Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Power Ballad Key Changes

It was a late night after my closest friends and I finished Annie's performance of Les Mis and headed to Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe in downtown Oakland.

We started to have a discussion about how the 25th Anniversary Concert of Les Mis had the best 'Bring Him Home' ever.  (Well, that's my opinion, at least.)  I said Alfie took it up like a 4th or a 5th when he came in, and Annie called me stupid and said he probably only went up a step.  Then I went on to agree that she was probably right, since that is the way things are done in power ballads.  (If you don't know anything about Les Miserables, then you should find a way to see it performed on stage.  If there was only one musical that you were to ever see, make this one be it.  Fuck Phantom.)  Amazing quartet of Jean Valjeans follows [old guy is the original, guys on the outside are the current, English JVJs, and Alfie comes in last]:

We were with two friends that, though very intelligent, don't have minors in music from Michigan like Annie and I, so they didn't quite grasp our discussion.  We went on to try and name examples.  My first guess would be that there's a Whitney Houston song with a big dramatic key change, but I couldn't think of it in 'I'll Always Love You'.  Annie, and I look at each other, obviously singing it in our heads, and we both smiled at the same time.  Yeah, it's probably the most notable key change of a power ballad ever.  About 3:10 into it, after the brilliant grand pause and a single drum beat, she returns to the chorus in a different key.  It's easiest to tell by listening at 1:57 and immediately scrolling to 3:20.  Play with the song here:

Since then, I've decided to go through some of my music and find more examples.  I listen to the cheesiest collection of music from all of those soul sisters you're picturing in your head right now:  Celine, Mariah, Christina, Groban, Clarkson, Underwood, Wonder, and a plethora of American Idol rejects.  I was actually surprised at how many of the songs I assumed change keys about 2/3 of the way through didn't.  Anyway, one that's really easy to hear is found at 3:24 of Bon Jovi's 'Livin on a Prayer' (let me be the first to apologize for '80s hair):

If none of this post made any sense to you, then don't worry about it.  This was just a chance for a few bandos to geek out.  There's another one in MJ's 'Man in the Mirror', but I'm finally bored with this.

What other songs can you find?

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