This post was modified from its original form on 26 Jun, 22:47
In jazz and popular music, the term ballad denotes a short song in a slow tempo, usually with a romantic or sentimental text, though the term is also used for instrumental pieces.Ballad is also used in modern pop and folk music for a (usually faster) strophic narrative song, analogous to the older poetic term ballad. The latter usage is usually meant when the word ballad appears in the song's title.
Famous traditional pop and jazz standard ballads include:
Over the Rainbow" Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg
"Body and Soul" Johnny Green
"Misty" Erroll Garner
"The Man I Love" George Gershwin
Folk ballads often have several verses, and generally follow either a simple verse form (i.e. Verse 1, Verse 2...) or a verse-chorus form (Verse 1, Chorus, Verse 2, Chorus...). The chorus may consist of nonsense words. Multiple folk ballad texts may share the same melody; conversely the same text may be sung to multiple melodies.
"Barbara Allen", and the various iterations of "The Daemon Lover" (both Child Ballads in simple verse form, still popular today);
"Whiskey in the Jar" (a traditional ballad with a nonsense chorus);
Dominic Behan's "The Patriot Game" (a short modern ballad, in simple verse form);
Eric Bogle's "And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" (a modern anti-war ballad, in a more complex form, verse-chorus with a coda).
In modern popular music (since c. 1955) one encounters both of the above usages for ballad.
When used generically, as in power ballad or rock ballad, it usually refers to a slow love song, in the American popular tradition. Musicologist Richard Middleton offers this broader definition: "By the time of the development of the rock ballad the genre can be defined simply as a slowish pop song, with subjectively orientated and often romantic themes and a personal mode of address."