20 Best Hair Metal Ballads of the '80s and '90s

The 1980s and early 1990s were the heydays of hair metal. These bands sold out concerts around the world and their songs dominated the airwaves. Their biggest hits tended to be ballads, the type of songs that had fans waving lighters in the air, way back in the dark ages before cell phones. We scoured our memory banks to bring you what we consider the 20 best hair metal ballads. But be warned: Since we don't consider Guns N' Roses to be a hair metal band, you won't see "Sweet Child o' Mine" on this list. But we do think it's a great song.

Poison on stage
Scott Legato / Getty Images

To us, this is the quintessential hair metal ballad. It starts off with an acoustic guitar, eventually kicks into power ballad mode, and then mellows out again at the end. Poison is also No. 1 on our list of the best hair bands, so it's only appropriate that one of their songs is the best hair metal ballad. More »

Skid Row held on to their success a little longer than most hair bands, due in no small part to lead singer Sebastian Bach's impressive vocals. The group had several radio hits, the biggest being "18 And Life." Their ballad "Wasted Time" is a great song, but "I Remember You" was more popular—and it has really held up well. It starts off mellow and acoustic, then kicks into symphonic power ballad mode, with Bach hitting those stratospheric high notes for which he was famous. More »

The band that wrote the rousing "Cherry Pie" and "Down Boys" were also great balladeers. "I Saw Red" and "Sometimes She Cries" are great, but we think "Heaven" edges both out by a hair. It has a really catchy chorus, some nice harmonies, and the signature hair metal acoustic start followed by power guitars and soaring vocals. Unfortunately, lead singer Jani Lane battled alcohol and drug problems for many years and passed away in 2011. More »

Hair band lyrics were generally about girls and partying or partying and girls. White Lion got a little more political, with a ballad about the impact of war on the next generation. Mike Tramp has a unique-sounding voice, and this was White Lion's biggest hit. It doesn't have the typical mellow/kick-in/mellow/kick-in cycle of most hair metal ballads. Instead, it remains mellow throughout—even the guitar solo is subdued. More »

L.A. Guns is one of the more underrated hair bands. They did well and had a couple of platinum albums, but never reached the commercial heights of groups like Poison, Warrant, or Mötley Crüe. Faster songs like "Never Enough" and "Rip And Tear" were reasonably successful, but "The Ballad Of Jayne" was their signature song. The lyrics, about a friend who died, packs an emotional punch, and the music has a lot of interesting tempo and intensity changes.  More »

Firehouse had a string of ballads that made the charts, including "When I Look Into Your Eyes" and "I Live My Life For You," which charted in 1995, a few years after most hair bands had faded into obscurity. "Love Of A Lifetime" was their biggest hit, peaking at No. 5 on the pop charts. It's an unabashed love song, with no cynicism or double entendres, just a heartfelt ode to finally finding lasting love. More »

"Love Song" is distinctive for its lengthy guitar intro. The single version cuts it out, which is a shame because it's really good. Tesla made their presence known when their 1986 debut spawned the hit singles "Little Suzi" and "Modern Day Cowboy." They had a few more songs make the charts over the next few years, and "Love Song" was their second highest ranking single, reaching No. 10 ("Signs" peaked at No. 7). More »

Mark Slaughter probably has one of the most distinctive voices in hair metal, and it really shines in this song about love and loss that the group dedicated to Amelia Earhart. Although Slaughter charted with "Up All Night" and "Spend My Life," this was their biggest hit. And rightly so, because if the soaring beauty of the chorus doesn't send shivers down your spine, we don't know what would. After their double platinum debut, Stick It To Ya, they never again had another hit. They still tour, though, and Mark Slaughter's voice is as powerful as ever. More »

Tom Kiefer's high-pitched, raspy voice was pretty polarizing, and Cinderella had a few more haters than most of their contemporaries. They cracked the pop charts with singles like "Gypsy Road" and "Shake Me." "Don't Know What You Got (Til It's Gone)" just edged out "Nobody's Fool" as our pick. We think it has held up better over the years.

