Top 10 Power Ballads Of All Time


In the 80’s, it was almost mandatory for hair metal bands to release at least one power ballad in each of their records. Naturally, any list of the best power ballads ever is going to be completely subjective, but these are the ones that stand out the most for me. The only rule was that each band only got one song on the list.

10. Cinderella: Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)

One of Cinderella’s best-known songs, What You Got includes the usual power ballad suspects: an acoustic guitar, a piano, a emotional guitar solo, and heartbreaking lyrics about the regret felt by two people who aren’t able to continue together.

Most Powerful Lyrics:

I can’t feel the things that cause you pain
I can’t clear my heart of your love it falls like rain
Ain’t the same
I hear you calling far away
Tearing through my soul, I just can’t take another day
Who’s to blame

9. Whitesnake: Is This Love

Is This Love is one of Whitesnake’s greatest hits, exploring the torment felt when you end up developing strong feelings and dependence towards someone, and are hoping that the other person feels the same way.

Most Powerful Lyrics:

I find I spend my time
Waiting on your call,
How can I tell you, baby
My back’s against the wall
I need you by my side
To tell me it’s alright,
‘Cos I don’t think I can take anymore

8. Poison: Every Rose Has Its Thorn

Poison has had many a hit, with their biggest one being Every Rose Has Its Thorn. Lead singer Brett Michaels has explained that he wrote the song after calling his girlfriend and hearing a man’s voice in the background. The two separate guitar solos are short but extremely moving, and are probably my favorite part of the song.

Most Powerful Lyrics:

We both lie silentlystill
In the dead of the night
Although we both lie close together
We feel miles apart inside

7. Def Leppard: Love Bites

Love Bites, from Def Leppard’s multi-platinum album Hysteria, starts out very relaxing, but then the chorus kicks in, the volume rises, and the song’s raw emotion and pain is really hammered home.

Most Powerful Lyrics:

I don’t wanna touch you too much baby
‘Cos makin’ love to you might drive me crazy
I know you think that love is the way you make it
So I don’t wanna be there when you decide to break it

6. Bon Jovi: Bed of Roses

It would have been a crime if I hadn’t included Bon Jovi somewhere on this list. While many songs could have been picked, Bed Of Roses really stands out for me. The great piano work performed by David Bryan, touching guitar by Richie Sambora, and Jon Bon’s vocals really capture the emotional roller coaster that is love. The song came out in 1993 when power ballads weren’t that popular, but was still able to climb high in various charts.

Most Powerful Lyrics:

Sitting here wasted and wounded at this old piano
Trying hard to capture the moment this morning I don’t know
‘Cause a bottle of vodka is still lodged in my head
And some blond gave me nightmares, think that she’s still in my bed
As I dream about movies
They won’t make of me when I’m dead

5. The Darkness: Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

If you think The Darkness music is nothing but parody and cheesy jokes, you should immediately correct that mistake. Although vocalist Justin Hawkins doesn’t review his full vocal capacity in this song, the violin and piano accompaniment are extremely beautiful, and you end up humming it for days .

Most Powerful Lyrics:

We may not get back what we had, what I threw away
But you know I would do anything, anything you say
I’d cross a thousand miles of broken glass on my hands and knees
I would crawl if for a moment we could cease hostilities

4. Guns n’ Roses: Don’t Cry

According to lead singer Axl Rose, the song is about a woman who is leaving a man. This is the first song that I heard from GnR, and it really got me hooked on their music, so it will always be remembered fondly. Slash’s guitar work  is magnificent as usual, Axl’s voice is chilling, and it is kind of ironic how a song titled Don’t Cry can so easily bring you to tears.

Most Powerful Lyrics:

Give me a whisper
And give me a sign
Give me a kiss before you
tell me goodbye
Don’t you take it so hard now
And please don’t take it so bad
I’ll still be thinkin’ of you
And the times we had, baby

3. Skid Row: I Remember You

I Remember You does a great job of expressing raw emotion, and mixing it with tenderness. Former lead vocalist Sebastian Bach famously said it was the #1 prom song of 1990. Talk about creating great memories that are hard to beat!

Most Powerful Lyrics:

We’ve had our share of hard times
But that’s the price we paid
And through it all we kept the promise that we made
I swear you’ll never be lonely

2. Journey: Open Arms

Steve Perry really takes his iconic voice to another level with this song. I dare anybody not to shiver while listening to this masterpiece. It is very rare to accomplish a sense of perfection in music, but Open Arms is able to achieve such quality. Most of the band members were against recording and performing the song, however Perry and keyboardist/guitarist Jonathan Cain stood by it, and everybody should be thankful for that .

Most Powerful Lyrics:

Lying beside you, here in the dark
Feeling your heart beat with mine
Softly you whisper, you’re so sincere
How could our love be so blind
We sailed on together
We drifted apart
And here you are by my side

1. Steelheart: She’s Gone

She’s Gone is everything that a power ballad should be: great piano, enticing guitar work, and incredible vocal range – seriously, how is Miljenko Matijevic even able to hit those high notes? The song tells the tale of a man who has done his girlfriend wrong, and has come to the realization that she means the world to him and he would do anything for a second chance. I find it hard to believe that, if Matijevic sang this song to an angry woman, she would be able to resist him for longer than five seconds.

Most Powerful Lyrics:

Come back into my arms.
I’m so alone,
I’m begging you,
I’m down on my knees.
Forgive me, girl.

