Soaring vocals from Jeff Keith? Check. Massive guitar solo from Frank Hannon? Check. Excellent use of “Du du du-du-du”? Big ol’ check right there! It’s no wonder this was one of Tesla’s biggest hits.
49. ‘The Ballad of Jayne’ - L.A. Guns
While the history of L.A. Guns is intertwined with Guns N’ Roses due to Axl Rose’s brief stint in the band in 1984, L.A. Guns only managed one hit with 1989’s “The Ballad of Jayne,” but they sure did make it count. And no, the song isn’t an ode to late actress Jayne Mansfield. Singer Phil Lewis said in a 2011 interview, “it’s not about [Jayne Mansfield] at all. It’s about a fictitious character, but I based it on so many of these young girls who leave their small towns and go out to LA to become a star.”
48. ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ - Starship
All due respect to Andrew McCarthy and Kim Cattrall, but “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” was the best thing about the 1987 film Mannequin. The track features Mickey Thomas sharing vocal duties with Grace Slick, who just two decades prior was wailing “Feed Your Head!” On “White Rabbit.” (Honestly, that fun fact is still jarring years later.) Penned by songwriting giants Diane Warren and Albert Hammond, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”would go on to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
47. ‘Black Velvet’ - Alannah Myles
An ode to Elvis Presley, Alannah Myles’ “Black Velvet” was included on the three-track demo that eventually led to her being signed by Atlantic Records. The track, oozing with swagger and that giant chorus, would top the Billboard Hot 100 charts for two weeks and would earn Myles the Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance in 1991.
46. ‘I Miss You’ - blink-182
“Where are you? And I’m so sorry!” Sure, “I Miss You” feels more like a meme than a song in recent years, but it remains one of blink-182’s most enduring and endearing tracks in their catalog. And never forget when belting the chorus, it’s “yead,” not “head.”
45. ‘High Enough’ - Damn Yankees
When the world was introduced to Ted Nugent, the last thing anyone thought — and this likely includes Uncle Ted, himself — was that a massive power ballad was in his future. But that’s what happened when the Motor City Mad Man joined forces with Styx’s Tommy Shaw, Night Ranger’s Jack Blades and future Lynyrd Skynyrd drummer Michael Cartellone to form Damn Yankees. The band’s self-titled 1990 debut would go on to sell two million copies, and it was thanks to this massive power ballad, which peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 chart at number 3.
44. ‘When I See You Smile’ - Bad English
Yet another song written by Diane Warren! (BTW: She pops up another time later in this list.) Bad English – the supergroup made up of The Babys’ John Waite and Ricky Phillips and Journey’s Neal Schon, Deen Castronovo and Jonathan Cain, who was in The Babys and Journey – was only around for two albums. “When I See You Smile” was the second single released from their self-tited 1989 debut, and it was their biggest hit topping the Billboard Hot 100 in November 1989.
43. ‘Silent Lucidity’ - Queensryche
“It’s a place where you will learn/To face your fears, retrace the years/And ride the whims of your mind/Commanding in another world/Suddenly you hear and see/This magic new dimension.” This power ballad is as tender as it is beautifully haunting. We have Geoff Tates’ stunning vocals and guitarist Chris DeGarmo’s songwriting to thank for that.
42. ‘It Must Have Been Love’ - Roxette
Fun fact: This Roxette hit was first released in 1987 as “It Must Have Been Love (Christmas for the Broken Hearted).” (Yeah, it was originally a Christmas song!) It was only released in the duo’s native Sweden but would be edited and re-released internationally in 1990 as part of the soundtrack for the hit film Pretty Woman. Singer Marie Fredriksson would die in December 2019 from a brain tumor, but songs like “It Must Have Been Love” will live on forever as examples of her dynamic voice.
41. ‘Fly To The Angels’ - Slaughter
By the time Slaughter released their 1990 debut Stick It to Ya, there was already a popular formula in place for many rock bands releasing a new LP: First single is the rocker, and the second single is the power ballad. While the formula was successful, you still need quality songs for it to work, and Slaughter definitely had them, especially with their second single “Fly To The Angels.” Just thinking about the notes Mark Slaughter hits during the chorus makes my throat hurt.
40. ‘Heaven’ - Bryan Adams
“Heaven” was a massive hit for Bryan Adams and was his first number-one single in the U.S. If you think the song is reminiscent of Journey’s “Faithfully,” you’re not wrong; Adams toured with Journey while they supported their Frontiers LP, and then-Journey drummer Steve Smith plays on “Heaven.” The song is so dreamy, it lent itself to a particularly swoon-worthy scene from Magic Mike XXL.
