Ballads are often among the bestselling songs of heavy metal and hard rock bands. Within these genres, ballads represent a way to address emotions such as love that are not part of the primary self-understanding of those genres. Still, “genre ideals and style” often seem to be at odds with the sentimental aesthetics of the ballad and its emotional expression and experience. In this article, we take a close look at the sonic, textual, performative, visual, and emotional-somatic articulation of love and the generation of sentimentality in three selected metal ballads. Even if the term “power ballad,” which is often used in reference to hard rock and metal ballads, refers to the simultaneity of “heaviness” in the sound and the thematization of love in the lyrics, sentimental ballads in the stereotypically more masculine-connotated genres nevertheless create friction and skepticism in their discursive evaluation, as they generate aesthetic discrepancies between concrete songs and genre conventions. Their quantitative popularity contrasts with their qualitative evaluation. Therefore, in a second step, we analyze the reception of the selected ballads, in particular their discursive evaluations in music reviews, in order to point out the ways of argumentation through which frictions are established. As a result, we show that evaluations are related to how love is addressed in the songs and to the extent of proximity of the ballads to genre rules.
Nink, Theresa, and Florian Heesch. 2023. "Metal Ballads as Low Pop? An Approach to Sentimentality and Gendered Performances in Popular Hard Rock and Metal Songs" Arts 12, no. 1: 38. https://doi.org/10.3390/arts12010038