I am sure that each and every one of you have at least once in your life experienced an emotion of some sort because of a ballad song. Somehow those romantically-driven sentimental slow and gentle songs always find a way to our hearts. I believe that a ballad is a singer’s strongest weapon and without doubt, some of the most career-defining songs of our favorite artists are ballads. Why is that? Why are ballads so important and people admire and love them so much? – It’s all about the lyrics. The best way for a musician to express a certain feeling or emotion is through song lyrics. Many people associate ballads with love and romance but here I would like to point out that it’s not just about that. There are so many beautiful and touching ballad songs dedicated to issues such as war, helping others and even death. Moreover, to me the most crucial characteristic a great ballad songs should possess is a “powerful feeling” and the ability to “influence” other people – either through lyrics or through vocal delivery or instrumentation. By influencing I don’t necessarily mean positive or negative – some ballad songs may bring back painful memories, make you cry or the other way around – make you feel happiness and warmth. Bottom line is, if a ballad song manages to bring out a more sensitive side in you and make you experience any kind of emotion, then it fulfilled its main purpose.
The following publication is very important to me because ballad songs play a very special role in my life. I should say that when it comes to ballads I am very critical and picky because there are many songs that have the characteristics of a ballad – slow melody, lyrics related with love and romance, etc. BUT they don’t make me feel anything. I think people can immediately recognize when a ballad was made just for the purpose of having a ballad song in an album – not because the artist wanted to pour their soul out. It was very difficult to me to come up with a solution on how to manage my ballad obsession and make sure that each ballad song I love would find its way to my blog. Finally, I came up with some sort of division. I would like to start with the power rock ballads of the 80s, because I believe that the 80s was the peak decade of the ballads. For every 80s band or artist it was an absolute must to release a power ballad. I don’t know how this trend started but thank God for it – I cannot imagine the music industry and development without the presence of the following ballads I will talk about. In the 80s, rock music was simply put pop music – everyone was listening to and enjoying rock music. Thus, the artists of the 80s were very prolific, versatile and free – they were there to have fun, rock and roll but also to deliver something meaningful and memorable to the fans. Also, as a woman, I should mention that there’s something very attractive (at least to me) in seeing those long-haired manly rockstars sharing their sensitive side to us.
The following list is very subjective and includes my personal favorite power rock ballads of the 80s (mostly but not entirely I would say). Those songs found their way into my top 10 because they made me experience a strong emotion and connected with me on both lyrical and instrumental level. I am not going to focus on the music videos because this is not a publication dedicated to the visual delivery of a song – it’s going to be all about experiencing music with the soul, rather than with the eyes!
Among these songs are also some of my favorite songs of all time! So here it goes! ❤
1. Def Leppard – Love Bites
To this date, this song remains Def Leppard’s only number one single on the charts of Billboard – and what a song that is! Recorded in 1987 it became the smashing hit from their most successful album Hysteria. I have said it once and I will say it again – Joe Elliot is one of the greatest rock singers of all time. His vocal delivery in this song is beyond impressive and can’t but reach your soul. Every time I play this song I just want to close my eyes and lose myself in the feeling. The reason why this song topped my best rock ballads of the 80s chart is because of the lyrics. Here’s part of the verse:
“I don’t wanna touch you too much baby
‘Cos making love to you might drive me crazy
I know you think that love is the way you make it
So I don’t wanna be there when you decide to break it”
2. Foreigner – I Want To Know What Love Is
This song is the BALLAD of the ballads – it is one of the most commercially successful and most memorable songs of all time – and how can it not be? The song was released in 1984 as the lead single from Foreigner’s album, Agent Provocateur. This song defined the era and the most impressive fact is that till today it remains one of the most requested and played ballads on an FM radio – that right there speaks volumes. What mostly connected with me is the song’s vocals and instrumental – rather than the lyrics (don’t get me wrong, it is still number 2 in my list largely because of the poetic lyrics). The melody is so simple yet so genius and so powerful! Also, I have to mention Lou Gramm who is also in my best rock vocalists of all time book!
