Thursday, October 15, 2009

Top 10 80's Power Ballads Of All Time

I can't believe I have not written this entry a long time ago!

So get your lighters out, freshen up your hair with some Aqua Net, and enjoy my list. Rock on.

10. Steelheart - "I'll Never Let You Go (Angel Eyes)" (1990)

The first lesson in Power Ballad 101: start with those ripping guitar chords, start slow, and let the power build. End strong with a pitch-perfect heavy metal scream. I love every second of it.

9. Poison - "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" (1988)

Although I debated including "I Won't Forget You" just for the fact that I can not hear this song without doing an air drum solo, no list is complete without the ultimate 80's power ballad. Also, my personal favorite lyrics are "To hear that tears me up inside and to see you cuts me like a knife." Although we may not be writing future #1 hit songs in laundromats or dating ex-strippers, who can't relate to this bit of Bret Michaels-penned wisdom? This video is the hallmark of what 80's videos should be (well, so are "Home Sweet Home" and "Heaven" but I disgress. How much white leather pants can we take? The answer is plenty.)

8. Tesla - "Love Song" (1989)

Tesla is, in many ways, the opposite of your traditional hair metal band. In fact, calling them a hair metal band would be to put them in the wrong category, but this song is an awesome power ballad that defies the genre. First off, it opens with over a minute of intro music, which most power ballads wouldn't dare to do. Bring in the synthesizer and 10 seconds of piano music and move on. But here, it works. And god damn it, love will find a way. Just look around, open your eyes.

7. Europe - "Carrie" (1986)

A little cheesy and a little awesome, Europe personified everything that we love and hate about the 80's. Yet another girl's name ballad, but a great one, with a lot of synthesizer and 80's melody to it. And just look at the hair on Joey Tempest. It doesn't get better than this. I know you want to sing along now: "Caaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrie, Caaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrie, things they change my friend, ohhhhhhh."

6. Great White - "Save Your Love" (1987)

Far more haunting than the average power ballad, there is something soft and seductive about this song that lends itself to giving the listener chills. To me, it evokes driving around North Stamford at night alone and smoking cigarettes in the dark circa 2004. This video is a little cheestastic, so I recommend listening to it with the lights down low, without getting distracted by the unintentional hilarity of it. Where are they anyway, an abandoned factory? And oh wait, it's raining indoors.

5. Heart - "Alone" (1987)

This song has been covered by everyone from Carrie Underwood to Kristen Chenoweth to Celine Dion. Yet it remains a classic for a reason. The plantive and desperate refrain, "How do I get you alone?" has echoed in everyone's head, and instantly evokes that lost love. It remains Heart's biggest hit song, spending three weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. And it's incredible. Probably the ultimate female power ballad.

4. Cheap Trick - "The Flame" (1988)

You were the first, you'll be the last. More definitive words were never uttered in an 80's power ballad. While Cheap Trick is not a band most would associate with the 80's hair metal scene, this song is the quintessential power ballad and an excellent one at that. Released in 1988, this song became a #1 Billboard Hot 100 hit. And how badass is Bun Carlos, the drummer, smoking a cigarette while playing?

3. Cinderella - "Heartbreak Station" (1990)

When people think of Cinderella and power ballads, the obvious choice is the excellent "Don't Know What You've Got ('Til It's Gone)". But this song is the underdog and my clear winner for best power ballad by Cinderella. Tom Keifer is an incredible singer and Cinderella's authentic bluesy style set them apart from other more glam bands like Poison. (Although make no mistake, Cinderella's look was certainly glam metal at the beginning of their career). This sparse but ethreal ballad is incredibly moving and one of my favorites.

2. Bon Jovi - "I'll Be There For You" (1988)

From that opening guitar bit to the haunting first lyric "I guess this time you're really leaving", this song gives me chills every time. I heard it on the radio today, on Sirius Channel 23 Hair Nation, and it never gets old. In fact, like a fine wine, it gets better with age. In concert these days, it's still a staple of their live show, except this time guitarist Richie Sambora takes over lead vocals. It's been debated among fans, with some saying they've paid to hear Jon sing one of their old favorites. Yet Richie's more husky, bluesy voice adds something new to the song that doesn't fail to bring me to tears each time I hear it live.

