Top 10 ’80s Rock Ballads
It's fun to mock the barrage of '80s rock ballads that came out of the rock and hair metal scene that decade, but as much as we'd like to pretend that upbeat anthems brought everyone out to the big arena rock shows, it was the ballads that got everyone singing along with their cigarette lighters in the air. Here are the 10 Best '80s Rock Ballads as rated by Ultimate Classic Rock ...
Axl Rose would probably be ticked that his delicate, Exile-era Stones-reminiscent acoustic rock ballad from 1988's Lies shares space on this list with a bunch of '80s rock ballads. So we might as well ask if he was trying to warn us about the patience his fans would need in the future, with all the line-up changes and decades-long delays between albums.
An unexpectedly sophisticated classical guitar duet opens this otherwise straight ahead hit from the California band's 1989 album The Great Radio Controversy. In an era full of grown men loaded up on makeup and hairspray, Tesla were delightfully no-frills, going so far as to title this anthemic love song, simply, well, "Love Song."
Def Leppard went through all kinds of hell, such as their drummer losing an arm, in the four years between their commercial breakthrough, 1983's Pyromania, and 1987's Hysteria. So, maybe it made sense for them to slow things down from their previous balls-out approach and sing about heartbreak on this highly polished, bass-heavy '80s rock ballad.
Jon Bon Jovi betrays his love for Bruce Springsteen's small town character-driven storytelling style by remembering when he lost his keys, and his date lost more than that, on this alternately conversational and anthemic ballad from 1986's Slippery When Wet. That album was so packed with hit singles this song didn't even get put out on it's own, but it's still clearly well remembered.
Before they made themselves the butt of decades worth of jokes for "Cherry Pie," their clumsy attempt at double entendre, Warrant released this touching rock ballad from 1989's Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich. The song's lyrics can be read as the tale of a blue-collar father's struggles to be a positive role model for his young child.
It's hard to imagine that the famously raspy, strained voice of Cinderella lead singer Tom Keifer could play any role in the creation of such an otherwise lovely '80s rock ballad. But somehow that gritty voice sits perfectly amidst the stately pianos and strings, expressing the pain of lost love on this mega-hit from 1988's Long Cold Winter.
Without a doubt the hardest-hitting song on this list, relying more on amped-up drums and distorted chords than the jangly guitars of the quieter parts, the third single from Skid Row's self-titled 1989 debut shows off the truly impressive pipes of lead singer Sebastian Bach quite nicely. Bach would later claim this to be the most popular high school prom theme of the year 1990.
Journey pretty much ruled the radio waves in the early '80s, and this soaring ballad from 1983's Frontiers has gone on to be one of their most enduring songs of all time. Yes, it's another "life on the road" song, complete with a video of scenes from the tour bus, bu the pop songcraft on display here earns this song a high spot on our list.
You didn't think you were getting through this list without the most durable power ballad of the '80s, did you? This song, from 1988's rather tastelessly titled Open Up and Say ... Ahh, is the reason songwriter and lead singer Bret Michaels is probably way richer than all of his bandmates. It also helped people see depth in the previously image-reliant glam-rock of Poison, paving the way for them to have a long, successful career that continues for decades.
The original, and the big brother to just about every other rock ballad on this list, which earns it the top spot. Motley Crue adds piano to their sonic palette and comes up with a truly touching, heartfelt shout-out to their loved ones back home from 1985's Theatre of Pain. This song also helped kicked off a never ending series of slow-motion live concert montage videos.