At first, Paloma Faith wanted nothing to do with a Diane Warren song. When first approached by the songwriter with a song she said was written for her, the British singer and actress initially turned the legendary songwriter down. “I was approached by lots of people telling me this legendary songwriter Diane Warren wants to write with you,” Faith recalls to American Songwriter, “but I don’t have people write with me because I’m stubborn.”
After finally Googling Warren, Faith realized the depth of Warren’s work—Cher’s 1989 hit “If I Could Turn Back Time,” and soundtrack hits like “Because You Loved Me” from Up Close & Personal, “How Do I Live” from Con Air, “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” from Armageddon—and wanted to meet her, even though she had no intention of working with her. “I looked her up and it was unreal,” admits Fatih, who has also starred on UK TV, including as a judge on The Voice UK and the 2009 Terry Gilliam film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. “I thought I wanted to meet her anyway, even if I don’t work with her, because she’s so incredible.”
Working on her third album A Perfect Contradiction, Faith was adamant about not singing a song she didn’t write until Warren reached out with a soulful “Only Love Can Hurt Like This,” which has since found a resurgence on TikTok nearly a decade after its release and gave Faith her first No. 1 hit.
Recorded in Los Angeles, “Only Love Can Hurt Like This” was released on A Perfect Contradiction in 2014 and peaked at No. 6 in the UK and No. 1 in Australia before reemerging and blowing up on TikTok in early 2022.
To date, the original and 2022 releases of a slowed-down version of “Only Love Can Hurt Like This,” combined, have reached nearly 300 million streams on Spotify, 105 million views on YouTube, and half a million TikTok creations, and climbing.
Grateful for taking the call from Warren, Faith remembers her first conversation with the songwriter. “She called me up, and she’s got this amazing personality,” shares Faith. “She called and said ‘I’ve written a song for you,” and I said I really don’t sing songs written by other people.’ Then she said ‘What if it’s a fucking hit?”
Thankfully, Warren persisted and continued pushing the song on Faith. “I said ‘keep an open mind. This song could change your life,’” remembers Warren. “I’ve been like that with artists, even Cher. I literally had to hold Cher’s leg down in the studio just to try and get her to sing ‘If I Could Turn Back Time.’ I know when a song can impact someone and change their life. I just know it, and I knew it when I heard Paloma. I knew this song would take her to the next level.”
Warren adds, “I loved Paloma. She has pain in her voice. I love singers with pain in their voice.”
Playing the song for Faith on the phone, Warren remembers Faith hanging up on her and immediately emailing her back. “She said ‘I’m booking my flight to LA,’” says Warren. “I love the song.”
Upon hearing it, Faith said she immediately knew the melody and feeling she needed to convey in the song. “It really appealed to me, because I’ve always been very into that sort of retro vintage-style of music,” says Faith. “She [Warren] was like, ‘so what do you say,’ and I said ‘This is what I think. I think fuck you,” and she said, ‘I can tell by the way you’re talking to me, we’re gonna get on really well, and we’re gonna have a hit with this song.’”
“Only Love Can Hurt Like This” was waiting for Faith. Warren had the song for some time but didn’t know who its singer was just yet until she heard Faith. “I tend to write songs and I have no idea who they’re for, and sometimes those are my best songs,” says Warren. “It’s like writing a script and not knowing who the actor is. I knew it was a great song, but I didn’t know who was the right voice for it and then someone played me Paloma, and I knew she was meant to sing this song.”
Still not clear on how the track went viral on TikTok and recreated in sports, film, and dozens of other scenes using the song as the soundtrack, Faith jokes “I didn’t do anything.’ She adds, “I didn’t even know how to use TikTok. Then people were telling me ‘You’re quite big on TikTok.’”
The timeless subject matter is what Faith says new fans appeal to most. “I think that’s what she [Diane Warren] does best,” says Faith. “That’s what she excels in, music that carries across generations. It’s relative, but I do think that you know when you’re in love, and it can still hurt. And when you’re out of love it hurts. That’s the beauty and the genius behind Diane Warren’s songwriting.”
Warren adds, “The song just sounds like a classic. When we made that record, it had this girl group feel to it yet it was modern. I think the emotion of the song is still timeless, even just saying ‘only love can hurt like this.’ I mean, who hasn’t been hurt by love?”
Only when Warren heard that Kelly Clarkson performed it during her Kellyoke segment on her TV show did she realize the magnitude of the song. “I was like, ‘how does Kelly Clarkson know this song,’” laughs Warren. “Then I realized it’s this giant TikTok hit. Paloma hasn’t broken America yet. I wish they would rerelease it here and break her here with it.”
Working together again, Warren wrote for Faith two more times since “Only Love Can Hurt Like This,” on the single “Leave While I’m Not Looking” and “The Crazy Ones,” featured in the 2015 comedy romantic comedy Miss You Already. Faith also sings “Blessings,” off Warren’s 2021 release Diane Warren: The Cave Sessions Vol. 1.
In February 2022, Faith released a slowed-down version of “Only Love Can Hurt Like This,” which continues to soar on TikTok and streaming platforms alongside the original.
“A great song can be done in a million different ways, in different tempos,” says Warren. “If the foundation is there, you can do all kinds of stuff to it, and the song is still going to be great.”
Photo: Paloma Faith (Sony); Diane Warren (Erik Melvin)