March 11, 2008

Bipolar Ballads

We've all heard that sappy 1982 Chicago hit "Hard to Say I'm Sorry/Get Away."  This adult contemporary gem starts off as a fairly melancholy love song and then at the four minute mark it segues into this strikingly more upbeat pseudo-rock anthem.  This song got me thinking, is there an entire micro-genre of music out there awaiting my discovery?  Let's call them bipolar ballads--tunes with drastic changes in tempo.  I was now on the prowl, what other schizophrenic ditties could I dig up?



I kept my ear to the ground, and I was serenaded by none else than rhythm and blues singer/songwriter Lionel Richie crooning 1985's "Say You Say Me."  If you can't help but picture Mikhail Baryshnikov strutting his stuff in a unitard when you hear this you aren't alone, it was featured on the soundtrack of one of my favorite Cold War era films "White Nights" (by the way, my favorite is "Red Dawn").  "Say You Say Me" takes an interesting spin on the bipolar ballad.  Namely, slow power ballad, jarringly interrupted by 15 seconds of pop confection, with a somewhat smoother transition back to said power ballad.


Now two songs do not constitute a micro-genre.  There had to be more!  Um, there are.  Allison and I finally wedded our musical collections about six months after we wedded ourselves to one another.  I love listening to my music on shuffle, so songs from the Allison music vaults come up with regularity.  On one of these occasions "Dancin'" from the infamous 80s film flop Xanadu started to pipe through my speakers.  Now this is a bipolar ballad in need of some serious psychotropics.  It's big band and then it's 80's rock and then it's big band and then it's 80's rock and then you're on the couch in need of a cold compress.  Fittingly, with the opening of Xanadu on Broadway, the soundtrack to this Olivia Newton-John career-killer is currently reregistering (at least minimally) on the national consciousness. 


Whenever I make a list I always feel good once it has three members, but there are a couple other songs I'd like to quickly deem BBs (bipolar ballads).  One that's more firmly enveloped within my musical tastes is Radiohead's "Paranoid Android."  Thom Yorke, lead singer of the band even admitted that it, "really started out as three separate songs and [they] didn't know what to do with them."  Allison has a contribution too, Led Zeppelin's "Fool in the Rain."  I want to hear more though.  So if you know a BB please let me know--they must not be forgotten! 

9 comments:

Emily S. said...

whoa! White Nights! I haven't thought about that for a long time. "Rubles, rubles..."

Renee said...

I knew this was a Ted post from the opening line. It's nice to see you taking another spin on the cooling rack!! I was just thinking about this very topic the other day when a weird h bb came on the radio, but now, for the life of me, I can't remember what it was. I'll have to think on it and get back to you. I have a feeling I'm now going to be obsessed!

Renee said...

Guns'n'Roses "November Rain" is all I've been able to come up with so far. It's a classic. I'll let you know what others soon pop into my bitty head.

Allison said...

I totally forgot about GnR! And me such a hair-bands-with-freaky-lead-singers fan!

Brittany said...

I don't know anything about music, but Baryshnikov's eleven-rotation pirouette in White Nightsis amazing. I bought the movie just for that.

Renee said...

Band on the Run (Paul McCartney & the Wings) might be the ultimate bipolar ballad (yes, I'm still thinking about this). It's really like 3-4 songs in one with weird transitions. Take a listen...don't you think??

Emily said...

I'm Sailing Away/Come Sail Away by Styx. (Don't know if that's the offical title, who cares :) ). That's one that comes to mind without further thought, but I'm asking my dad, he loves thinking about things like this. I definitely think this was an 80's phenomenon, along with 2-4 minute instrumental intros/endings to songs. I got on this blog to see why you want your old life back, so far haven't found out . . .

Allison said...

Great additions, Renee and Emily. You're right about both of them. I had actually heard "Band on the Run" on the radio one day and tried to remember to add it to the list, but alas. I did think of another one, though: "Jesus is Just Alright With Me" by the Doobie Brothers. Crazy tempo change on that one, again for the instrumental section.

Emily said...

No one will look at this I'm sure because it's an "older post", but I finally chatted with my dad about the question yesterday and he immediately spit out Day in the Life (Beatles), Bohemian Rhapsody, and Stairway to Heaven. As predicted, he's excited to think about the topic, so even if no one reads this I have a happy daddy. We also debated as to whether or not We Will Rock You/We are the Champions counts - most often played together, but two separate tracks . . .

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