Here are some of the lyrics:
“In my life there’s been heartache and pain
I don’t know if I can face it again
Can’t stop now, I’ve traveled so far, to change this lonely life”
3.Van Halen – When It’s Love
This Van Halen song is more recent addition to my favorite ballads list. It is here for two reasons; Firstly – Sammy Hagar which in my opinion is the best rock vocalist of all time – I simply can’t get enough of his voice. I feel like I can lose it even if he sings about the weather or how to cook eggs. The song was released in 1988 as a single from their album OU812. It also hit #1 on Billboard chart! – How can it not? From the powerful intro to the strong finale – this ballad is everything. In terms of lyrics, to me this is one of the most Van Halen songs. Also, to me Eddie Van Halen‘s guitar riffs are like a drug – I can’t stop it. Here are some of the lyrics:
“Everybody’s lookin’ for somethin’
Somethin’ to fill in the holes
We think a lot but don’t talk much about it
‘Til things get out of control”
4. Whitesnake – Is This Love
One of the songs which redefined my childhood and my understanding of the true relationship between love and ballad songs. The song was released in 1987 from their self-titled album and it quickly brought enormous success and popularity to the band. – why? Because it managed to reach and find a place in each and every person’s heart – people could find themselves in the lyrics. What I love about this song is the drums and their power to synchronize with my heartbeat. Also – David Coverdale -do I have to say more? His gentle soft vocals are everything! Here are some of the lyrics which I absolutely adore:
“I should have known better
Than to let you go alone
It’s times like these
I can’t make it on my own”
5.Survivor -The Search Is Over
Where do I even begin with how much I love Survivor and how much I adore this song? It was released in 1985 and reached number 4 on Billboard – It should’ve been number 1! The song has everything – beautiful and touching lyrics and a vocal delivery by Jimi Jamison that just can’t but leave you speechless. His voice is so beautiful, so gentle and so powerful at the same time. He is definitely in my top 3 best male rock vocalists of all time. I am so sad that he’s no longer with us but also extremely thankful that he left us beautiful ballad songs like this one…
“How can I convince you
What you see is real
Who am I to blame you
For doubting what you feel”
6. Bryan Adams – Heaven
Then there’s this song… It was released in 1985 and it first appeared on A Night in Heaven soundtrack album. It is a song about how strong a man’s love can be and how important a woman is to him – she is his Heaven on Earth. We all love Brian’s rough and harsh husky voice – so unique and distinctive. It reached number one on Billboard for a reason – it is the perfect love manifestation song. What I adore about it is the lyrics – every woman wants to hear a man telling her this:
“Baby, you’re all that I want
When you’re lyin’ here in my arms
I’m findin’ it hard to believe
We’re in heaven”
7.Starship – Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now
Some people may argue about whether this song is a ballad or not, however I consider it as one. It is a duet featuring Starship vocalists Mickey Thomas and Grace Slick.The song topped Billboard Hot 100 in 1987 and it was released as the theme song to the romantic comedy film Mannequin.The lyrics are very catchy, dreamy and empowering. Also, the reason why I placed this song in my list is because of the gorgeous vocals of Grace Slick – I absolutely adore her.
“And we can build this dream together
Standing strong forever
Nothing’s gonna stop us now”
8. Roxette – Listen To Your Heart
Roxette! The most talented, brilliant and loved duo of all time… I do think they have much more influential ballads than “Listen to Your Heart”, however since I dedicated my list to 80s songs, I cannot include them. The song was released in 1989 as the fourth single from their second studio album, Look Sharp! (1988). Marie is just perfect – this song is a pure manifestation of her amazing vocal delivery and ability to captivate the listeners from the second she starts singing. To me, she is one of the most powerful female vocalists of all time. Going back to the song, to me the lyrics are what made it so popular and loved – by me and millions of others:
“I know there’s something in the wake of your smile.
