Tuesday, 2 June 2009

1985 Jennifer Rush: The Power Of Love

The biggest selling single of 1985 was this power ballad imported from New York via Bavaria and sung by a woman known to her mother as Heidi Stern. Built almost entirely around a structured sequence of electronic percussion, 'The Power Of Love' drifts into being via a breeze of vaguely ambient, Eno-type synth washes that noodle away in the background as Rush carefully intones the opening 'The whispers in the morning, of lovers sleeping tight. Are rolling like thunder now, as I look in your eyes'

common sense dictates this sparseness can't go on to the end and the anticipation of change generates a underlying tension in that, although there's no form or structure to what you're hearing, you just know that it's leading up to something. In the common parlance of the power ballad, a drumroll or crash of power chords usually shifts the gears to get things going and so it comes as a genuine surprise when Rush carries the momentum herself by skyscraping her voice up a few octaves to deliver the chorus payload "Cause I am your lady, and you are my man."

And its sheer unexpectedness provides a welcome frission of excitement in a genre mapped by blandness that still makes me smile every time I hear it.
The problem is of course that you can only pull a rabbit out of the hat once before the novelty wears thin, and when the surge comes round the second time then you're put on guarded anticipation for it's arrival. Unfortunately, that first peak comes in at around the sixty second mark and, with another good four minutes left to fill, 'The Power Of Love' soon falls into a rut of repetition and predictability with the chorus milked for all its worth.

And in so milking, finally adding those crashing drums serves less to create an aura of heightened drama and more to diluting the purity its original appearance, kicking the song down to MOR soft rock hell.
By the time of it's third go round, Rush's voice seems to have lost all the confidence she showed at the start, making it not so much a statement of fact of the strength of her love but a questioning plea that needs affirmation from her partner and it ends the song on a downward trajectory that negates the uplifting force of the opening minute.

Nevertheless, 'The Power Of Love' is undeniably distinctive and memorable, largely because of Rush's warm vocals that have the exotic hint of her Germanic upbringing. Power ballads may have come to have the aura of the wretched throughout the eighties but the total absence of guitars or over production here comes as a breath of fresh air and all the purpose, power and drive of the song comes from Rush and Rush alone.
I can't begin to imagine how many marriages, funerals or last slow dances this must have soundtracked since 1985 and, as I type this, I can pretty much guarantee that someone somewhere in the world is belting it out at a Karaoke session. 'The Power Of Love' demands some seriously heavy lifting though and I can pretty much guarantee 'they' are making a right old mess of it.

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