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  3 months ago

Shortlist. You can mock the hair. You can laugh at the overblown videos, the ludicrously self-indulgent guitar solos, the throw-the-kitchen-sink-at-it production and the shoulder pads.

But when you look down the karaoke list for a song to sing, or you’ve had a tense argument near a wind tunnel, there’s only one genre of song that you want to hear, and that’s the power ballad.

Our current number one best power ballad, Total Eclipse of the Heart, was recently in the news as it was revealed that the song is about... vampires. It was written for Broadway flop Dance of the Vampires and thankfully didn't stay un-dead for long, having huge success on its own, thanks to the amazing voice of Bonnie Tyler.

1. Bonnie Tyler - Total Eclipse Of The Heart.
Bona fide genius producer and songwriter Jim Steinman has said that he wrote this song for Bonnie Tyler “to be a showpiece for her voice”. Mission accomplished. The bombastic production features choirs, explosions, organs of doom, cymbal crashes and giant drum fills all over the shop. Few people have ever sung a line with such

2. Foreigner - I Want To Know What Love Is.
“It sort of [wrote] itself,” admits guitarist and songwriter Mick Jones. “When I hit on the idea it sounded like magic to me, even though I only had the first three chords of the song.” Magic it was, with the hymnal, hypnotic chorus, sung with pure soul by Lou Gramm, shifting on to a higher plane with the addition of a gospel choir; at the time – pre The X Factor – a revolutionary idea.

3. Journey - Don’t Stop Believin’.
Four piano chords, a tale of two starry-eyed dreamers and a whole lot of emotion combine to make this one of the most anthemic songs ever made. The true genius of this song lies in the way it makes you wait for the pay-off: its title – and, indeed, the actual chorus of the song – is not heard until three minutes and 21 seconds into the track. Incredibly, the song peaked at just No 62 on the UK chart when it was first released in 1981, before enjoying a merited second coming in 2009 after featuring on The Sopranos finale and on The X Factor (back when people watched it). So, if at first things don’t go your way, remember: don’t stop believing.

4. Heart - Alone.
Billy Steinberg, together with his Eighties songwriting partner Tom Kelly, was responsible for some of the biggest hits of the era, including this epic ballad. Originally recorded for his own project, Steinberg says he didn’t think the song “was going to be a big hit”, mainly due to not liking the chorus’s opening line. “I thought it was very poorly written, both in melody and in lyric, and so Tom said, ‘Well why don’t we just rewrite it?’ and I said ‘OK, let’s give that a shot’. The new, improved version was given to Heart and it became a huge global smash, with a chorus that smashes you round the face, a powerhouse vocal performance from Ann Wilson and practically the definitive pre-chorus power ballad drum fill. Whether your instrument is air guitar, air drums or simply an out-of-tune but passionate vocal, this song has something for you.

5. Meat Loaf - I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That). (photo).
Another Steinman epic, this 1993 smash is regularly introduced to the Ultimate Power faithful as ‘the greatest song ever written’, and if you disagree, you’re basically just wrong. The Loaf himself even expressed surprise when he was told that the full, 12-minute-long version was being played at the club, saying “We don’t even do that at our own shows!” An epic journey – in the true, non-reality show sense – this is a song that twists and turns, rises and falls, is bombastic then gentle, then bombastic once more, transporting you to another place. It’s a mini movie of a song, held together by the astonishing, dramatic vocal performance of Meat Loaf, singing like his very life depends upon it. And before you ask – ‘That’ refers to the previously sung line each time. So now you know.

6. Cutting Crew - (I Just) Died In Your Arms.
Cutting Crew lead singer Nick van Eede recounts how the title came about, “After getting back together with an old girlfriend. [It was] scratched down on a bit of paper… two or three days later I thought “that’s a good title” …One of the things about these big power ballads, there’s some cracking titles in there. I think the Eighties were very good at titles! ‘I Just Died In Your Arms’ - love it or hate it, it’s one of those, it’s a title you’re gonna go: “well, what the fuck’s this all about?” As well as that title, the song was aided by an utterly giant chorus, some incredible guitar work from Kevin McMichael and an MTV-destroying video. Taking four different attempts to produce the song to the band’s liking – “the most painful thing I’ve ever done in my life!” - it was worth it, as the song hit number one in the US in 1987, becoming an instant classic.

