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Power ballad

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Power ballad

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Power ballad is the name given to a certain genre of songs that were frequently included on arena rock, hard rock and heavy metal albums in the 1970s and 1980s though the style has evolved into more modern forms since.

These songs often explored various sentimental themes such as yearning and need, love and loss. In their generally confessional nature they were positioned as atypical to metal's more usual lyrical themes of hedonism, violence, or the occult. The term power ballad is a misnomer, as they are not ballads at all but are typically love songs. In the years when record companies first considered the marketability of power ballads, they probably figured that the phrase power ballad was more accessible and appealing than the phrase metal love song.



Typically, a power ballad begins with a soft keyboard or acoustic guitar introduction. Heavy drums and distorted electric guitars don't enter into the arrangement until, perhaps, the chorus or even later in the song, in the more modern takes (Such as Creed's "With Arms Wide Open" or Evanescence's "My Immortal"). The electric guitar parts usually take the form of simple root/fifth chords which sustain until the next chord change, but screaming, melodic guitar solos are also important markers of this genre. The interplay throughout the arrangement between "clean" timbres and distorted ones is crucial to the creation of emotional tension in the power ballad aesthetic.


Power ballads came into popularity initially at the insistence of a record company in hope of scoring a Top Forty hit and in the genre's formative years, were written only grudgingly by band members. However in recent years, power ballads have been re-imagined (as has much of 1980s culture) as something "authentic" rather than something "manufactured" (i.e. pushed onto bands by record labels). For instance, VH1's advertising copy for its top-25 countdown show on power ballads states: "These bands had a fantastic sense for what their fans wanted. In most cases their record labels and managers didn't want them to do these songs." In any event, power ballads were often a band's most (or only) commercially successful songs. Because of the perceived superficiality of their sentiment, though, power ballads were consistently despised by music critics, who rejected the way metal musicians actively borrowed the musical codes normally reserved for more "authentic" styles of rock.

An important precursor for the form was The Carpenters' "Goodbye to Love" single in 1972, which featured a fuzz-tone screaming guitar solo (by Tony Peluso) in the middle of a Middle of the road vocal.

Power ballads originated in the 1970s with arena rock bands like Styx, Boston, REO Speedwagon and Journey; it also existed in contributions from the exponents of Power Pop. Indeed, early examples of power ballads would be Don't Wanna Say Goodbye by the Raspberries from its 1972 album The Raspberries, and Styx's "Lady" from its 1973 album Styx II. As a solo artist, Raspberries lead singer and chief songwriter Eric Carmen created the #2 hit All By Myself in 1976, which was subsequently covered by artists such as Shirley Bassey, Celine Dion, and El Divo.

Later development of the style from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s is exemplified by Scorpions' "Still Loving You", Dokken's "Alone Again"; Skid Row's "I Remember You"; Night Ranger's "Sister Christian"; Mötley Crüe's "Home Sweet Home"; Cinderella's "Nobody's Fool" and "Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)"; Guns N' Roses' "Don't Cry"; Whitesnake's "Slow and Easy" and "Is This Love"; White Lion's "Wait"; Great White's "Rock Me", "Save Your Love", "The Angel Song" and "House of Broken Love"; Van Halen's "Love Walks In"; Poison's "Every Rose Has Its Thorn"; Extreme's "More Than Words"; Aerosmith's "Angel"; and Warrant's "I Saw Red". For some 1970s arena rock artists, the power ballad was also responsible for helping to revive their careers in the 1980s; examples include Heart's "These Dreams" and Cheap Trick's "The Flame".

The term "power ballad" is still used to this day in reference to songs such as Avril Lavigne's "I'm with You", Lifehouse's "Hanging by a Moment", Velvet Revolver's "Fall to Pieces", Kelly Clarkson's "Because of You", Nickelback's "Someday", Slipknot's "Vermillion Pt. 2", Stone Sour's "Bother", Black Label Society's "In This River", and Staind's "It's Been a While". Even thrash bands like Metallica had a few with "Nothing Else Matters", "The Unforgiven", "Fade to Black" and "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)"; Testament's "The Ballad", Metal Church's "Watch the Children Pray", and Pantera with "Cemetery Gates" and "This Love".

Present Use

Occasionally, the term power ballad is applied more generally to earlier rock songs which start slowly and quietly and then gradually crescendo to a powerful, climactic end. This usage is far less common, however, and seems to be a retroactive application of the genre's name to pre-1980s album-oriented rock songs such as Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven," Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird," and Aerosmith's "Dream On", which vaguely fit the power ballad aesthetic.

Generally, a power (or rock) ballad is considered suitable for slow dancing because of its slow beat.

VH1's top 25 power ballads

Open Arms - Journey
I Don't Want to Miss a Thing - Aerosmith
Beth - KISS
With Arms Wide Open - Creed
I'll Be There for You - Bon Jovi
November Rain - Guns N' Roses
Every Rose Has Its Thorn - Poison
Love Bites - Def Leppard
Sister Christian - Night Ranger
Is This Love - Whitesnake
Nothing Else Matters - Metallica
Home Sweet Home - Mötley Crüe
Again - Lenny Kravitz
Keep on Loving You - REO Speedwagon
I Remember You - Skid Row
How You Remind Me - Nickelback
These Dreams - Heart
Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone) - Cinderella
Only God Knows Why - Kid Rock
Love Song - Tesla
Silent Lucidity - Queensr˙che
Still Loving You - Scorpions
It's Been Awhile - Staind
When It's Love - Van Halen
Close My Eyes Forever - Lita Ford with Ozzy Osbourne

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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