39. ‘We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)’ - Tina Turner
After Tina Turner’s smash comeback album Private Dancer, many were likely wondering what her next move was. It turns out it was starring alongside Mel Gibson in 1985’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and singing the film’s theme “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome).” And by singing, we mean absolutely belting the hell out of it.
38. ‘Iris’ - Goo Goo Dolls
A number of songs on this list are featured on soundtracks and it makes sense due to the bombastic, dramatic nature of power ballads. In the case of Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris,” it was written for the 1998 film City of Angels starring Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan, and it went on to become a massive crossover international hit. And that booming chorus…wow!
37. ‘Close My Eyes Forever’ - Lita Ford & Ozzy Osbourne
A number of the songs on this power ballad ranking have something interesting in common: They’re often the artist’s biggest hits in their entire catalog. This duet of Lita Ford and Ozzy Osbourne is no exception. The third single from Ford’s self-titled 1988 studio album, “Close My Eyes Forever” who peak on the Billboard Hot 100 at #8.
36. ‘Don’t Know What You Got (Til It’s Gone) - Cinderella
“I can’t tell ya baby what went wrong…”There’s something very poetic about this power ballad from Cinderella. Who hasn’t been in a relationship – romantic or not – that went sour, and you just couldn’t figure out why? It might be one of the most realistic and relatable songs on this entire list.
35. ‘Eternal Flame’ - The Bangles
“Eternal Flame” may have burned bright for The Bangles, but it ended up being the band’s last huge hit before their breakup in 1989. The band would reunite about a decade later, but if a band is going to break up, there’s nothing like going out with a number one hit song. Talk about sun shining through the rain, right?
34. ‘Fall To Pieces’ - Velvet Revolver
Velvet Revolver was one of a number of supergroups to emerge in the early aughts. They were together for only six years, but that time produced some great tunes including this power ballad from their 2004 debut LP Contraband. Scott Weiland’s unique vocals truly open up on the song’s sing-a-long chorus, and the track serves as yet another example of how a Slash guitar solo can truly take a song to another level.
33. ‘To Be With You’ - Mr. Big
When you’re waiting on a line just to be the next to be with someone, you got it bad. Turns out Mr. Big’s frontman Eric Martin did have it bad for someone he knew years before the song became a hit. Martin would say in an interview in 2011, “This girl had a lot of boyfriends who treated her like s***. I wanted to be the knight in shining armor, wanted to be with her. She wasn’t having it. It never came to play.” It’s too bad for her, because Martin clearly had strong feelings for this woman. At least a great tune came out of it, right?
32. ‘More Than Words’ - Extreme
Brilliantly described by Max (Adam Pally) on the cult sitcom Happy Endings as “two men playing acoustic guitar at each other,” “More Than Words” sounded nothing like any of Extreme’s metal music. Regardless, the tender tune featuring the beautiful harmony vocals of Gary Cherone and Nuno Bettencourt would go on to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
31. ‘Why Can’t This Be Love’ - Van Halen
The first single of the “Van Hagar” era of Van Halen was this keyboard-happy power ballad. What a statement! Of course, “Why Can’t This Be Love” definitely had what it takes and helped Van Halen’s seventh studio album 5150 sell over six million copies.
30. ‘The Flame’ - Cheap Trick
“You were the first, you’ll be the last.” SWOON! Before “The Flame,” Cheap Trick hadn’t had a top 40 hit since 1979. At the request of Epic Records, they had their choice of two songs the label was certain were going to be number one hits. Cheap Trick chose “The Flame,” and as predicted, the song topped the Billboard Hot 100. (For what it’s worth: The other songs was “Look Away,” which was released by Chicago in September 1988, and it also topped the charts.)
29. ‘Wind of Change’ - Scorpions
Not every power ballad is about romantic love; sometimes, they’re an agent of peace. Such was the case of “Wind of Change” from Scorpions. Klaus Meine was inspired to write the song after Scorpions took part in the Moscow Music Peace Festival in August 1989. Shortly there after, Meine would write this epic tune that, to this day, is historically tied to the end of the Cold War and the Soviet Union. Of course, there’s also the conspiracy theory that the CIA actually wrote “Wind of Change,” but we’ll let you dive into that on your own via the podcast of the same name.