7. Aerosmith - I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing.
You may not have heard of Diane Warren, but you sure as hell will have heard one of her songs. She is the reigning queen of the power ballad, responsible for nine US No 1 singles, including Aerosmith’s biggest hit, the titanic ‘I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing’. “You just have to have a song with a great melody,” she says. “They’re just fun songs to sing. The ones that have lasted are really good songs, you can’t take that away.” And that certainly applies to this track, which features a towering vocal performance from Steven Tyler – “this gruff, macho rock star; this amazing tough guy, it just brought a whole other dimension to it” – and which Warren rates as the best-ever recording of one of her songs. If you can hold yourself back from screaming along to the climax of the middle eight – Tyler’s anguished ‘Yeah, yeah, yeaaaaah!” – then you do not have a single emotional bone in your body.

8. Bon Jovi - Always.
Originally written by Jon Bon Jovi for the 1993 film Romeo Is Bleeding – hence the opening lyric in the song – it was forgotten about after the band disliked the film and declined to let it be used. It became the song – as if they needed another one – that propelled their Cross Road greatest hits compilation into the stratosphere. “I will love you: always.” Has there been a more simple and direct message of devotion uttered by any man? Even one who has “made mistakes” and says he’s “not that good any more”? We think not. Put aside your cynicism and sing your lungs out to that chorus and you will discover the secret of pure joy.

9. Maria McKee - Show Me Heaven.
A chart-topper in 1990 and her first hit as an artist (she’d written one for Feargal Sharkey), McKee almost never sang the song. “They sent me this song called Secret Fire and I said, ‘These lyrics are just appalling – I’m not doing it, I can’t sing these lyrics. If you want me to do it let me rewrite the words,’ and they responded, ‘Yeah yeah yeah, OK, but you only have 24 hours to do it…’ So I scrawled out the lyrics to ‘Show Me Heaven’ in an evening and they said, ‘Ooh these are pretty good.’” The song was propelled to number 1 off the back of a tour de force live vocal performance on Top Of The Pops – a rarity at the time – as well as the sheer quality of the track. And did she know it was going to be a hit? “I was surprised, yeah, it was exciting. But you know, I’m an old punk so, for me, it was sort of like, ‘Whatever, I hope this doesn’t wreck my street cred”. And then when NME gave it single of the week I was like, “OK, I’m gonna be OK!”

10. The Bangles - Eternal Flame.
Co-written by Billy Steinberg, it wasn’t until we spoke to him that we realised that this track – a No1 in 1989 – breaks songwriting rules. “When we wrote ‘Eternal Flame’ we didn’t really feel we had a chorus,” he says. “It was one of those very melodic, poignant Beatle-type songs where the title would have been interwoven into the verse, but not with a chorus unto itself. But at the end it’s as if the verse transforms itself into a chorus.”

Are there any here that you like? I note that the late Meat Loaf has been mentioned and this is one of his songs that I like. I also like Don't Stop Believin'.

Comments if you wish or have other ballads that you like.


  3 months ago
Thanks for sharing B, great ones on the list and how music has changed and is still changing.


  3 months ago
Some excellent Power Ballads on this list. Yes I love belting out a Power Ballad or any song really. Doesnt matter if i am singing Karaoke or singing along whilst driving in my car. Nothing beats driving around with the windows down, the volume turned up and belting out those songs. Singing along to anything really is great stress relief.


  3 months ago
I like most of these but there are so many others, too many to list Ms B.


  3 months ago
There are a few i do like :- Mike and the Mechanics , The living years , The Verve , Bitter sweet symphony , Blood , Sweat and Tears , And when i die . U2 , I still haven't found what i'm looking for . There are many others , but these are the classic songs i like . You won't find any D&M's and classic lyrics in today's music ie. Rap , Hip hop . I don't understand that all these artists are millionaires , you can't understand the gibberish , it seems that it's rhyming slang . Originally i thought they were lamenting their lives in the ghetto's , south central , and the projects . They certainly aren't putting their hands in their pockets to help the one's left behind . It seems to be about gold chains and Bugattis for moi .


  3 months ago
The good ol’ days.. I used to listen to those songs which you have mentioned over and over again. It’s not easy to compose a song with a strong and powerful message on it. Unfortunately, music theses days gives you shallow emotions.


  3 months ago
No more now because of Omicron.


  3 months ago
Power Ballad do nothing for me B.


  3 months ago
The Rock Ballad is very popular. I think they want to prove their versatility. At the risk of being taunted and heckled by Strat, The Backstreet Boys “Incomplete” I enjoyed a lot. Also Creep by Radiohead was a classic that have related to over the years.

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