There’s something about a piano ballad that just tugs at our heartstrings. There’s something about someone sitting at a piano and singing an emotional song that has the potential to be incredibly moving.
If you think about the songs that give you goosebumps and bring a tear to your eye, there’s a good chance that they’re sung to piano accompaniment. From their iconic opening notes, they lure us in and don’t let go until the final fade-out. It’s no wonder that some piano ballads can be counted among the absolute best songs in history.
While a guitar-based singer-songwriter certainly has the potential to move us – James Taylor, anyone? – it’s the pianists who tend to become most renowned as balladeers. Elton John, Alicia Keys, Adele, John Legend, and Chris Martin of Coldplay have all scored massive hits as pianist-vocalists – but even singers we may not associate with the keyboard, from Phil Collins to Mariah Carey, count piano ballads as some of the biggest hits of their careers. (Strangely enough, the “Piano Man” himself – Billy Joel – didn’t make the list. These, however, are Billy Joel’s greatest hits.)
To determine the biggest piano ballads, 24/7 Tempo reviewed performance data on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. Songs were ranked based on an inverse score wherein a week at No. 1 is worth 100 points, a week at No. 2 worth 99 points, and so on, up to a week at No. 100 worth one point. Only ballads that feature just vocals and piano or are primarily piano-driven were considered. Chart data is current through the week of Nov. 19, 2022.
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