28. ‘Free Bird’ - Lynyrd Skynyrd
“Free Bird” isn’t typically in the power ballad conversation, but when you examine the classic tune per the aforementioned definition from the Cambridge University Press, it totally is! “Constant escalation and an expressive formula that combines the euphoric uplift created by rousing music with sentimental themes and ploys”? Um,yeah…”Free Bird” has that and then some! The guitar work from Allen Collins and Gary Rossington alone should be enough.
27. ‘Against All Odds’ - Phil Collins
Ever have a drunk cry to this Phil Collins classic after a brutal breakup? No? Just me? Oh, well…it’s quite therapeutic, as is belting out the anthemic chorus. Collins wrote the tune for the 1984 film of the same name that starred Rachel Ward, Jeff Bridges and James Woods. The film wasn’t a big hit, but the song sure was! It was even nominated for Best Original Song at the 1985 Academy Awards but lost out to Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You” from The Woman in Red, which is really one of Wonder’s most pedestrian tunes, but that’s a rant for another day.
26. ‘It’s All Coming Back To Me Now’ - Celine Dion
Okay…now at this point, some of you might be mad to see Celine Dion on this list, but do yourself a favor and just revisit this epic from the singer’s 1996 hit album Falling into You. BTW: If you’re thinking that “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” sounds a lot like a Meat Loaf song, it’s because it was written by composer Jim Steinman, who’s best known for writing Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell and Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell.
25. ‘Bringin’ on the Heartbreak’ - Def Leppard
Many people were introduced to Def Leppard’s trademark group vocal via “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” from their 1981 LP High ‘n’ Dry. A number of power ballads from Def Leppard could’ve made this list, but there’s something truly special about how this track builds into the chorus while also giving Joe Elliott plenty of time to shine on his own.
24. ‘Keep On Loving You’ - REO Speedwagon
The lead single from REO Speedwagon’s ninth studio album Hi Infidelity, “Keep On Loving You” was a massive power ballad that helped the Illinois-based band achieve a new level of stardom. Hi Infidelity would go on to be the biggest selling album of 1981.
23. ‘Shadows of the Night - Pat Benatar
Pat Benatar could be (and still is) an utter badass, but she also has a number of hits that showed off her sensitive side. “Shadows of the Night” finds Benatar walking the line between toughness and sweetness, and she walks that line brilliantly. (“You can cry, tough baby, it’s alright/You can let me down easy, but not tonight.”) Her powerful vocals certainly don’t hurt matters either.
22. ‘Blaze of Glory’ - Jon Bon Jovi
“Blaze of Glory” was Jon Bon Jovi’s first solo single, and out the gate, the track topped the Billboard Hot 100. Written for the 1990 film Young Guns II, the song came to be after Emilio Estevez wanted Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” for his movie, but JBJ declined and ended up writing this song and a whole soundtrack. (Jon even makes an uncredited cameo in the film, which was his first appearance in any film.) While there are theme similarities between “Blaze of Glory” and “Wanted Dead or Alive,” the former was certainly a better fit for a film about Billy the Kid and truly evokes that spirit of the Wild West.
21. ‘Heaven’ - Warrant
If you ever questioned what a great power ballad could do for a band, look no further than Warrant. The second single from their 1989 debut album Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich, “Heaven” would help propel the album to being certified double platinum and would peak on the Billboard Hot 100 at number two. The song that prevented Warrant from topping the chart? Milli Vanilli’s “Girl I’m Gonna Miss You.”
20. ‘Sister Christian’ - Night Ranger
Fine, let’s just say it: Who knew such a sweet song about a younger sister growing up would end up soundtracking such a bizarre film scene like in 1997’s Boogie Nights? That movie moment aside, “Sister Christian” remains one of the most memorable power ballads thanks in small part to that ridiculously catchy “Motoring!” chorus.
19. ‘Mama I’m Coming Home’ - Ozzy Osbourne
Inspired by wife/manager, Sharon, “Mama I’m Coming Home” somehow increases in wholesomeness when you learn Motorhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister wrote the lyrics to this beautiful power ballad. Sure, that doesn’t make sense in theory, but after just one listen, it just sort of clicks. Listen below if you’re still having doubts!
18. ‘Lady’ - Styx
If you weren’t sold by the wholesomeness of the previous song, get ready for this. Originally released in 1973, Dennis DeYoung wrote “Lady” for his wife, Suzanne. They were married in 1970 and are still married to this day! This was also Styx’s first top-ten hit, too. How wonderful is that?!