Here's a live version from the end of the mammoth "New Jersey" tour. This video was taken from a Jan. 28, 1990 performance in Brazil.

1. Skid Row - "I Remember You" (1989)

My second favorite song of all time eclipses all other power ballads, of any decade. All the elusive pieces that make a good song great come together on this one, from the lyrics to the guitar solo to the vocals and even the video is incredible. Sebastian Bach is my favorite metal singer of all time, both viscerally intesne and heartbreakingly beautiful. This song is a cut above many other 80's power ballads, because it has grit and most importantly, heart to it. It's style over substance, lyrical perfection over repetition, and one of the most flawless songs I will ever hear in my life.

For fun, here's someone else's list of their Top 20 songs. All are good, but I could do without the inclusion of 2 Foreigner songs.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Frickin' A - the best band you have never heard of

I stumbled across Frickin' A by accident really. As a band, they're no longer together, but some of the members went on to form Lovesick Radio - a band I've really grown to like.

I bought Frickin' A's 2004 album "Big Egos...No Ideas" off Ebay for about $4 - a bargain really for any CD still new in the wrap.

The band is hyper-aware of the music industry, its failings, and the bands that are their peers. Half the songs are break-up songs, the other half


1. Drive
2. Just Friends
3. Trend
4. Jessie's Girl
5. Party Like A Rock Star
6. Dump Me
7. Naked In My Bed
8. Cut Number 7
9. Last Summer
10. One Step Away'

The album opens with the song "Drive", a catchy 3-chord pop-punk song about the remnants an ex leaves behind. "Your cigarettes are in my backseat, and I can't get very far listening to the CD mix you made me. There's your lipstick on my floorboard, your footprints on the dashboard, you're everywhere but by my side, and I can't drive," the lyrics go.

"Just Friends" is the highlight of the album. A little bitter, a little tongue-in-cheek, this was the song that got me interested in the band and the best song on the album.

"Trend" pokes fun at the often ridiculous fads in the music industry. A good, solid song that is pretty amusing for anyone who knows these fads all-too-well.

It was their cover of "Jessie's Girl" (originally a major 80's hit for Rick Springfield) that gained the band some attention. It's a good cover, but nothing remarkably different from the original. Here, it works and doesn't disrupt the flow of the album like many covers (Britney Spears's cover of "The Beat Goes On" by Sonny and Cher comes to mind. 10 years later, I still feel this is one of the oddest song choices ever included on an album). This song has a slight more rock edge than the original, but largely sticks to a winning formula.

Another one of my favorite tracks "Party Like A Rock Star" is a bit ambiguous. I can't tell if it is empowering to the girl who is the subject of the song, or if it points out the sadness behind the partying. However, it makes the song a bit more interesting than a typical rock 'n roll party song. Maybe I like this one because it reminds me of my college days.

"Dump Me" is more of a funny break-up song than the others, about a guy who doesn't seem to understand that his girlfriend is breaking up with him. A catchy sing-a-long track. "Stood me up on Tuesday, our 3 month anniversary, I might not make it through the day. I think she's going to dump me, yeah."

"Naked In My Bed" is an okay song, but features lyrics like "I met her at the pool, she was smokin' hot". Kind of reminds me of Avril Lavigne's Sk8ter Boi, "He was a boy, she was a girl." Pretty obvious, yes.

One of the most interesting songs on the CD is called "Cut Number 7", an almost 8 minute epic about a band getting their start in the music industry. They write an amazing song, but between A&R people, the record label, focus groups, and their fans, they lose track of which song actually should be released as a single. After the failure of their band, they realize they should have stuck with the original song that captured everyone's hearts so long ago.

"Last Summer" is all about being 17 and having nowhere to go, the first summer that you fall in love and feel all too much, all at once. It's a great nostalgia track.

"One Step Away" is one of the longer songs on the album, and a slower ballad - in stark contrast to the rest of the album. It is interesting that they choose this song to close off the album, but it's a good track all the same.

Overall, this album stands out over the mediocre pop-punk of bands like Simple Plan. They're self-aware, which lends itself well to not falling into self-parody. They have a wicked sense of humor and great pop-rock hooks. The lyrics can be hilarious and hint at something deeper - at the same time. It's worth tracking down this album on Ebay, as it's no longer available in stores.

Check out the band's lyrics here: