Heavy metal musicians love power ballads, mostly because they made a lot of money with them and they’re afraid if they speak ill of them, lest someone repossess their cars. Fact: These songs paid for hairspray, makeup, platform boots, dry ice, and, eventually, rehab. That kids are rediscovering the “magic” of the era isn’t surprising when you consider how many kids in the 1980s were rediscovering the Grateful Dead.
This list runs the gamut. From terrible to tolerable! Flick your Bic and enjoy.
25) “Love Hurts,” Nazareth: I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “But, Rob, this isn’t from the 1980s. This version of the Boudleaux Bryant ballad, once recorded by the Everly Brothers, was recorded by the Scottish rock band Nazareth in 1975 and became a huge hit in early 1976! How is this a power ballad?” To which I reply, “Astutely observed, young master, but this song is the perfect antecedent to the entire genre and we all know how much we must love our antecedents here at List of the Day! Wait until you see #1!”
24) “Headed for a Heartbreak,” Winger: Boy, does this bring back memories! This was when they made music that you could listen to with the sound off and still have a great time! This video sounds particularly good while blasting Husker Du, who never had the money to hire women so professionally good-looking to be in their videos.
23) “Alone Again,” Dokken: Not to be confused with Arthur Lee’s fine track “Alone Again Or” or Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally),” “Alone Again” is the kind of ballad that spurs YouTube commentators to say things like “I own the High n Dry album, and The Blizzard of Ozz” and “I know that I’m a good man, a good man knows his musics, 80s is all good.” I cannot compete against such insights!
22) “High Enough,” Damn Yankees: Again, a YouTube-er nails it: “I was 7 years old and my mom used to play this in her Camaro on the way home from school just for me.” Without a Camaro, this song really makes less sense. It is best noted for being Ted Nugent’s first top 10 hit.
21) "(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection," Nelson: Matthew and Gunnar Nelson had great hair and they had a No. 1 hit with this song. Could life ever be improved upon?
20) “More Than Words,” Extreme: Good hair here. Folkie guitar. Simon & Garfunkel stools and harmonies. No real power, but lots of ballad. Other guys in the band not playing seem bitter and sarcastically flick their Bics. I might’ve have done the same. Girls go nutso for Nuno.
19) “Silent Lucidity,” Queensryche: Another song with lots of ballad and not much electrical power. For a song about dead people still existing on another level of the game, it’s likely one of the better ones. VH1 Classic plays it constantly at 4:30 in the morning. Oh, look only 18 more to go!
18) "Carrie," Europe: Not really sure why every one of these videos makes mention of Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga in the comments section, but I guess it’s relevant somehow. Song is said to be about four and a half minutes long, but it seems to be playing for several hours. Maybe Sartre should’ve rethought his idea of hell. I know I am.
17) “Heaven,” Warrant: I must admit this music confuses me. If you take out the guitar solo, it sounds like lite-FM. Which is fine by me, but if that’s the case, I’m more of a Bread man. I mean, “Baby, I’m a Want You!”
16) “Close My Eyes Forever,” Lita Ford & Ozzy Osbourne: Gee, wasn’t one of these people in the Runaways and wasn’t one of them in Black Sabbath? What are they doing here? Killing time? If you love this music, I have to ask: Why do you hate America?
15) “Cryin’,” Aerosmith: Alicia Silverstone was always my favorite member of Aerosmith. When she knocks the guy out of the car and gets that tattoo, I am moved. Why didn’t albums in the old days come out as video albums? Who wants to hear this without the video? The video makes the song cuter, after all.
14) “Fly to the Angels,” Slaughter: The Leonard Cohen influences are pretty overt, I suppose, while the Buffy Ste. Marie rips are more subtle. Video pays tribute to Jefferson Airplane, which is nice.
13) "To Be With You," Mr. Big: Who doesn’t love the campfire chorus where everyone can sit around in a circle and sing this instead of “Kumbaya”? Truth told, that tune was getting a little long in the tooth. This song would be fantastic for selling luggage!
12) “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” Kix: As someone astutely pointed out, the singer looks like the singer for Spinal Tap. Lots of slow songs seem to be about people dying. Do you think we could keep people alive if we just sped up the tempo? If so, the guys in Minor Threat will never die! That’s it! I’m getting into speedcore!
11) “When the Children Cry,” White Lion: Video makes for a great UNICEF commercial. For only 99 cents day, you could save the life of a child or purchase this song 365 times a year.
10) “The Ballad of Jayne,” L.A. Guns: Singer is wearing a Slash hat while the folk music plays. I’m truly thankful these songs come with videos since it makes the songs so much better. Or maybe that’s because I’m listening to the collected works of the Clientele while the video plays.
9) “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” Poison: Anyone have any idea why acoustic guitars are considered more authentic than electric ones? Is electricity considered less real than candlelight? If so, how do you explain the sheer existence of music videos and the television that once played them?
8) “Home Sweet Home,” Motley Crue: It’s always nice to hear shopping-mall keyboards in music. Great stick-twirling and stage leaps. Song was kinda ruined by turning the sound on.
7) “Here I Go Again,” Whitesnake: Between David Coverdale’s hair, Tawny Kitaen’s legs, and those cars, Whitesnake really knew how to rock.
6) “Civil War,” Guns N’ Roses: These folkies would’ve been just perfect around the time of the early 1960s when Peter, Paul & Mary and Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, the Kingston Trio, and others were just burning up the music scene. The group’s likeness to the Weavers is uncanny.
5) “18 and Life,” Skid Row: “I got drunk on my 18th birthday and listened (sic) this all day long” says YouTube enthusiast Zirrian, illustrating to the world what Sebastian Bach and his buddies likely had in mind when they wrote this lovely paean to youth, murder, and alcoholism.
4) “The Price,” Twisted Sister: Not all power ballads need to be love songs. This one seems to be questioning the very success and fame the band worked all those years to achieve. Makes you wonder if they weren’t just completely annoyed at the load of compromises on the road to their horizons… I mean, Black Sabbath never had to write hits.
3) “All I Want to Do Is Make Love to You,” Heart: I suppose I’m supposed to take “Alone” since it’s an actual ballad, but this is my article and I want the song where she picks up a guy in the rain, takes him to a motel, makes love several times through the night, leaves him in the morning, discovers she’s pregnant, one day returns to the motel with her baby and finds the guy now works behind the desk, having fulfilled his dreams with the low-wage entry position that likely doesn’t include health benefits.
2) “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak,” Def Leppard: They re-released this song at some point with cheesy synths added, but when it first started showing up on FM radio it had the sound of a future playlist favorite, the kind of song that would still be in rotation decades from now, just like so much Foreigner!
1) "Dream On," Aerosmith: Originally released in 1973, Aerosmith proved the old “First thought, best thought” axiom to be true. For no matter how wonderful the other songs on this list are (and they sure are wonderful or some variation thereof, you must agree), nothing is better for you than “Dream On.” If this song doesn’t change your life, I think you have a right to ask Steven Tyler for your money back! Or to have him smack you upside the head and knock some sense into you. C’mon, people, let’s all get on the same page here and march! Still waiting for the obvious follow-up: Dream OFF!