Nada Mucho

The Glory of Love – Revisiting the Power Ballad

Posted by June 30th, 2003 No Comments »

For most of the bawdy, over the top 1980s, hair metal bands ruled the charts. Groups like Motley Crue and Poison tried to out-do each other in every aspect, from drugs, makeup and hairspray, to sexual innuendoes. Their raunchy songs fit this “me-first” era to a tee. Poison’s “Talk Dirty to Me”, the Crue’s “Girls, Girls, Girls”, and Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” are shining examples of this brazen sexual bravado.

For most of the bawdy, over the top 1980s, hair metal bands ruled the charts. Groups like Motley Crue and Poison tried to out-do each other in every aspect, from drugs, makeup and hairspray, to sexual innuendoes. Their raunchy songs fit this “me-first” era to a tee. Poison’s “Talk Dirty to Me”, the Crue’s “Girls, Girls, Girls”, and Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” are shining examples of this brazen sexual bravado.

However, even the hardest of rockers had to reveal a “sensitive” side, a previously-unexplored aspect of his personality that could be wielded to…well, bed more ladies. Without opening themselves up, the metal band runs the risk of being accessible to only the mulleted males of the world; chicks need someone they can “talk to”, someone who can “understand” their feelings. Whether it was marketing or simply a pick-up tool, the power ballad was born.

The essence of the power ballad can be summed up in one statement: “Even bad boys get the blues.” Groups like Styx and Journey had been doing their versions of the ballad for years, but their takes lacked a certain bite, a result of their drug free/committed-to-a-relationship images. A true power ballad must be the flip side of a very raucous coin. One minute Poison would be partying down, doing the “Unskinny Bop”, but just like that, Bret Michaels would bring the house down and croon “Every Rose has its Thorn”. This sort of balladry does not work if it is not preceded by a display of hair metal energy; this juxtaposition makes the sensitive work all the more affecting.

All this being said, Nada Mucho is proud to present a brief look at some of the best and worst of the modern power ballads, harkening from the last time that metal truly had a foothold on the American charts. This is by no means a complete list, as to make it such would have required me to relive the bad memory of Europe’s “Carrie”, a fate that should be visited upon no man.

“No One Like You” – Scorpions: This song features a kick-ass, chord-crunching chorus that is a power ballad high point. The track pre-dates the crappy “Winds of Change”, which found the German supergroup somewhere down by Gorky Park. I saw the Scorpions in concert once and chicks were showing the band their tits. If you’ve ever seen them, you know how funny that is. The band, I mean.

“Don’t Cry” – Guns N’ Roses: I’ve chosen this one over, say, “November Rain” because it’s shorter. “Rain” tends to drag on at some points, as much of Gn’R’s work did at that time. “Don’t Cry” fits the 3-5 minute formula perfectly. For some reason Axl’s shrill squeal really conveys the pain that only a man who has lived to chase a fifth of whiskey with a line of cocaine snorted from a porn star’s ass crack can really feel.

“18 & Life” – Skid Row: “Ricky was a young boy, he had a heart of stone…” This one varied from the formula a little; there was no lost love, but a tale of a misguided youth that concludes with Ricky in jail for killing his friend. This is a good song from one of the bands that came out toward the end of metal’s heyday.

“Every Rose Has Its Thorn” – Poison: I’m not a Poison fan, but this song is a power ballad classic, and certainly one of the highlights of the era. It is perhaps quoted more than any other example. C.C. DeVille’s guitar seemingly weeps during the solo. I certainly agree that every cowboy does indeed sing a sad, sad song.

“Home Sweet Home” – Motley Crue: This was the first time we really saw the Crue’s soft underbelly. On the Shout At The Devil disc, they reveled in the metal “lifestyle”. The follow up, Theater of Pain, featured this lilting power ballad with Tommy Lee on piano and drums (presumably not at the same time). The song delves into the longing to return home from the road, a theme which pops up on many power ballad classics of the time, even those whose creators had just released their debut album and could not possibly know the pain of extended touring. The Crue’s next album was Girls, Girls, Girls. Perfect.

“Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” – Def Leppard: I include this instead of something like “Love Bites” because at this point, the band weren’t yet the chick-metal group they would wind up as. During the time this was recorded, they still were drinking hard and partying; these were the heady days of old, when Rick Allen still had two arms. Good times.

“Alone Again” – Dokken: Those familiar with Dokken and the overall wretchedness of anything Don Dokken has a hand in may be surprised to see them on this list. “Alone Again” is a classic power ballad that fits “the formula” perfectly. It features a fantastic guitar solo, and anguished moaning from Don about his lost love. Please baby, come back to Don. He didn’t mean it. He fixed the damn candy.

“Don’t Know What You’ve Got ‘Til its Gone” – Cinderella: Ahhhh, the hair metal bands certainly had a knack for recycling old adages like this into big cheesy hits that made every chick at the high school dance swoon. One of the greats.

Now that we’ve looked at some of the greats, here are a few that hastened metal’s demise. Their putrefying stench speaks volumes, and I do not need to embellish with my own comments.

“When the Children Cry” – White Lion
“Carrie” – Europe
“Miles Away” – Winger
“Fly to the Angels” – Slaughter
“I Saw Red” – Warrant
“Heaven” – Warrant
“To Be With You” – Mr. Big
“Is This Love” – Whitesnake
“When Its Love” – Van Hagar
“Love Bites” – Def Leppard
“Love Is on the Way” – Saigon Kick


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