Who doesn’t love a power ballad? Once a staple of pop charts and movie soundtracks in the mid-to-late 20th Century, these cheesy bangers crank the drama up to 11 and are karaoke favourites. And if there’s one musician determined to not let this art form die out, it’s Will Gould – frontman of Southampton goth punks Creeper, and the ultimate power ballad aficionado.
Creeper’s new track Midnight, the first single from their upcoming EP American Noir, is a song so melodramatic and world-defying that it could be a lost Jim Steinman duet intended for Bonnie Tyler and Bruce Springsteen. To celebrate this release, we set Will the agonising task of telling us his top 10 power ballads of all time.
Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse Of The Heart (1983)
This is the ultimate karaoke song, yet it’s impossibly hard to sing. There’s a great clip on YouTube of Jim Steinman teaching Bonnie to sing this and he’s making her hit that top note over and over again. She’s saying, ‘I want to save my voice!’, and he’s obsessing over the little intricacies of how the song is written. I respect that – he doesn’t care if she’s tired. And Bonnie now knows in that one instance what it’s like to be drunk in a karaoke bar trying to sing that song!
Meat Loaf – I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) (1993)
This is arguably Jim Steinman’s finest song, even though it wasn’t even the lead single from Bat Out of Hell II. It’s a masterpiece – it’s like Wuthering Heights: The Musical.
The music video cost as much as the whole album did and Michael Bay directed it, isn’t that insane? It’s amazing. There’s a flying bed, there’s Beauty and the Beast, there’s motorcycles! It’s as dramatic as the song and that’s what you’ve got to do: you’ve got to match the video with the same intensity as the music.
Aerosmith – I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing (1998)
This reminds me of being a kid. The music video is from Armageddon, it’s this slow motion version of the film and Aerosmith are playing a NASA spaceship hangar and at the end the spaceship blasts off and covers the band and all their instruments in dust. There’s people watching who are all covered in dust too, it’s really weird but what a song. Also, this is everyone’s mum’s favourite song, isn’t it?
Prince – Purple Rain (1984)
So me and Tom Dalgety [producer, Ghost, Opeth] spoke last night about our power ballad lists and this wasn’t on his but we agreed it counted. Purple Rain is just one of the greatest songs of all time. I actually have a friend that met Prince once and he was with three girls backstage at a nightclub. Imagine meeting Prince! Anyway, Purple Rain is another one of the ultimate bangers and a great karaoke song.
INXS – Never Tear Us Apart (1987)
I wanted to mix up the list a little bit with this one. This song reminds me of Donnie Darko, it’s so ridiculously romantic. It wraps you up from those first synth notes and then it’s got that great little guitar part – it’s a power ballad as far as I’m concerned. Never Tear Us Apart reminds me of being a little dork, though it’s an odd song for a kid to be listening to…
Cher – If I Could Turn Back Time (1989)
There are a lot of great power ballads in Cher’s arsenal but this is the ultimate karaoke banger. It reminds me of my mum singing it at a wedding. You know how there are those wedding songs? Like Love Shack or Bohemian Rhapsody. This is a song my mum and her friends would sing while doing that ‘mum dance’ where they don’t move their feet, they just move their knees. I also think that Hannah from Creeper would knock this out of the park at a nightclub.
Celine Dion – It’s All Coming Back to Me Now (1996)
Isn’t it crazy the power that Celine comes in with on that very first note? It’s not dynamic at all. Most Meatloaf songs build up to the power in the chorus but she’s powerful from the offset. Originally this song was by a band called Pandora's Box, which is a girl group that Jim Steinman was writing for and he put together. Their record is amazing, really theatrical; but, Jim gave this to Celine and it’s the song's best outing. Meatloaf himself did a cover version in Bat Out Of Hell III but it wasn’t as good as his voice was going at that point.
This is another video with a lavish castle where Celine is just roaming around, and there’s guys on motorbikes and ghosts. There’s a theme with Jim Steinman ballads where they’re always in a castle, something’s going on and it’s really heroic.
Slade – Everyday (1974)
I try to sing Everyday all the time but the chorus is so hard and nobody but Noddy Holder can sing it so high. I’ve always looked at live videos of this song because I couldn’t believe he could do it. There’s a double chorus at one point which is screechy high and now Noddy’s not in the band, they have to lower the key so it’s singable. But the song is so beautiful. I’ve always imagined it’s about him leaving his wife to go on tour. It’s really romantic and there’s a great choir part. There’s a lot we can learn from bands like Slade where a simple song structure can build to something spectacular.
Foreigner – I Want to Know What Love Is (1984)
This song is just fucking amazing, isn’t it? This morning I woke up and put on Tom Dalgety’s big power ballad playlist and was like ‘I can’t leave Foreigner off the list’! The chorus is just amazing, it reminded me of driving around in a car with my mum. It must have been on the radio when I was younger but it’s so nostalgic and it reminds me of being a little boy. It’s weird how songs can do that to you.
Meat Loaf – For Crying Out Loud (1977)
This is the last song on Bat Out of Hell and it’s my favourite Meat Loaf song. The vocal performance on it is chilling, and the swelling of the strings after the very last note. There’s an amazing video online from the Three Bats tour when Meat Loaf was singing this but it’s ridiculously hard to sing as all those Steinman songs are. He says: ‘I wanted to do this one with the orchestra while they were here, I haven’t sung it since the 70s so if I mess up, or forget the words you can say ‘Oh he’s washed up’ or you can think ‘At least he’s giving it his all'.
And then there’s this amazing performance where he’s struggling to hit the high notes but I love that. I would always rather see a singer give everything than watch some dude just do vocal gymnastics all over songs. I prefer heart over well-trained.