17. ‘I Found Someone’ - Cher
When Cher released “I Found Someone,” it was her first new piece of music in five years. (Cher opted to focus on her acting career for most of the mid-80s.) This time around, Cher embraced more rock elements, and it certainly paid off with the track becoming Cher’s first top-ten hit in nine years. Fun fact: “I Found Someone” was written by Michael Bolton and Mark Mangold and originally recorded and released by Laura Branigan about a year-and-a half before Cher released her version. Bolton would serve as producer on Cher’s version, as well.
16. ‘Is This Love’ - Whitesnake
“Is This Love” was a monster hit for Whitesnake, but it almost wasn’t their song. In an interview with Ultimate Classic Rock, David Coverdale said, “‘Is This Love’ was for Tina Turner originally. EMI had asked me, and then David Geffen said, “You’re f—in’ keeping it!” And thankfully so! Arrogantly, I scream at the beginning of it, “This is a chorus that will take over the world” — and it f—ing did! I am at least a man of my word.” And a modest man, at that!
15. ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ - Bonnie Tyler
The late Jim Steinman will be best remembered for his work with Meat Loaf, but he also contributed some incredible tunes to other artists, as evident from number 26 on this list and “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler, who truly belted the hell out of this ballad. The album version of this track was nearly seven minutes long, because Jim is gonna Steinman, but the single version would be edited down to 4:30 so…you know…it would get played on the radio. (Note: One more composition from Steinman will appear on this list.)
14. ‘I Remember You’ - Skid Row
Believe it or not, Rachel Bolan and Snake Sabo – who wrote “I Remember You,” it should be noted – lobbied to keep the obvious hit off Skid Row’s 1989 self-titled debut album. Why? As Bolan put it in an interview with Ultimate Classic Rock, “We don’t want to be a chick band – We want to be a hard-rock band.” Clearly, Bolan and Sabo changed their minds, and thankfully they did, because who else but Sebastian Bach can you imagine hitting those high notes? Exactly.
13. ‘Kiss From A Rose’ - Seal
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is lovely and all, and it’s done wonders for classic rock with the soundtracks for Iron Man 2 and the Guardians of the Galaxy films, but when’s the last time it helped spawn a hit like this? While “Kiss From A Rose” was originally released as a single in July 1994, its inclusion in 1995’s Batman Forever and its subsequent soundtrack made Seal a star. The track also cleaned up at the 1996 Grammy Awards winning Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.
12. ‘The Show Must Go On’ - Queen
“Inside my heart is breaking/My makeup may be flaking/But my smile, still, stays on.” Without question, “The Show Must Go On” is the most devastating song on this list but one of the most beautiful. The track was released as a single just six weeks before Freddie Mercury died from complications related to HIV/AIDS. Brian May was the lead writer on the track, but it’s almost as if the entire group banded together in order to give their dear friend a grand, dramatic send-off fit for royalty.
11. ‘I Want to Know What Love Is’ - Foreigner
Most power ballads have big, booming choruses, but few of them make you scream-sing them in your car quite like Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is.” Foreigner had plenty of hits before “I Want to Know What Love Is,” but this one managed to top all of them, literally. It went to number one in the United States and ten other countries and remains Foreigner’s most successful single in their catalog.
10. ‘Always’ - Bon Jovi
If power ballads are an art, then Bon Jovi is Picasso or Van Gogh or whichever *really* famous artist you prefer. Bon Jovi is one of the reasons why this list limited artists to one entry, because Bon Jovi could easily dominate this entire list. One of two new songs on their 1994 greatest hits LP Cross Road, “Always” was a smash hit all around the world. How could it not, really, with dreamy lyrics like, “When he holds you close, when he pulls you near/When he says the words you’ve been needing to hear/I’ll wish I was him ’cause those words are mine/To say to you ’till the end of time/Yeah, I will love you, baby, always/And I’ll be there forever and a day, always.” The song is so over-the-top delightful, it allows you to forgive the band for its weird music video with the plotline that makes no sense!
9. ‘Every Rose Has Its Thorn’ - Poison
It’s a tale as old as time: Bret Michaels phone his girlfriend at the time while out on tour, and when she answered, he heard some other guy in the background. Thus, an iconic power little bit country, little bit rock and roll ballad was born! Oh, and like many other songs on this list, “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” would go on to be Poison’s lone number one hit.
