Saturday, February 5, 2011

Songs in a Gay Bar: Power Ballads

A power ballad is typically defined as a slow tempo song of a rock artist often used to convey an emotional or "profound message to their audience."*

When it comes to macho dancer bars, since the 80s or 90s, the anthem of these gay bars has always been the power ballad. As depicted in local movies both mainstream and indie, as parodied in local comedy tv shows, as performed in front of friends during private parties, the music played when a man stripteases is always the power ballad (and the gasgas "Careless Whisper" by Wham / George Michael of Hayden Kho infamy, of course, as an exception to this genre).

No surprises for Pinoys. And gay-bar-going Pinoys and Pinays.

What surprised me and my friend, Mary, though is how these songs get stuck into our brains long after we've left the gay bar. Often, when we go karaoke singing, some of these songs worm their way into our playlist. And when the song gets played, we glance at each other, chuckle, and try to recall the name of the dancer who danced to this song. Sometimes, just for the fun and heck of it, I imitate how these dancers move while my friends are singing these ballads.

These songs, with their deep lyrics accompanied with heavy drums and electric guitars, do evoke certain strong emotions. And when coupled with a tall hunky man dancing on stage, what one sees is a man expressing his deep feelings to the woman he loves, but in a strong, masculine way, without beeing too soft or mushy. The combination of sight and sound can ideally turn on matrons or gay patrons -- seeing the macho dancer become more manly but showing their softer side as well.

I'll share here the typical power ballads I keep hearing when going the rounds of gay bars in Manila. These are not necessarily the top 5, but at least, the top of my mind. They are connected some way to certain dancers I know or certain bars or certain experiences I had.

1. "Blaze of Glory" and "Bed of Roses" by Bon Jovi
- the songs of choice by the top dancers in Home Base

2. "I Want To Know What Love Is" by Foreigner (remade by Mariah Carey)

3. "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)" by Meatloaf (but since it's a very loooong song, DJs just cut it out in the end)

4. "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" by Aerosmith
- Macho dancers admit liking to dance to this song. And I have to admit, when this song is played, my full attention is on stage. This song puts the "power" in a power ballad for a gay bar, especially when the macho dancer knows how to fully harness the song's crescendos (and Steven Tyler's screams) in a routine.

5. And the Forever Favorite of macho dancers (for whatever reason, maybe because it was remade recently by the winner of a reality show singer) as a song to both dance to and sing along to ("im forever yours... Pait-puly!"). Yes, you'll here that line sung in the entire bar.

"Faithfully" by Journey

Take note though that not all songs played in gay bars are just power ballads. There are also other genres played, like the contemporary love song, the recent R&B dance hit, the OPM ballad, and the korean pop song. I'll post another entry about those.

GB Goer
Learn more: Lessons from Gay Bars in Manila
email:; Follow at twitter: @gbgoer

*From Wikipedia: Ballad, quoted from Aaron, Charles (2002), "Don't Fight the Power".

1 comment:

  1. Sir GBGoer: yup, these songs are often
    used by MDs in their routine. but there
    is a song title that i have been looking
    for but it has no lyrics just instrumental
    and it sounds like the theme song of the
    movie: Ghost Rider 2 ("The Wolf" by
    Hi Finesse) but the ones played in gaybars
    is much longer. would you happen to know
    the title and artist?

    this is an informative blog and i hope you
    keep posting.


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