• Maggie Neuman

Ballads that don't suck

Generally speaking, I really don’t like slow songs. I turn to music to lift my mood and slow songs unfortunately tend to have the opposite effect. I personally enjoy when music sounds very upbeat and happy but has deep and dark lyrical undertones. As a result, when I find a ballad I like, it is very special. Here are five ballads that I think don’t suck.

1. Monsoon by Hippocampus

If I’m honest, this song is really sad but that’s not surprising because Nathan from the band wrote it about his sister’s death. The song talks about how the grief is actually not like a monsoon and isn’t overwhelming like one might expect. One of the prevailing lyrics, “It should’ve been me” reveals the reality of what one feels from the death of a loved one. Musically, the song also conveys a lot of emotion which I think any good ballad should do. The song begins without percussion and throughout the first minutes, builds to the first beat drop where the song picks up a bit. The vocals are a bit stronger at this point as well and continue as such until the song slows down again and fades away to nothing. The reason that I think this ballad doesn’t suck is because it doesn’t shy away from sadness and strong emotions. It embraces the sadness and finds the beauty in emotions.

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2. Heaven’s Gate by Fall Out Boy

This fantastic song opens with some soulful belting from Patrick Stump which felt humorous as it reminded me of the "Drunk History of Fall Out Boy” told by Brendon Urie. This song feels a bit nostalgic to me as it is very reminiscent of the ballads that I used to play in jazz band. The chords are very bluesy which again conveys that emotion that ballads are so great at. The religious tones in this song also do a lot for me as someone who grew up with religion. The church bells leading into the chorus help create that tone along with the lyrics which focus on making it into heaven to find love. Having the lighter piano in the beginning and end and the strong builds in the middle with guitars and percussion allow for Patrick’s voice to shine. This song is unbelievably beautiful and sad which again is what I look for in ballads.

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3. Ego Loss on Grand River Avenue by Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers

The best adjective that I have to describe this song is authentic. Joe Hertler writes music about life in such a way that it truly connects to the listeners and evokes a lot of emotions. Hertler is also a Michigan native so of course we ought to support him for that. As for this song, the structure is quite unique by stringing together many verses with a bridge towards the end and lacking any chorus. The song describes what it means to be a person and that we can be good no matter who we are since we are all different. It begins with just Joe singing and playing acoustic guitar but builds to include an orchestra, brass section, and percussion at the peak when there is the most emotion. This song is truly beautiful and definitely worth giving a listen along with the rest of Joe Hertler’s music.

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4. Dancing on the Grave by Passion Pit

I am not the best at analyzing the meaning of lyrics or poetry which is about to become blaringly obvious as I attempt to explain what I think this song is about. “Dancing on the Grave” I think is about trying to find beauty and happiness in life though it can be horrible and dark. In some ways, this song feels like a cry for help where it asks for help in finding light in life. However, though the subject transitions between “I” and “we” throughout the song, in the end, the singer says, “I can’t stay here” which I suppose is meant to say that the darkness was too overwhelming and the singer can’t stay on earth. This song is incredibly sad lyrically but has some interesting instrumentals to go along with the sad lyrics. There are sparse drum and xylophone beats and steady orchestral sounds throughout the song until the end when they fade away into what sounds like a staticky radio and ocean waves. I feel like all of us can use a good cry right now because of quarantine and this is a great song to do so to.

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5. Always by Rex Orange County

After some very sad songs, I am glad to say that this last song is actually not very sad at all. This one doesn’t even feel all that slow believe it or not! However, “Always” is incredibly bluesy and features many jazz instruments and forlorn vocals to accompany lyrics about personal growth or a lack thereof. Much like the other songs on Rex Orange County’s album Pony, this song is really about achieving growth through the help of others. In this song, Rex claims that he will stay the same until somebody helps him change for the better which is something we all can relate to in some capacity. I’m sure my background playing in jazz band is part of what drew me to this song and Rex Orange County in general but regardless I can’t recommend this song and his music enough.

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I hope that everyone is surviving this quarantine okay. Just know that any feelings you have right now are valid and that there is no need to use this situation as an opportunity to achieve anything great. If surviving is all that is possible right now, just do that and know that it’s okay. And if you do want to wallow in a little bit of sadness right now, I think these songs are a good way to do it.

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