What is a ballad? You know one when you hear it, right? And yet ballads are weirdly difficult to pin down: Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" is a ballad, but so is Mötley Crüe's "Home Sweet Home." This slipperiness might go some way to explaining why they've maintained their hold on us for the past sixty years. From Elvis’s "Blue Moon" to Drake’s "Marvins Room," we can’t seem to shake our need for a good ballad.
In this episode, we talk to UBC professor and music historian David Metzer about his new book, The Ballad in American Popular Music: From Elvis to Beyoncé, and discuss how we define ballads, how they change with the times, and why they continue to grab us.
Want to hear more of the music from this episode? Prof. Metzer has put together a playlist of his favourite ballads for your listening pleasure.