8. ‘Nothing Else Matters’ - Metallica
“Nothing Else Matters” is at a particular status now, where it’s almost like a standard, that it’s hard to imagine a time where it could have been deemed controversial. (Unless you’re the type of metalhead that absolutely hates “The Black Album,” and if so, frankly, it’s baffling you’re reading this list in the first place.) Anyway, James Hetfield said in an interview in June 2012 with The Village Voice, “It was a song for myself in my room on tour when I was bumming out about being away from home. It’s quite amazing, it’s a true testament to honesty and exposing yourself, putting your real self out there, and taking the risk, taking a gamble that someone’s either going to step on your heart with spikes on or they’re going to put their heart right next to it, and you never know until you try. That solidified, I think, that we were doing the right thing, writing from the heart about what we felt, and you can’t go wrong that way.”
7. ‘November Rain’ - Guns N’ Roses
“November Rain” is both a sonic and visual epic. Axl and his piano and Slash and his two massive guitar solos are the stars of this nearly nine-minute power ballad. Of course, even when listening to “November Rain,” you can’t help but think of its decadent music video. From Slash walking out of the church to Stephanie Seymour’s mullet wedding dress, some of the scenes are the most-memorable in music video history. Fun fact: “November Rain” was the first music video released before the invention of YouTube to reach 1 billion views.
6. ‘Home Sweet Home’ - Motley Crue
In the realm of power ballads, “Home Sweet Home” is among the most quintessential. Even when listening to it in your car, you’re almost tempted to lift up your lighter or phone and just sway. Tommy Lee’s piano intro is instantly recognizable, and his little drum fill at the end of the track is the perfect cherry atop one epic tune. Add Mick Mars’ guitar solo and the way Vince Neil wails “Tonight, tonight!” during the chorus, it’s no wonder this tune penned by Nikki Sixx made our top ten.
5. ‘Alone’ - Heart
Written and recorded originally by songwriting duo Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly, Heart would take “Alone” to new heights when they covered the tune for their 1987 album Bad Animals. If at this point you weren’t sold on Ann Wilson being one of rock’s strongest voices, just listen to “Alone” a few times on repeat. And, once again, this stunning power ballad would go on to be Heart’s biggest hit of their career topping the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks in July 1987.
4. ‘I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)’ - Meat Loaf
This delightfully over-the-top classic resurfaced following the untimely death of Meat Loaf, which sadly happened just nine months after the death of songwriter Jim Steinman. If the deaths of Meat Loaf and Steinman brought anything to the forefront it’s the importance of theatrics in rock and roll and how they’re incredibly missed. “I’d Do Anything For Love” would resurrect Meat Loaf’s career, give him a number one hit in nearly 30 countries and net him a Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Solo. Oh, and the thing he won’t do for love is cheat on his partner. He says so at the very end of the epic tune, in case this was somehow a mystery to anyone reading this.
3. ‘Open Arms’ - Journey
“Open Arms” truly took power ballads to a new level upon its release on Escape in 1981. The entire ‘80s decade saw a massive boom in the release of power ballads, and one could argue that Journey had a lot to do with that considering the success of “Open Arms.” Journey had plenty of other power ballads they would later introduce, but “Open Arms” was their best and grandest thanks to the sweet, sincere and soaring vocals of Steve Perry.
2. ‘Purple Rain’ - Prince
Similar to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird,” Prince’s “Purple Rain” isn’t typically in the power ballad conversation, because the idea of a power ballad is traditionally reserved for metal bands, but Prince was never one for musical boundaries or limitations. Upon the briefest of examinations, it totally is a power ballad. Prince once said of the meaning behind the classic track, “When there’s blood in the sky – red and blue = purple…’Purple Rain’ pertains to the end of the world and being with the one you love and letting your faith/God guide you through the purple rain.” It’s truly appropriate that a heavy song has such a heavy meaning.
1. ‘I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing’ - Aerosmith
Power ballads are traditionally based around grandness. With that considered, being the theme to 1998’s Armageddon, a film about an asteroid threatening to destroy Earth is about as over-the-top as it gets. “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” wasn’t Aerosmith’s first power ballad, but it’s the band’s biggest both sonically and commercially. Written by Diane Warren, the track boasts a string section and one of Steven Tyler’s greatest screams ever recorded. In 1998, there was truly no escaping this song. “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” was seemingly everywhere. It would top the Billboard Hot 100 chart for four weeks and is Aerosmith’s lone number one hit in the United States. As if that weren’t enough, the song was a number one song in nine other countries. And if the Bad Boys from Boston care about superlatives, “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” tops this Best Power Ballads list. While assembling this entire list was very difficult, putting this blockbuster at number one was the easiest part of the process.