Sunday, July 02, 2006

Power ballad.

I was driving my college daughter to work (she is a Membership Champion at Sam's Club--there are so many things to say about that little phrase, "Membership Champion at Sam's Club," that I think we should just think them and spare ourselves the effort) the other day, when "Incomplete," the Backstreet Boys' single from their relatively recent recording. (I think this recording is a year old at least, because I remember having a conversation with college daughter last summer about this self-same single.)

Anyway: here is a short list of stuff I hate in popular music: (1) strings backing up an (2) overheated melody with (3) cheesy love lyrics. "Incomplete" has all of these things going for it. Yet I found myself strangely compelled by the song this time around. Why? Why? I instantly identified it: the Power Ballad Syndrome.

There are certain song that just get you with an irresistible force. The soaring strings, the singer, usually a tenor singing in girl-range, bellowing without irony some utter crap about love--it creates a vortex that you get sucked into, and then before you know it, you're singing along in the car, you're figuring out the chord changes so you can play it on the piano if you're lucky enough to be alone with the piano when no one's home to laugh at you . . . It's awful and wonderful, the power ballad.

My personal favorite power ballads are "(When the) Lights (Go Out In the City)" and "Open Arms," both by Journey, and "What it Takes" by Aerosmith. I was also once in a band (which was also awful and wonderful--horrible name for the band, which I will never, even under pain of death, disclose, awful use of MIDI technology to enhance band sound, pretty much an awful set list; wonderful to sing Joan Jett and Patsy Cline, wonderful, truly, to get paid for singing). The set list included the power ballad "Everything I Do," the bad, bad song by Bryan Adams that turns out to be tons of fun, seriously, to sing. Bellowing with out irony some utter crap about love . . . is . . . awesome!

Note: theorris asks philosophically, " Who polices the blog police when the blog police don't blog?" Thank you for noticing, theorris. I hope this post answers the question, if obliquely.


  1. When is karaoke? I didn't realize that you were actually qualified, as a professional. You'll have to forgive those of us who are merely (terrible) shower singers.

  2. It answers it directly, I think.

    Does anyone recall with remote fondness (aside from Dr. Write) the stirring power ballads of the hair bands of the late 80s?

    Does anyone recall the mullet wedding dress from Guns n' Roses "Sweet November Rain." If I ever had a wedding, I will demand my bride to wear that dress.

    I will be happy to dress as Axl Rose did too.

  3. what was that one with the whistling at the end? I loved that one. I spent many nights at Taco Bell listening to power ballads and other heavy metal selected by my stoner co-workers. Can't remember any of it, though.

  4. lis, you worked at Taco Bell? Why haven't you blogged about this? We all must share our fast food narratives. Sleepy E and I have Sizzler stories.

    As to lisa b, she must sing some Journey at karaoke. Must.

  5. "Winds of Change," the Scorpions. My daughter knew it, because they used the song at her high school to accompany the crazy induction ceremony they had for new student body officers.

  6. oh yes, "Winds of Change." how could I forget?



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