the writers' style very well between its clarity, its dulcet tone, and its being a less usual choice for a pop melody. The piano's jazzy touch adds a playfulness to a tune that uses it to make its verse its catchiest point.

Interestingly, the verse also happens to be where Bacharach works his time magic. Warwick's pristine singing — whoever knew a rhyme about pneumonia could be so beautifully delivered? — is so easy to follow that one may not realize its timing is on the stranger side. Not only is the first section of the verse (before the title statement) six measures, but the second is... 7.5. Well, correctly put, the fifth of eight measures in that portion is a bar of 2/4. If I were a casual listener and not a trained musician, or had I not come to expect such an oddity, I might not have ever noticed it in the first place. That's an accomplishment, to so seamlessly integrate unconventional elements into a pop song and for it to still be as big a hit as it was — a top-10 if not chart-topper across the world, and part of a Grammy-winning album of the same name for Warwick.

There's general conventionality in the string-laden choruses, but that's more than fine. If you make every section of a track weird, it tends to not stick the landing. There's a reason why certain pop music trends have stuck around for more than a half-century; it's because they work, and they're such cornerstones of the genre that to do away with all of them at once would be too much for the masses. What I appreciate so much about Bacharach and David is that they knew just how far they could push things in their distinctive style while still churning out beloved pieces. They made falling in line fun by coloring outside said lines just enough.

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