Wait: The power ballad is more than 1,000 years old?

[I associate power ballads with the preening rock bands of the 70s and 80s. Apparently, though, those acts were late to the party. This is from MelMagazine.com. – AC]

When the great chronicle of human civilization comes to be written, the 1980s will go down as the decade when we had everything in our grasp but let it all go. So many self-inflicted threats were allowed to escalate unchecked during that time, and we’re now all being forced to live with their consequences: Nuclear proliferation, global carbon emissions, free-market capitalism, and most monstrous of all, adult-oriented power ballads. It’s virtually impossible to explain exactly how the first three Promethean nightmares came about. But with the last one, as a runaway outgrowth of deeply misguided pop-culture trends, we can at least attempt to trace its origins in the hope that it will never happen again.

First off, for a culture that daily had to deal with the risk of Cold War annihilation, the popularity of a musical style desperately reaching for immortality makes a lot of sense. Traditionally, the power balladeers sing of an emotional Valhalla where flames are eternal, feelings are boundless and everything — every bloody thing that pops into their heads — has to be forever. Power ballads are pop-culture’s response to the abyss, which is probably why they’re often so abysmal.

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How did such an affected, risible, ultimately silly formula ever get to be so popular? And which needy, over-earnest songwriters should we hold directly responsible?

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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