with reporting by Jocelyn Vena
When our girl Beyonce's latest album 4 dropped, we were torn over the amount of ballads on the set. At first, we weren't sure we were into it. King Bey's got a fantastic voice and we've always loved her ballads in the past ("Listen" is a personal fave), but an album dominated by slow jams seemed like overkill. The songs have all since grown on us and we wouldn't dare change a thing about Bey's album. It's perfection.
Looking over reviews of the album, we realized that just about every critic commented on the volume of ballads on 4, so we weren't alone in our knee-jerk reaction to Beyonce's album. But we couldn't help but wonder why? Sure, there are a lot of ballads in there and it merits mention, but the few middling reviews the acclaimed album received were less critical of the songs themselves and more of Beyonce for opting for tearjerkers over club bangers.
That's when we realized that – with the notable exception of Adele's 21 – pop albums have moved away from ballads to the point where if more than one or two appear on a set it's noteworthy. Dance songs rule the radio, and while pop princesses like Rihanna and Katy Perry carefully pick a slow song or two to show off their pipes, albums are now dominated by four-on-the-floor jams. Look at Perry's historic run of singles from Teenage Dream, there's not a ballad among them.
Britney Spears has given up on recording ballads entirely. With the exception of a few slower electro jams ("Unusual You," "Criminal"), Spears' last two studio albums Circus and Femme Fatale have been ballad-free.
It's a strange shift from the mid-90s, when ballads by Mariah Carey, Boyz II Men and Whitney Houston were logging Billboard chart records left and right. The longest-running hit ever in the history of the Billboard singles chart is Carey and Boyz II Men's "One Sweet Day," which topped the chart for 16 weeks in 1995. In fact, six of the top singles ever are slow songs, and with the strange exception of Los del Rio's "Macarena," none are dance tracks.
So when ballad-masters Boyz II Men, who have three (!) of the top ten biggest No. 1 hits ever, visited MTV News this week, we decided to get their take on the state of the modern ballad. Check out the video below.
After the jump, vote in our poll and let us know if you'd like to hear more slow jams on mainstream radio. Read More...