The Washington Post

Friday list: The cheesy power ballads that still have staying power

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.

Def Leppard in their “Hysteria” heyday. (Photo by Pierre Dury/Washington Post file photo)

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.

When she isn’t at a movie theater or writing about movies, Jen Chaney is ... um ... probably at home, watching a movie.
Ben Sumner works in The Post’s IT department and writes for Capitals Outsider.


Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
Deaf banjo player teaches thousands
Unconventional warfare with a side of ale
It's in the details: Five ways to enhance your kitchen makeover
Play Videos
Drawing as an act of defiance
A fighter pilot helmet with 360 degrees of sky
Border collies: A 'mouse trap' for geese on the National Mall
Play Videos
Bao: The signature dish of San Francisco
This man's job is binge-watching for Netflix
What you need to know about Planned Parenthood
Play Videos
How to save and spend money at college
Pandas, from birth to milk to mom
Europe's migrant crisis, explained