I get a notion from the look in your eyes…
You’ve built a love but that love falls apart.
Your little piece of heaven turns too dark.”
9. Bad English – When I See You Smile
This song is another recent discovery (such a shame, right?) and it quickly became one of my most favorite love ballads of all time. Lyrically – some people might say that it’s not as influential as many other rock ballad songs, even a bit commercial, but the vocals – the vocals are what I connected with on a personal level. John Waite is another pretender for my best male rock vocalist of all time title. His voice is so gentle and beautiful! I am a huge fan of his, as well as of the band, so it was only natural to include them in my list. The song is suitable for every occasion – you can dance to it, cry to it, smile with it…To me, the atmosphere that this song carries within itself is what makes it so good… This power ballad was released in 1989 and went on to become the band’s first and only US number one – unbelievable, right?
“When I see you smile
I can face the world…
You know I can do anything
When I see you smile
I see a ray of light…
I see it shining right through the rain”
10. Bon Jovi – I’ll Be There For You
How can I talk about 80s power rock ballads and not mention Bon Jovi? – I just simply can’t. To me, Jon Bon Jovi has the perfect ballad voice and definitely is one of the most powerful male vocalists of all time. These glam-rock rockstars released this song back in 1988 and it reached number 5 on Billboard charts – If you ask me, though, it deserves the first place. The song itself is very emotional and is a perfect representation of what a power rock ballad should sound like and what feeling and emotions it has to convey. I absolutely adore Jon’s vocals and the lyrics are just perfect:
“I’ll be there for you
These five words I swear to you
When you breathe I want to be the air for you
I’ll be there for you
I’d live and I’d die for you
I’d steal the sun from the sky for you
Words can’t say what love can do
I’ll be there for you”
The following songs are also some of my most favorite rock ballads of the 80s. I really don’t like listings and I honestly don’t even know why I decided to make top 10 – I love all my songs and it is so difficult to place them in order – they are like my children. It is important to mention that some of the songs are considered as power rock ballads and others are not. For this publication, since I am talking about the 80s, I won’t distinguish between glam hard rock ballads and rock ballads from non-glam hard rock musicians. As long as it’s a favorite rock song and it was released between 1980 and 1989 – you will see it here:
Van Halen – Love Walks In
Tina Turner – Help!
ZZ Top – Rough Boy
John Waite – Missing You
Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse Of The Heart
Poison – Every Rose Has Its Thorn
Journey – Don’t Stop Believing
Crowded House – Don’t Dream It’s Over
Well, this is it for now!
Honestly, if I had the time I’m sure the list would just go on and on – ballads are that important to me! Obviously, I love the 80s and I am extremely grateful to all of those bands and musicians who created such masterpieces. Some of them are not with us right now but their legacy will live on forever… Thank you for the love songs, for the happiness, for the tears and for pouring out your soul to us…
P.S – My publication contains mostly power rock ballads from the 80s, however here and there I added some ballads which are considered soft-rock or have more upbeat characteristics. Some people may get confused, so I decided to briefly explain what a power ballad is. In the future, I am planning to dedicate a post especially to glam rock ballads.
“…the origins of the power ballad in the emotional singing of soul artists, particularly Ray Charles, and the adaptation of this style by performers such as Eric Burdon, Tom Jones, and Joe Cocker to produce slow-tempo songs often building to a loud and emotive chorus backed by drums, electric guitars, and sometimes choirs,” – Simon Frith.
“…the power ballad broke into the mainstream of American consciousness in 1976 as FM radio gave a new lease of life to earlier songs such as Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” (1971), Aerosmith’s “Dream On” (1973), and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” (1974). The Carpenters’ “Goodbye to Love” (1972) has also been identified as a prototype of the power ballad. Notable power ballad examples include Nazareth’s version of “Love Hurts” (1975), Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is” (1984), Scorpions’ “Still Loving You” (1984), Heart’s “What About Love” (1985), Whitesnake’s “Is This Love” (1987), and Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” (1988),” – Charles Aaron.