Power ballads were big business in the 1980s. Billboard reports that at least 15 power ballads rose atop the Hot 100 in 1989. Thank you Richard Marx, Phil Collins, and Mike + the Mechanics.
Even in the '90s, power ballads still made rock bands and record companies a lot of money. Aerosmith cashed in with "I Don't Want To Miss a Thing" in 1998. The song was Aerosmith's first and only No. 1 hit on the Hot 100.
Eventually, power ballads went out of style and became, to some music listeners, cliché and cheesy. Now, faster-paced music dominates today's music charts; however, power ballads will never completely disappear.
There are many ballads on today's Christian music charts--but not every ballad qualifies as a power ballad. There is a formula to putting together a great power ballad: gritty guitars, multiple instruments, drama, and genuine vocals.
Want examples? Well, I have compiled a list of 10 songs from 10 different artists and bands that fit the aforementioned criteria. One common denominator in each selected song is that the lyrics inspire the music listener in some way. Another common denominator is, of course, God. Take a look at these songs and the stories behind them.
10. "Get Me to You" by 7eventh Time Down
7eventh Time Down
embraced radio friendly rock on their debut album, Alive in You
. The Kentucky-based foursome illustrates their loyalty to God in their power ballad, "Get Me to You." Lead singer and guitarist Mikey Howard sings: "I'd climb the highest mountain for You / I'd swim the ocean, it's true / I'd come running for You / There's nothing I wouldn't do / To get me to You.
7eventh Time Down moved from radio friendly rock to adult contemporary on their sophomore album, Just Say Jesus. Since then, the band's success has increased exponentially.
9. "The Promise of a Lifetime" by Kutless
Similar to 7eventh Time Down, Kutless
has moved away from their rock roots in favor of a more adult contemporary sound. Over the years, Kutless has released an impressive lineup of power ballads including "Grace and Love," "What Faith Can Do," and "Ready for You." However, "The Promise of a Lifetime," a song from their fourth album, Hearts of the Innocent
, stands out the most. Effectively, the guitars and music arrangement amp up Kutless frontman Jon Micah Sumrall's soothing vocals to give this reflective song energy and emotion--a great recipe for any successful power ballad.
Sumrall sings: "I know you're always there / To hear my every prayer inside / I'm clinging to the promise of a lifetime / I hear the words you say / To never walk away from me and leave behind / The promise of a lifetime.
8. "Never Gone" by Colton Dixon
alum Colton Dixon
has the tools to be an effective rocker. The hard hitting, "Our Time is Now," a collaborative effort with Christian pop legend TobyMac, shows Dixon's hard side. Dixon's first hit, "Never Gone," from his debut album, A Messenger
, shows that the artist can also sing an emotional power ballad.
"Never Gone" is a song of reassurance for the broken: "We break when we fall too hard / Lose faith when we're torn apart / Don't say you're too far gone / I'm still standing here / No, I didn't disappear / Now the lights are on / See, I was never gone.
Before the release of his first album, Dixon said: "I'm definitely bringing an edge to Christian music--lyrically, and definitely musically." So far, we have "Never Gone." Let's see if Dixon can chalk up another power ballad or two on future albums.
7. "Only One" by Scott Stapp
The legendary post-grunge band Creed sold nearly 30 million albums, had 18 charted hits, and won four American Music Awards and a Grammy. However, despite the band's success story, personal issues and creative differences led to their untimely demise in 2004.
During their tenure, Creed definitely mastered the post-grunge power ballad formula with their signature hit, "With Arms Wide Open." Former Creed frontman Scott Stapp
continued to use Creed's power ballad formula on his debut album, The Great Divide
, and on his sophomore album, Proof of Life
Proof of Life
chronicles Stapp's struggle with drugs and alcohol. "Only One," the album's third single, is a power ballad that illustrates how God rests with us in the mud and rescues us when we're stuck: "Even when you feel so low like you might let go / I will be the first hand reaching out / I will be the last one giving up on you / Even when you feel your breath fading from your lungs / I will be the first hand reaching out / I will be the first, last, first, last and only one.
6. "Need You Now (How Many Times)" by Plumb
hasn't churned out rock hits in a while. As of late, she's released material that fits into the pop, dance and adult contemporary categories. Despite this pattern, she went off the map to record the highly successful power ballad, "Need You Now (How Many Times)," from the album with the same name
In this emotional power ballad, Plumb uses her beautiful voice with piano and other instruments for the verses and utilizes heavy guitars and drums to give an emotional climax in the chorus.