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Out of all the bands on this list, Steelheart is probably the least well known, even though this song is still in heavy rotation on classic rock and metal stations. "I'll Never Let You Go" was their only hit, notable for singer Michael Matijevic's ability to hit some of the highest notes of any song in rock and roll. He also recorded some of the vocals for Mark Wahlberg's character in the movie "Rock Star." More »

Kix was another second-tier hair band that some people think should have been more successful than they were. As one of the pioneers in the genre, they released their first album back in 1981. "Blow My Fuse" and "Cold Blood" got radio and MTV play, but this song, with its heartfelt anti-suicide lyrics, was the only one of theirs to hit the pop charts, peaking at No. 12. It starts with a piano, and then gradually builds in intensity before kicking in. Vocalist Steve Whiteman has a great voice, and Kix continues to reunite periodically to play live. More »

Damn Yankees were a supergroup of sorts that included Jack Blades from Night Ranger, Tommy Shaw from Styx, and Ted Nugent. They released two albums during their heyday, and a bunch of their songs made it onto the rock charts. This song was a huge pop hit, peaking at No. 3. The combination of Blades' lower-pitched voice and Shaw's higher register works really well together, and there are some great harmonies throughout the song. More »

We realize that including Ozzy Osbourne in the hair band category is controversial. Then again, isn't he really the godfather of all metal? And there's no denying that Lita Ford belongs squarely in the genre. Lita's hit "Kiss Me Deadly" peaked at No. 12 on the singles chart, but this one did even better, cracking the top 10 and rising to No. 8. Ozzy and Lita basically alternate vocals throughout the song, rarely singing together. The result showcases their distinctive vocal styles—and Lita's first-rate guitar work. More »

Mötley Crüe are one of the most popular and commercially successful of the hair bands. They've had a ton of hits, which range from good-time fist-pumpers like "Girls Girls Girls" and "Dr. Feelgood" to thundering metal anthems like "Shout At The Devil" and "Primal Scream." As far as their ballads are concerned, it was a toss up between "Home Sweet Home" and "Without You." We broke the tie with a coin toss—but do honestly feel it's a slightly better song. More »

The Chicago glam band Enuff Z'Nuff released several albums from the late '80s through the early '90s but remained solidly in the second tier of hair metal bands. "Fly High Michelle" is a little faster paced than most ballads, but still fits the criteria. "New Thing" and this song were their only chart successes. More »

If you were a fan of the television show "Beavis And Butthead," you might remember Stewart, the nerdy guy who always caught crap for wearing a Winger T-shirt.  Although a lot of music fans derided them for their "metal lite" style, they did have some good songs. "Seventeen" and "Madalaine" put them on the map, but ballads like "Headed For A Heartbreak" and this one were their biggest hits. More »

Dokken's string of hits include "In My Dreams" and "It's Not Love," but although singer Don Dokken and guitarist George Lynch made a great musical team, they just couldn't get along on a personal level.  It's a shame because they were a sold band that garnered a loyal following. They eventually got back together, but the era of the hair bands had passed by that time. "Alone Again" was their best ballad. More »

If you had only this song to go by, you'd likely think Extreme were nothing more than a mellow pop band. In reality, they were pretty hard rocking, and Nuno Bettencourt is a great guitar player. They released some of their harder edged songs as singles, but only mellower tracks like the great "Hole Hearted" and this one were popular among the masses. "More Than Words" is completely acoustic, with just Nuno on guitar and Gary Cherone singing. More »

There was a time in the 1980s when you couldn't turn on the radio without hearing a song by this German powerhouse metal band. The prescient "Wind Of Change," with its whistling intro, was much more commercially successful, but "Still Loving You" is in our opinion a superior song.  More »

Faster Pussycat were in the second tier of hair bands, but they had some decent songs, like "Bathroom Wall" and "Poison Ivy." Their biggest hit was "House Of Pain," from their 1989 album, Wake Me When It's Over.

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