So I’m on the internets yesterday researching my Super Bowl prop bets like any normal person, and I run across this collection of Power Ballads, mostly from 1988 to 1991. I of course head right straight down that rabbit hole. Next thing you know, I’m crying like a little girl and singing along with Bon Jovi, “I’ll be there for you, these five words I swear to you.” I’m not saying that Trish and I were singing those words back in 1989 while driving around in a red Trans Am with the T-Tops out, but I’m not saying we weren’t either.
So I got to thinking, 1988 to 1991 was really the pinnacle of Power Ballads. Every rock band (hair band?) during that time would throw a sappy love song on their CD, like they couldn’t help themselves. The song would start out sappy, and then evolve into a hard rocking tune. And those songs hit me at a time when I was falling in love, and getting married, and became the anthems of that time in my life. The Power Ballad fell out of style soon after that when Cobain, Pearl Jam and all those guys took over the music scene, and Bon Jovi, Guns N’ Roses, Poison, Ratt, etc. discovered the merits of a decent barber.
Of course it is not cool to like these songs, not that I give a shit. I’m not one who measures myself or another guy by his favorite music, like all the hipsters crying over David Bowie’s demise. I was more torn up when Glenn Frey checked out, if we are being honest with one another. And even then not all that much.
So, given that the apogee of Power Ballads coincided with the romantic high point in my life, coupled with my immunity to criticism, who better than me to provide the definitive ranking of the Top Ten Power Ballads of All Time.
But first the rules. Most importantly, a Power Ballad has to come from a legit hard rock band. A band that normally ran around breaking things and rocking out. The sappy love song has to be an anomaly in their set list, not par for the course. This disqualifies many bands like Journey, REO Speedwagon, Bryan Adams and the Eagles.
Secondly, the song has to follow the classic Power Ballad format. Start out kinda slow, then build to a hard rocking tune by the end. The best ones sort of alternate back and forth, teasing some hard stuff up front, then going all out rock, with a mellow finish.
Not every mellow tune by a hard rock band is a Power Ballad, you guys. Guns N’ Roses has love songs that are just mellow tunes start to finish, and never qualify for the “Power” part of the “Power Ballad” equation. Like the song Patience. Beth by Kiss is another good example. Great songs, but not Power Ballads.
Third, the Power Ballad has to be a love song of some sort, dealing with falling in love or heartbreak or chasing some hot babe. Some kind of romantic element is absolutely critical. And it has to be obvious. Better yet, sappy and over the top. No metaphors. So that disqualifies Stairway to Heaven, for example.
So here goes.
X. I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing – Aerosmith – 1998
Aerosmith kinda came to the party late with this classic, but damn it works for me. Sappy start, and builds up well to a great rock finish with Steven Tyler giving some of his great screams.
He doesn’t want to close his eyes, doesn’t want to fall asleep, because he would miss her, baby. Wow. Must like her a lot, I guess. Can’t even get any sleep. Armageddon!!!
IX. Every Rose Has Its Thorn – Poison – 1989
They say Bret Michael’s wrote this song after he called his girlfriend late at night and a guy answered. Rough break, I guess, but two sides to every story. Instead of making love, they both made their separate ways.
Strong on the sap from a headbanger, but maybe a little weak on the build. Still makes every classic Power Ballad list.
VIII. Still Loving You – Scorpions – 1984
On of my favorite bands from the 80’s, so had to put them on the list. You don’t like it, go make your own blog, and figure out how to make a goddamn numbered list and embed video!
VII. Love Bites – Def Leppard – 1987
Another sentimental favorite for me. Very mellow start, real rock by the end. Great lyrics. “Do you think twice, or just touch and see?” Legitimate question.
VI. Here I Go Again – Whitesnake – 1987
Great song, takes off, “lonely street of dreams,” blah blah blah. Let’s be honest. We remember this one because of Tawny Kitaen rolling around on that car. One of the top smokes of that era. Tawny is 54 now, and still looking great, I think.
V. I Remember You – Skid Row – 1989
Just a great song. Mellow up front, then the teaser hard rock early, back to the mellow, then they hit it hard, remembering yesterday, walking hand in hand, love letters in the sand, and he remembers you!! And through it all they kept the promises that they made. Warms my heart. Extra points for the mellow guitar strums on the exit.
IV. Love Song – Tesla – 1989
Another great song. They make you think its mellow and slow, but of course it is not. Love will find a way, Tesla assures us! Love will find a way back to you, he knows. Great example of the super mellow exit.
III. More Than a Feeling – Boston – 1976
Along with Free Bird (see below), I think is really where it all started. One the best rock songs ever, obviously, but it also fits the pattern. Starts mellow, alternates between the mellow and the hard rock, and eventually just rocks. And then there is Marianne, walking away.
When he’s tired and thinking cold, he hides in the music, forgets the day and dreams of a girl he used to know. He closed his eyes and she slipped away. She slipped away.
That’s more than a feeling.
II. I’ll Be There for You – Bon Jovi – 1989
A sentimental choice for me, sure, but whatever. This tune has it all, over the top sappy lyrics from a great rock band and really works its way to the powerful payoff by the end.
“When you breathe I want to be the air for you.” Really? “When you get drunk, I’ll be the wine.” Damn Shakespeare is what that is. Number 2, and only because of the next classic…
I. Freebird – Lynyrd Skynrd – 1974
Yep, the all time classic. Set the standard for the hair bands to follow 15 years later. Check out the 70’s smokes in this video and think about the fact that they are like, what, 70 now. Time marches on.
“But please don’t take it so badly, cause Lord knows I’m to blame.” Kinda living this song these days, I guess.
I once set 30 some pheasants free because they were killing each other, and played this song while I was releasing them, of course. Had a good laugh about that, by myself. They are as free as a bird now, and Lord knows, I can’t change.