In keeping with this blog’s laser-like focus on important pop cultural events from the year 1987, we now have another important anniversary to commemorate. On this date 25 years ago, Def Leppard’s album “Hysteria” was released.
Admittedly, “Hysteria” is not “Exile on Main Street.” It’s not even Guns ‘N Roses’s “Appetite for Destruction,” which also arrived at your neighborhood Tower Records in the summer of 1987. But there’s no denying that this infectious dose of Def Leppard was a massive hit for the British hair metal rockers. It rose to No. 1 on the Billboard album chart. It helped a generation understand which substance we should pour on someone in the name of love. (Sugar. The answer was sugar.) It spawned six hit singles, including the aforementioned “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” “Animal” and the cheesy power ballad “Love Bites.”
And it’s the mention of those three sacred words — cheesy power ballad — that inspired this Friday list.
While reflecting on “Hysteria’s” birthday and the borderline frightening power of “Love Bites” (that dude who says “That’s right — love bites” still kind of freaks me out), my Post colleague Ben Sumner and I started to think about which cheesy metal power ballads remain on our iPod playlists. We scrolled through our iTunes libraries and each chose five standouts that, yes, we must sheepishly admit, remain in our regular musical rotations. (There may or may not be more power ballads on our iPods that did not make this list. To find out for sure, file a Freedom of Information Act request.)
Here are five from me and five from Ben, Washington Post Internet technology specialist and, obviously, a guy who knows how to rock. Peruse our lists, then dare to share your own favorite hair metal power ballads in the comments section.
Jen Chaney’s five cheesy power ballad picks:
“Love Song” by Tesla
Is it possible to sing the lyrics “Love is all around you/love is knocking outside your door” without knitting your eyebrows together in an emotionally earnest manner? The universe says no.
“House of Pain” by Faster Pussycat
Admittedly, this song is terrible. Like, really, really terrible. And yet there is an audacity about it — what other band has dared to rhyme “past suppertime” and “sitting on my behind” in the first two lines of a song, right out of the gate? — that I sort of admire. Plus the kid in the song was abandoned by his daddy. It’s sad. There’s no one home in his house of pain.
“Heartbreak Station” by Cinderella
Full disclosure: I spent 10 minutes internally debating whether to including “Coming Home” or “Heartbreak Station” on this list. Both are on my iPod. (Yes, I said that in a public forum and I DO NOT REGRET IT.) But I chose this one because the “Sometimes I think of those days” part always makes me vaguely nostalgic for 1991, the year this was released as a single.
“November Rain” by Guns ‘N Roses
With its full orchestra, its humongous emotions and Axl Rose at, arguably, his most heartfelt, this song is over-the-top to an absurd degree. And that is why it’s a genius power ballad. Also, because of this: “If you want to love me, then darlin’ don’t refrain.” Oh, and the video. The video is epic on 870 levels — A wedding and a funeral! A Slash guitar solo outside a quaint church whose diminutive size only emphasizes the largeness of Slash’s musicianship and hair! A nine-minute running time!
“I Remember You” by Skid Row
It’s got all the ingredients of a quality power ballad: screeching vocals from Sebastian Bach, heavy drums, a guitar solo and embarrassingly dorky lyrics (“Love letters in the sand ... I - re-mem-ber YOU!”). It was the song that we played so much during my senior high school beach week that it became the ironic theme song for my closest friends. Years later, I’m still friends with all of them; when we hear this together, it’s now more poignant than ironic. Well, mostly.
Ben Sumner’s five cheesy power ballad picks:
“Heaven” by Warrant
This is one album — “Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich” — that I was immediately drawn to at the record store because of its cover. I just wish I knew how Warrant got Rush Limbaugh to agree to pose.
“Sister Christian” by Night Ranger
For the longest time, I thought this song was called “Motoring.” I only learned otherwise from the Internet. Seriously, what’s with shouting out a word during the chorus that isn’t the title of the song? Confusing, Night Ranger. Confusing.
“Wind of Change” by The Scorpions
Forget singing along. This track is best enjoyed by expert whistlers.
“I’ll Be There for You” by Bon Jovi
Raise your hand if the lyrics, “These five words I swear to you” convinced you to count the number of words in the title. I find myself still doing it even though I first verified its accuracy in 1989, despite some initial missteps when I elongated "I'll" to "I will."
“Bringin' on the Heartbreak” by Def Leppard
Going back even further than “Hysteria,” Def Lep's “High ‘n’ Dry” power ballad — later reissued when “Pyromania” broke big — is one of their greatest sing-along songs. Fun fact: Mariah Carey covered it for her album “Charmbracelet.” It does not sound at all the same.