The Gospel: After The Love Is Gone...The Vanishing Act Of The Big Ballad

Friday, June 19, 2009

Otis Redding claimed that we should "try a little tenderness", but that was almost over 40 years ago, and now tenderness in 2009's musical repertoire symbolizes a SOS brillo pad. The tenderness I'm talking about is the affectionate, sorrowful, conflicting and power found in a soaring ballad. A ballad that gave you chills, made you warm, and torn all in one go. A composition that was sung brilliantly by a vocalist who knew in his or her own way how to dive right in and tug at those heart strings. Think in terms of: Toni Braxton's "Unbreak My Heart", Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work", Stevie Wonder's "Ribbon In The Sky", Seal's "Kiss From A Rose" and Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" etc. What exactly happened to ballads that were so big, that they seemed to engulf the room? Maybe I should be more clear about what exact type of ballads I'm discussing as there is a difference between a ballad and a "slow jam". Ballads, to me, seem softer and tend to grow as the song progresses, some ballads are acoustic delivery, while others have orchestral elements that result in a "big" sound. Ballads tend to be more personal, almost like a diary entry come to life, but in '09, have we stopped becoming all "touchy-feely"? Are people too cool for ballads now? Have we stopped putting our heart's on our sleeve and resorted to slashing it to bits instead? What gives?
For a ballad to capture my attention, its has something special. Something that just gives me that spine tingling chill whenever the vocalist hits a chord or expresses a lyric. There are many ballads that have done so. Janis Ian's "In The Winter" pains my heart, while Diana King's "Still" is getting wedged into my wedding's play list one day, and though John Mayer's personal attributes are detestable, his song "Gravity" touched me like a soft warm hand. Then there are artists like Angela Bofill (see picture), who alongside, Anita Baker, and the late Luther Vandross and Phyllis Hyman built their careers on their ballads, and if whenever the mood strikes, these singers are first to get played. So where have all the ballads gone on the radio? On the charts? I assume they are there on the albums, but why aren't they being promoted like they were years ago? Once again, I have many questions but no definite answer.

1 comment:

  1. Touching ballad.. hmm, you really ought to listen to Dina Caroll - Don't Be A Stranger!

    I think Leona Lewis has done nothing yet but big sloppy ballads, even if they are anti-climatic and mariah wannabe..

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