In an interview with NewReleaseToday's Kevin Davis, Plumb revealed that the power ballad is about her struggle with anxiety. "The song was inspired initially about an emotional ordeal I had in high school. I was taken back to a place where I struggled with anxiety, and I still have that struggle. In high school, it manifested itself through panic attacks. I would wonder why my anxiety was so overwhelming."
Plumb continues: "I pray that this song will give people struggling with any of these same issues or any of their own wounds that need to be healed, some hope and some peace."
5. "Caroline" by Seventh Day Slumber
The story of Joseph Rojas, frontman and songwriter for Seventh Day Slumber
, is one of redemption. Once a felon and drug addict, the redeemed singer has used his ministry, Seventh Day Slumber, to minister to younger listeners. In this case, the highly emotional "Caroline," a huge hit from their 2005 album, Once Upon A Shattered Life
, tackles abandonment.
In the power ballad, God talks to a woman who contemplates giving up on life. Rojas sings: "Caroline, let me wipe away your tears and give you life / Make you feel beautiful again / Caroline, don't throw it all away / I'm here tonight to take away your pain.
" This song illustrates how power ballads can be effective at reaching listeners.
Seventh Day Slumber are power ballad connoisseurs: "Oceans From the Rain," White Lion's "When the Children Cry," and "Demi Lovato's "Skyscraper" are proof of this fact.
4. "So Far Away" by RED
has many fantastic power ballads in their catalog: "Pieces," "Never Be the Same," "Breathe into Me," "Not Alone," and "Hold Me Now." However, the cream of the crop is "So Far Away," a hit from RED's 2013 album, Release the Panic
. RED puts the metal to the guitar to give the song strong emotional energy, which compliments singer Michael Barnes's sincere vocals well.
"So Far Away" has an energy about it that really draws the listener in and makes the listener feel the singer's raw emotion. To me, I think this is vital for any power ballad. RED dropped the guitars in an alternate version of "So Far Away" on their Release The Panic Recalibrated EP
3. "Everything" by Lifehouse
's "Everything" was the album closer on the band's debut album No Name Face
. Never officially released as a single, "Everything" has gained a cult following among Christian and non-Christian fans alike, touching listeners as both a love song and a worship song.
Many churches, such as GracePoint, have released skits on YouTube using this power ballad. In GracePoint's heart wrenching skit
, a youth dances with Jesus in relationship. However, the youth submits to the pressures of the world and becomes distant from her creator. Jesus tries to reach out to her, but the world keeps her distracted. Eventually, the world beats her down, but Jesus rescues her from the world's overbearing demons. The video ends like it began: The girl dancing hand-in-hand in relationship with Jesus.
The worship group Jesus Culture recorded a live version of "Everything" on their debut album with the same name in 2006. Furthermore, Colton Dixon gained attention on American Idol
by singing this power ballad. "Everything" is a beautiful song that churches can add to their Sunday morning worship. I am sure that some couples have used this song at their wedding as well.
2. "After the World" by Disciple
Imagine that you are in the presence of God. Now, imagine him saying these words to you: "I've had my eyes on you ever since you were born / I will love you after the rain falls down / I will love you after the sun goes out / I'll have My eyes on you after the world is no more.
Talk about reassurance in tough times. These heartfelt lyrics are from "After the World," an emotional power ballad from Disciple
's 2006 album Scars Remain
. The band's frontman Kevin Young sings with emotional sincerity, reassuring the listener that God is with us through life's trials and tribulation.
"After the World," released as a single in 2007, was nominated for the "Rock/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year" award at the 2008 Dove Awards.
1. "Yours to Hold" by Skillet
"Yours to Hold," a song from Skillet
's massively successful album, Comatose,
epitomizes power ballads. Any mainstream or Christian rock act aiming to achieve ballad greatness with a guitar should study this song--and other power ballads in Skillet's catalog ("Lucy," "Hard to Find," "Don't Wake Me," among others).
John Cooper--the power ballad maestro--and the rest of the crew have figured out the secret ingredient--one that they should share with other bands. In the lyrics, "Yours to Hold," appears to be someone pleading with a friend or family member to open up about their struggles. However, I perceive the lyrics to be a message from our loving creator who is pursuing and encouraging us to open up and lean on Him in time of hardship.
Similar to Disciple's "After the World," this song brings the listener closer to God. The duet version of this song, which can be found on Comatose Comes Alive
is just as emotional as the original version.
Which of these power ballads is your favorite? Which should've made the list?