Written By Daniel Georgieve

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  1. Hi guys, I just wanted to know why has Iron Maiden’s Wasting Love not been in included in this list…It is one of the best songs ever…

  2. I would have added Aerosmith’s What it Takes, Scorpions’ Winds of Change, Bon Jovi’s I’ll Be There For You and maybe Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight just for the cool drum part.

  3. This list is terrible. Where is Stairway to Heaven and Free Bird. I can’t believe how crappy your taste in music is to define these songs as power ballads.

    • No, Clive888, you’ve got it all wrong! A “power-ballad” is a specific thing: a 4 minute track, give or take, written and played by a band with very big, very ridiculous hair, which is loaded with sappy lyrics, saccharine chord changes, hugely distorted guitars, and usually inappropriate guitar solos. Those tracks are something different entirely. Think rubbish songs you dance to at your prom.

      For most – not all – of these bands, the power ballad is the height of their career, usually the best and most commercially successful thing they release.

      Firehouse – “Love of a Lifetime”
      Roxette – “Spending my Time” or “Listen to your Heart”
      April Wine – “Just Between You and Me”
      Dana Carvey – “Choppin’ Broccoli”

      • I’m sorry for the misunderstanding. Though on the wikipedia page for Ballad under the subsection Power Ballad I found this:
        According to Charles Aaron, power ballads came into existence in the early 1970s, when rock stars attempted to convey profound messages to audiences. He argues that the power ballad broke into the mainstream of American consciousness in 1976 as FM radio gave a new lease of life to earlier songs like Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” (1971), Aerosmith’s “Dream On” (1973), and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” (1974). The Carpenters’ “Goodbye to Love”, (1972), has been identified as a prototype of the power ballad.
        Here’s a link in case you want to be sure.

    • I considered adding that to my list (see a few posts above), but didn’t know if it got the wide play that the others got. I know it was popular for a few weeks there in the late 80’s.

  4. “Let’s hear is for Whitesnake!”
    “Dude, we’re not Whitesnake man, we’re Poison.”
    “Poison? I thought we we’re Quiot Riot?”
    (Drummer looks at the front of his kit)
    “It says here we’re Ratt…”

  5. I’d say ditch the Def Leppard and include Just Between You and Me by April Wine. Not well remembered but still a great track.

    Yeah — include November Rain, even if only on general principle. But rewrite one of those endless guitar solos. Something different needed to happen midway through that track.

  6. Not sure I’d even put Steelheart on the list.

    Stryper’s Honestly, however… Motley Crue’s Home Sweet Home, Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters…

    • I never heard of Steelheart. So I looked up the song on youtube, still can’t recall ever hearing it. So I agree with you, why’s it even on the list, much less #1?

      • Steelheart’s one hit was pretty impressive, but they were very much a one-hit wonder formed from the ashes of a somewhat superior Christian metal band called “Rage of Angels”. The sad thing is that “She’s Gone” wasn’t even their big hit…. it was “I’ll Never Let You Go” (look it up @ Youtube). So yeah… no…. yeah… no…. (applies Carmex to lips).

        Honorable Mentions: “To Be With You” by Mr. Big, “Fly to the Angels” by Slaughter, “Is This Love” by Whitesnake, “Winds of Change” by Scorpions, “I Remember You” by Skid Row, “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith, and “I’ll Be There For You” by Bon Jovi.

        10. “Beth” by KISS. I’d give this a toss-up with “Forever” by the same band, but I’ll go with Beth.

        9. “Heaven” by Warrant. These guys get spit on a lot, but Heaven’s actually a pretty good tune, and while it’s not a power ballad, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” is one of the best pop metal songs ever, ever.

        8. “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica. I’d rank this higher, but let’s be honest: Metallica is at their best when people’s ears are bleeding. Still, this one’s a solid tune.

        7. “More Than Words” by Extreme. It’s a shame that an extremely talented funk-metal outfit like Extreme got defined by this well-crafted, simplistic, toned down song. People who defined them as such missed some really great hard rock.

        6. “Honestly” by Stryper. The Yellow and Black Attack take a Christian theme (Christ’s dedication to us) and turn it into a power ballad that sounded like a friendship/relationship thing that teenagers could rock out to.

        5. “High Enough” by Damn Yankees. Ted Nugent puts down his guns and picks up his guitar and rocks us out with an awesome little tune.

        4. “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” by Poison. As much as it pains me (I really hated Poison), this is a solid tune that has had tons of fans for 2 1/2 decades now. It’s going to stick around.

        3. “Don’t Know What You’ve Got Til It’s Gone” by Cinderella. Another band defined by a single song that had a much bigger, better collection. Still, the staying power of this tune puts it at #3.

        2. “November Rain” by Guns n Roses. Epic, creative, and one of the best songs they ever put out.

        1. “Home Sweet Home” by Motley Crue. Theater of Pain sucked butt, but this song defined the pop metal ballad for the 80’s.

  7. Great list.
    Like mentioned above I’m also missing November Rain.

    If there was room for a #11 and #12 spot I’d vote for Magnum – Start Talkiing Love and Scorpions – Still Loving You.

    …perhaps they will be considered if there will be future a follow-up to this article ?

  8. i thought for sure that if there was a Guns N Roses song in the list it would have been November Rain…i considered that a power ballad and perhaps their 2nd most popular song behind Sweet Child Of Mine…maybe it just got played out so much that people are tired of hearing it but i still thought it had to be on the list…half of these I’d never heard of…which isn’t a negative comment because it’s an informative list…I’m sure there will be plenty of other suggestions but i liked the list and the writing that supported it.

    • Agree with the November Rain. Their best ballad and still listen to it. Also might add Heaven by Warrant but don’t know who you would remove. Good list.