Wednesday, March 09, 2011


I wondered before about the generic characteristics of a power ballad.  But now I am wondering about another genre of popular song.  I'm not sure it has a name so I'm going to christen it  'sentimental rock'.  Elbow are very good at it.  Here are two examples:

'One Day like This' from The Seldom Seen Kid (2008)

And 'Lippy Kids' from Build a Rocket Boys (2011).

Other examples to my mind will include:

'Shipbuilding', particularly as done by Robert Wyatt
'Nothing Lasts Forever' by Echo and the Bunnymen
perhaps even Bowie's 'Heroes' or Peter Gabriel's 'Solsbury Hill'.

Do these have anything in common?   I'm not sure, but I do think there's a family resemblance here.  Perhaps it will involve some or all of: An emphasis on a sentimental lyrical theme, a general earnestness of delivery, an arrangement that often builds into a surging anthemic chorus or refrain, a sense of nostalgia or loss (often with reference to childhood), the sense of using a particular personal recollection to signify something more general and universally significant.

I don't think it is a particularly masculine genre but I'm finding it more difficult to think of examples with female vocalists.  Any suggestions?


John S. Wilkins said...

I suggest Angus and Julia Stone, "For the boys". Also I would call it "Wistful Rock"...

Matthew Duncombe said...

German already has a name for this genre: 'Cuddle Rock'. Adorable or what?

Carol said...

I'm not sure that 'Shipbuilding' is a good fit with your proposed genre - isn't it usually seen as a pretty acerbic protest song?

James Warren said...

Carol: it's more complicated than that, isn't it? I thought it was expressing the mixture of thoughts involved: the optimism that the war will bring more work, anger for that reason at anti-war protests, the deaths involved in ship construction and the deaths that the finished ships will produce. Sure, you're right that it's not pro-war, but it seems to me to recognise that there is a cost involved in not building warships too. No new winter coat, no bike on the boy's birthday...