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Power ballad

From Academic Kids

Power ballad is the name given to a certain genre of songs that were frequently included on heavy metal albums in the 1980s. These songs often explored various sentimental themes such as yearning and need, love and loss. In their generally confessional nature they were positioned as oppositional to metal's more usual lyrical themes of hedonism, violence, or the occult.

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. 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 power ballad aesthetic.

Power ballads were often crafted in hope of scoring a Top Forty hit, sometimes at the insistence of a record company and written only grudgingly by band members. At the same time, power ballads, like much of 80s culture when viewed in more recent years, have taken on a special kind of resistent authenticity that would seem to go against the idea that they were pushed onto bands by record labels. Witness, for instance, a line from VH1's advertising copy (http://www.vh1.com/shows/dyn/the_greatest/66390/episode_about.jhtml) for its top-25 countdown show on power ballads: "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 song. 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.

The popularity of power ballads escalated with early 80s Pop/Rock bands like REO Speedwagon ("Keep On Loving You," "Can't Fight This Feeling"), Journey ("Open Arms," "Faithfully"), and Styx ("Lady," "Don't Let it End"), and remain particularly associated with bands that played hair metal. Later development of the style in the mid- and late-80s is exemplified by Mötley Crüe's "Home Sweet Home," Dokken's "Alone Again," Van Halen's "Love Walks In," The Scorpions' "Still Loving You," Poison's "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," Night Ranger's "Sister Christian," Aerosmith's "Angel," and Cinderella's "Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)." For some artists generally associated with the 1970s, the power ballad was also responsible for reviving their careers in the following decade. Examples include Cheap Trick ("The Flame") and Heart ("These Dreams").

Occasionally, the term "power ballad" is applied more generally to any rock song which starts slow and quiet, and builds up gradually to a powerful, climactic end. Examples include Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven," Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird," and Aerosmith's "Dream On." This usage is far less common, however, and may be a retroactive application of the genre's name.


VH1's Top 25 Power Ballads

  1. Open Arms - Journey
  2. I Don't Want to Miss a Thing - Aerosmith
  3. Beth - KISS
  4. With Arms Wide Open - Creed
  5. I'll Be There for You - Bon Jovi
  6. November Rain - Guns N' Roses
  7. Every Rose Has Its Thorn - Poison
  8. Love Bites - Def Leppard
  9. Sister Christian - Night Ranger
  10. Is This Love - Whitesnake
  11. Nothing Else Matters - Metallica
  12. Home Sweet Home - Mötley Crüe
  13. Again - Lenny Kravitz
  14. Keep on Loving You - REO Speedwagon
  15. I Remember You - Skid Row
  16. How You Remind Me - Nickelback
  17. These Dreams - Heart
  18. Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone) - Cinderella
  19. Only God Knows Why - Kid Rock
  20. Love Song - Tesla
  21. Silent Lucidity - Queensr˙che
  22. Still Loving You - The Scorpions
  23. It's Been Awhile - Staind
  24. When It's Love - Van Halen
  25. Close My Eyes Forever - Lita Ford, w/Ozzy Osbourne

See Also

List of power ballads

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