Single Review: Sarah McLachlan “Fallen”

Fallen
Album: Afterglow
Year: 2003

In the reflective ballad “Fallen,” Sarah McLachlan’s first single in six years, she struggles to escape her sordid past.

She turns her newfound faith and asks for help to lead her through her current problems. She hopes faith will provide her with the solutions she needs to remember her former positive self. She used to be a trustworthy, honest person. However, she became greedy and joined a hard-partying crowd. Now, she doesn’t know who she is and ended up losing her dignity. (“Heaven Bend to take my hand/And lead me through the fire/Be the long awaited answer/To a long and painful fight/Truth be told I tried my best/But somewhere long the way/I got caught up in all there was to offer/But the cost was so much more than I could bear”).

She has reached rock bottom and ruined her life. She knew what would happen but did it anyway. However, she tells her family not to rub their previous advice in her face. (“Though I’ve tried I’ve fallen/I have sunk so low/I messed up/Better I should know/So don’t come round here and/tell me I told you so”).

In the second verse, she says people begin innocent and naively think that they return the person they were after dealing with numerous problems. However, she believes that the past will follow people even if they try to escape it. The scars remain and will forever be a reminder of bad judgements and costly mistakes. She no longer has the trust and the security of her family anymore. The friends she left behind for the self-destructive ones have long since moved on. People have given up on her and no matter what she tries, she knows she can’t change others’ ideals of her. (“We all begin out with good intent/When love is raw and young/We believe that we can change ourselves/The past can be undone/But we carry on our back the burdens time always reveals/In the lonely light of morning/In the wound that would not heal/It’s the bitter taste of losing everything/I’ve held so dear”).

Faith is now her only place she can start over. She doesn’t have anybody else in her life. No one wants to deal or associate with her at all. Her old friends see her but avoid her. They are ashamed to even known her. However, she knows that despite their self-righteousness they could make one regretful turn and end up like her. They, too, will find out that they can’t return to their former lives like before. (“Heaven bend to take my hand/I’ve nowhere left to turn/
I’m lost to these I thought were friends/To everyone I know/Oh they turn their heads embarrassed/Pretend that they don’t see/That it’s one wrong step one slip before you know it/And there doesn’t seem away to be redeemed”).

McLachlan’s subtle voice is easily able to convey loss and self-conciousness at the same time. The religious theme is not heavy-handed. Considering McLachlan’s spotty past in the single, religion is the only likely place she will find refuge for her pain. The superb “Fallen” is one of McLachlan’s best singles among her later work.

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