The Ballad

For me, formulas are a killer when it comes to music. Most commercial music is the product of some formula devised more to sell records, to appeal to the most people more quickly and elicit a purchase response than to create art! That is why disco was an abomination in the 70’s.

Rock ‘power’ ballads are another formula. There is something pretty funny about a band that screams and slashes and has a lead singer with an unnatural voice befitting that of a comic book villain trying to show it’s sensitive side with a ‘slow song’. Apparently most people, at least fans anyway, don’t find it funny. They buy it! That’s the idea. Rock bands routinely included ballads in their repertoire to broaden their appeal and to get airplay on top 40 radio.

Recognizing a power ballad is easy. Bass and drums are de-emphasized. Lead guitars are softer and slower in tempo or acoustic guitars are used. The vocals are softer and the lyrics are about lost love or the tortures of travel on the road.  This formula was a particular rule for 80s hair bands.  Sigh.  The 80s were an unfortunate decade.

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