Here is the first of our series which will break down the musical make up of certain genres to give you a glimpse of the inner workings of what makes a song so blooming fantastic.
BEHOLD – the serenading secrets of Celine Dion and Whitney Houston are laid bare before your very eyes.
#1 – The Epic Ballad
Spanning genres, decades, artists and nationalities like no other subject, the love song is the failsafe of crooners, balladers, soul divas, rock and rollers and beyond. A love song can reflect one of the multifarious faces of love: unrequited, yearning love; satisfied, loved-up love or ruinous, all-consuming breakup love. Musically, a love song can inhabit reggae, pop-punk, hard rock or a straight down the line 3-minute slice of chart pop – and all styles in between.
However, over the years certain love song tropes have established themselves in the collective consciousness. Prime among these styles is the epic ballad – think Mariah Carey (via Harry Nilson) in the early 90s telling you that she can’t live if living is without you, or Foreigner instructing us that they want to know what love is, and furthermoretheywant us to show them.
Key elements of the epic ballad style:
Slow dance, slow groove, slow-dance at the school disco with someone you’ve had a crush on all year. Got it? Bonus points available for being written in a 6/8 time signature.
Think 80s: DX7 Rhodes, strings, big drums (like, canon-explodingly big snare drum big), windmill guitar power chords.
Generally on the side of ‘don’t leave me, I’m down on my knees’. Gut-wrenching. The break-up love song is invariably of this ilk, and will use whatever it can to force its point home: string sections, key changes, drums that sound like they were recorded in an aircraft hangar. Do what you can in order to get across the torment.
‘I Have Nothing’, Whitney Houston
‘Hard To Say I’m Sorry’, Chicago
‘Without You’, Harry Nilson
‘If You Could See Me Now’, Celine Dion
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