Top 10 Rock Ballads of the '90s

Stirring Songs to Tug at Your Heartstrings

They say rock music is all about getting chicks (or dudes!). But what do musicians do once they land their loves? They write ballads! Although some of these selections aren't romantic (choices from Silverchair and Nine Inch Nails are about learning to love oneself again), what all these songs have in common is the ability to move listeners and stir sympathy. Here are the top 10 rock ballads of the 1990s.

"I Don't Want To Miss a Thing" by Aerosmith

Aerosmith I Don't Want To Miss a Thing
Touchstone Pictures

What a sweet thing for Steven Tyler to perform this interstellar epic for his daughter, Liv. Written by the incomparable Diane Warren, “I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing” appeared in Armageddon, starring Liv, Ben Affleck and Bruce Willis. The music video spliced Aerosmith’s passionate miming with Willis' tough-as-nails efforts to save earth from deadly meteors. But we’re pretty sure it’s Steven Tyler’s piercing high notes that disintegrated the throttling threats.

"(Everything I Do) I Do It for You" by Bryan Adams

Robin Hood Prince of Thieves
A&M

He’d fight for you and even die for you. When Canadian rocker Bryan Adams brought to life the musical story of Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood, it brought millions to tears. Although many find this classic hard to sing… hard to stomach, it crushed the Hot 100 competition for seven weeks in 1991. How heroic (​swoon)!

"November Rain" by Guns N' Roses

November Rain
Geffen

Nine minutes of pure awesome, “November Rain” is often hailed as GNR’s crowning achievement. Slash’s emotive guitar solo, those soaring violins, and Axl Rose’s sandpapery vocals resulted in the perfect mix for an early ’90s power ballad. Extra romance points to Rose for including Stephanie Seymour, his lady love at the time, in the cinematic music video.

"Let Her Cry" by Hootie and the Blowfish

Hootie and the Blowfish
Atlantic

Before he became a groundbreaking country-western star, Darius Rucker fronted the super successful but ludicrously named Hootie & the Blowfish. One of that band’s most powerful singles was this 1994 lament. It was a smoky number that was contemporaneous to the pop culture of its time — Rucker sang about a woman who loved her pop just slightly more than she loved R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe. This barroom ballad made it to number two on the Top 40.

"I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)" by Meat Loaf

Meat Loaf
MCA

Today’s listeners might recognize this theatrical song from an M&Ms commercial, but 20 years ago, it was inescapable. Seventies artist Meat Loaf enjoyed a huge comeback with this Jim Steinman-penned ballad, though it left many wondering what exactly “that” was. Maybe Meat’s love for his gal was so endless, he promised he would never conclude the nearly 12-minute-long tune.

"Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails

Hurt
TVT/Interscope

A harrowing tale of self-harm, “Hurt” was Trent Reznor at his most transparent. The normally cool and vicious auteur dug deep inside for this sorrowful anthem, possibly commenting on the epidemic of heroin use among musicians in the 1990s. (“The needle tears a hole,” the singer murmured.) The visceral message led to “Hurt” being nominated for a Grammy and becoming a heartbreaking swan song for the legendary Johnny Cash.

"Strong Enough" by Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow
A&M

Much of the landmark Tuesday Night Music Club album was about Sheryl Crow proving she could hang with the boys (“All I Wanna Do”). But “Strong Enough” showed that the former Michael Jackson backing vocalist had muscle when it came to balladry. With an acoustic strum and a haunting delivery, Crow laid it all on the line with this one. Sometimes a quiet moment can speak the loudest for a rocker.

"Ana's Song (Open Fire)" by Silverchair

Silverchair
Epic

Akin to Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt,” this heartbreaking song dealt with the pain humans inflict upon themselves. Namely, the “Ana” here referred to singer Daniel Johns’ struggle with anorexia. Silverchair’s maturation from grunge-loving teens (1995’s Frogstomp) to glam-rock experts (1999’s ) was aided by this therapeutic ballad.

"Disarm" by The Smashing Pumpkins

The Smashing Pumpkins
Virgin

Awash with “Eleanor Rigby” strings and chiming bells, this cornerstone of the Pumpkins’ 1993 album, Siamese Dream, was a turning point for the Chicago band. They’d previously been known for psychedelic barnburners and poppy alt-rock pieces, but “Disarm” showcased the subtle mastery of Billy Corgan’s songwriting. The line “I send this smile over to you” served as a life raft to music fans who needed one.

"Only in Dreams" by Weezer

Weezer
Geffen

This California foursome was generally regarded as a bunch of goofballs, reverent of bygone days (e.g. “Buddy Holly” and “In the Garage”). But this emo daydream was Weezer’s behemoth. Rivers Cuomo’s self-effacing lyrics and crooning made “Only in Dreams” the empowerment theme for the everyman. Not to mention that intricate guitar solo - it'll get you every time!