The best Paul Stanley Kiss songs show just how important the talent and charisma of the man born Stanley Harvey Eisen are to one of hard rock's most outrageous and enduring bands.
Think about it, this whole ridiculous circus doesn't fly without a ringleader who truly believes in the power of rock and roll enough to don warpaint, platform boots, feathers and leather night after night while staring down decades of critical sniping and changing musical trends.
Which is exactly what Stanley has done without falter, even as his bandmates came, went or got caught up in film careers or other outside interests. So here they are, the 10 best songs featuring the true president of Kiss-nation, Paul Stanley:
"Lick It Up"From: 'Lick it Up' (1983)
We kick off this list with proof positive that Stanley's ability to write catchy anthems didn't leave him when the band's makeup came off in 1983. Throughout the band's "unmasked" era, it was mostly Stanley-fronted tracks like "Heaven's on Fire," "Tears Are Falling" and "Crazy Nights" that kept the band on the charts. "Lick It Up" – a "seize the day" anthem for the bedroom – has proven to be the most enduring song from this era, and remains a highlight of the group's live shows to this day.
"Sure Know Something"From: 'Dynasty' (1979)
Okay, this might start trouble, but you can't have a list of the top Paul Stanley Kiss songs without acknowledging his ballads, ability to adapt to the times, or most importantly, skills with a pop hook. Here he takes a break from bragging about the rocket in his pocket to deliver a tender account of the first time he got his heart broken. The shift in dynamics between the dreamy, disco-tinged verses and the more traditionally rocking chorus make this one of his most sophisticated singles.
"I Stole Your Love"From: 'Love Gun' (1977)
The blistering opening track from the last undisputedly great album made by the original Kiss lineup finds Stanley in full, cocky strut. Lyrically, it's a rewrite of the Rolling Stones' "Under My Thumb," as a cheating and domineering lover has apparently been tamed by the Starchild's lovemaking prowess. This song was used quite effectively as a concert-opening number on the following tour.
"Do You Love Me?"From: 'Destroyer' (1976)
One of Kiss's most universally appealing songs – this was the one to play your folks if the album covers made them nervous – "Do You Love Me?" finds Stanley asking his girl if she loves him for him, and not the "backstage pass and black sunglasses," over an infectious drumbeat. Live, the song gets even better, as the group tacks on a beautifully melodic, vaguely psychedelic coda.
"Hotter Than Hell"From: 'Hotter Than Hell' (1974)
This spare, propulsive song from the second Kiss album finds Stanley in a surprisingly humble mood. Granted, he promises to take his target for the night "All around the whole wide world / Before the evening is through," but he also takes defeat like a champ when she informs him that's she's married. Gotta wonder what she'd say a few years later, right?
"I Want You"From: 'Rock and Roll Over' (1976)
If subtlety is your thing, than the Top 10 Paul Stanley Songs list is not for you. Other than a pair of brief acoustic interludes, this one's all about buzzing, chugging and screaming guitars as our hero makes his intentions quite plain. Live, this song gave Stanley an extended platform to show off his pipes and tell everyone just how much he "Wa-yya-yaa-yyyanted" them.
"Black Diamond"From: 'Kiss' (1974)
Drummer Peter Criss (and then Eric Carr and now Eric Singer) typically handled the lead vocals, but it was Stanley who wrote the bombastic number that traditionally closes Kiss' main sets. A rare non-glamorized look at sex, "Black Diamond" documents the "sorrow and madness" filling the nights of a prostitute in the band's New York City home.
"Detroit Rock City"From: 'Destroyer' (1976)
After the 1975 concert album Alive! made them superstars, Stanley and his bandmates felt they had to deliver a studio album more sophisticated than its predecessors in order to reach even loftier heights. So they hired producer Bob Ezrin to take them to musical "boot camp," and the result was the improved production, songwriting and interlocking riffs of songs like longtime concert-opener "Detroit Rock City."
"100,000 Years"From: 'Kiss' (1974)
The pop smarts take a back seat as Stanley gets serious and unleashes an extended parade of grooving, hard rock riffs. Lyrically, he seems to be apologizing to his date for what must have been (for her, naturally) an agonizingly long wait between make-out sessions. This song became the home of his famous "How many people believe in rock and roll?" crowd interaction segment, but it doesn't need that gimmick to rate as one of Stanley's top Kiss songs.
"Love Gun"From: 'Love Gun' (1977)
Someday, a vastly superior alien race is going to conquer our planet – we can all agree on this, yes? Well, suppose they assign us a ranking in this new society based on how directly, purely and unashamedly we were able to deliver a message, a need, a desire to our fellow humans in the old one? Because by that measure, "Love Gun" is an undeniable masterpiece, and its author, Paul Stanley, is walking right to the front of the line.