At their best, power ballads have the ability to move and delight even the most stoic of sourpusses. But while we recently went into great detail working out what exactly it is that makes a great power ballad great, we also recognise that for every November Rain, there’s at least 100 terrible b-sides languishing in the bargain bins of the soft rock world. Here are 10 songs to prove that every rose does indeed have its thorn.
10) ‘When I See You Smile’ – Bad English
John Waite can sing the phone book and make it sound sincere, but this song from the supergroup’s 1989 début album really tested his powers of persuasion. Written by Diane Warren, who was responsible for adding serious commercial clout to any number of rock band’s repertoires, this sounds like a band going through the motions and happy to take a hit. It worked too. The damn thing went to Number One in the US.
9) ‘I’ll Be There For You’ – Bon Jovi
Jonny boy has better hearing than a dog. How else could you explain how he ‘heard your suitcase say goodbye’? That’s impressive, unlike this overwrought nonsense from 1988’s New Jersey that doubtless served as the first dance for masses of love-struck couples at any number of late ‘80s weddings. If they thought this was genuine emotion, they’ll all be divorced now.
8) ‘I Hate Kissing You Goodbye’ – Tuff
I bet these Arizona third division metallers thought they were on the brink of the big time with this one from ‘91’s What Goes Around Comes Around. It’s competently performed and has all of the requisite touch points – impassioned vocals, big drums, widdly solo. But it’s the enormous emotional hole at its heart that lets its down. The best music exposes the soul. This only exposes Tuff’s Poison obsession.
7) ‘Carrie’ – Europe
Is there any man alive who genuinely likes this song? Surely the only reason a male could pretend to be into this piece of über-wimpdom would be in the hope that a rocker girlfriend might put out in a moment of weakness. Chances would only be increased if said girlfriend happened to be called Carrie, of course. Makes Styx seem like Metallica.
6) ‘Without You’ – Mötley Crüe
In what world do sex-hungry rock pigs Mötley Crüe suddenly feel the urge to tell a woman ‘without you in my life/I’d slowly wilt and die’? In the world of 1989’s Dr. Feelgood album, apparently. But that’s not a world we want to live in, because the music is dreadful. Plodding, wimpy, lighter-draining porridge.
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5) ‘Fly To The Angels’ – Slaughter
This horror, from 1990’s Stick It To Ya, has that really irritating power ballad affectation of a singer who sounds like he’s about to cry when he does the quiet bit. But it gets worse, as Mark Slaughter then runs through his lengthy book of clichéd rock rhymes while emoting all over the song. Someone has to clear that up later, Mark!
4) ‘I Want To Know What Love Is’ – Foreigner
Foreigner can write a great ballad, just not here. This, from ‘84’s Agent Provocateur, is the kind of song rockers somehow accepted as part of the game back in the day. Bands needed to shift more than a paltry five million albums, so a mainstream piece of sludge spewed forth to send them into the sales stratosphere. As for us, we simply lifted the needle at the precise moment the fucking choir came in. Unspeakable.
3) ‘Forever’ – Kiss
In their pomp Kiss were leaders, not followers, pummelling punters with their crazy theatrics and their strangely quirky take on hard rock. By the time 1989’s Hot In The Shade appeared, however, Kiss were interchangeable with any old two-bit hair metal act. ‘Forever’ is hard rock power balladry with every last ounce of character systematically drained from it. Paul Stanley sings, ‘I gotta tell you what I’m feelin’ inside’. I very much doubt it.
2) ‘When The Children Cry’ – White Lion
When the children cry is when they’re forced to listen to nonsense like this. A bum-clenchingly trite plea for world peace from 1987’s Pride, this makes The Scorpions’ Winds Of Change sound like Dylan wrote it. ‘No more presidents/And all the wars will end/One united world under God.’ And all this delivered with the conviction of man trying to sell mattresses.
1) ‘Honestly’ – Stryper
This was Stryper’s biggest hit, which shows that in 1987 there was practically limitless demand for this kind of vacuous faux-emotional crap. It’s provided endless facsimile wannabes on The Voice with a gold mine of rank material to dredge up, which says everything you need to know about this particularly nauseous wimpfest. Honestly, what the hell were Stryper thinking?