Many moons ago a 'gentleman' who had been lucky enough to receive my affections took it upon himself to send me a Dear John letter.
Highly embarrassed and now nursing deep hurt I needed a swift solution to my suffering and decided to self medicate.
I prescribed myself a near lethal dose of Celine, Whitney, Mariah with a bottle of corner shop Cab Sauv.
If this didn't do it, what else?
The construction and production of the Power Ballad was, at the height of its popularity, a formulaic master work in emotional manipulation.
Life altering awareness and transformation could be achieved in under 4 minutes.
Defeat to victory.
Sorrow to joy.
Pessimism to hope.
Loss to love.
Unrequited passion to indifference.
I was so transfixed with the genre that I wrote many songs in this style during my adolescent years all intended for Ms Houston, but alas...
But back to the day. I needed healing and pressed play.
As is commonplace within the genre. The Introduction is a gentle, creeping foretell of the thrills to come and a variation of the chorus melody, most especially the title phrase will be played. Very important.
The featured artist will 'ooh, ahh and/or mmm' their larynx into action. 'I'm with you listener. I know your pain.' For moment you swallow your sobs and concentrate.
Close mic breathy vocals command stillness. Time to deal with your feelings.
'The past was so much better and all seemed to be going well. Now this!'
You nod in agreement and sip more wine. So true. Thank goodness somebody out there understands and had the foresight to set it to music.
You settle in, slowly surrendering your defences with each stanza. Each well placed plink and pluck of pizzicato violin mimicks the tension on your heart strings and the deliberate use of cavernous reverb over the simple piano cadences denotes the hollow space in your life now that love has gone/you are defeated/everything is a mess.
Chorus 1 formally introduces the theme of the song, whether it be a mournful I Can't Live or redemptive My Heart Will Go On.
You are now being replayed, both figaritively and literally, the melodic teaser from the introduction. It creates familiarity so that less than one minute in you now trust the lone vocal which is now a little more earnest and joined by the drums and bass both tentatively making their presence felt and buoying you up for...
More evidence to support the case. Once again you nod in agreement but then swiftly shake your head in disbelief. 'When did it start go so wrong?' Each happy memory is immediately replaced by one less so, the vocalist is more empassioned. A counter melody deftly illustrates your inner conflict. By now you should be so confused so that...
The lyrical wisdom and guidance of Chorus 2 brings back focus.
Remember why you pressed play. What did you need? 'This is the solution/ the reason.'
Backing vocalists support the lead. There is safety in numbers. The tension and release of their harmonies continue the ebb and flow assult on your harangued emotions.
Each instrumentalist intensifies their playing, digs in a little deeper and pulls from mastery of their craft. You are centered in a maelstrom of empassioned players expressions.
No space for your thoughts now. So surrender and be taken to..
Like a surprise witness to the prosecution the tale is told from a new angle musically and lyrically. There can be no doubt/no pain deeper/no going back.
What else can you do but...
Rise, redemptive with the calculated modulation of Chorus 3. Feel your soul unfurl and expand with the symphonic strings and attempt to match the singers now gymnastic vocal outpourings.
There is no more crying/hurt/shame.
There is no more wine.
Chorus 4. Once more with feeling!
You emerge refreshed, baptised by your own tears.
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