When you start throwing around terms such as “pop,” “rock” and “ballad” in close proximity to each other, it will conjure up images of the worst kind of stadium cliche and anthemic excesses. They are more often than not songs which belong neither into one genre or the other and which are designed to show just how sensitive, intimate or how diverse, the up until then, four chord, music by numbers, sing-along band playing to thousands, really are. But it doesn’t have to be that way, music of this kind can be taken seriously, can stand on its own two feet and exist for all the right reasons. The Exit is the perfect example of just such a song.
Starting, as is usual, from understated yet effective acoustic lines, it sets the perfect scene before the mid-paced beat moves things along and deft guitar work adds intricate and singular musical motifs. But like all good ballads it is all about layering, the application of various musical textures which rather than add weight build up thin gossamer overlays, slow burning their way to a crescendo.
Gradually, electric guitars begin to apply the power, smoothly yet noticeably, dark clouds gather around the edges of the song, reinforcing its poignant lyricism and depth, and all manner of harmonies and additional power see the song over the finishing line. Of course there is a fine line to be walked with such a song, miss your footing and you end up in the realms of such cheese as Wanted Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi but thankfully here things are nothing if not sure-footed and the song ends up in the territory hallowed by the likes of The Goo Goo Doll’s Iris, something which is both big and commercially viable but with enough depth and integrity to be taken seriously.
Ballads are indeed tricky things to get right but The Exit could almost be the template for those attempting such a musical feat.