There’s something irresistible about a power ballad, especially a power ballad for the 90s. The hair might have been laughable, the shoulder pads might have been ludicrous, and the videos might have been self-indulgent, but 90s pop stars knew how to craft a future karaoke classic. Guilty pleasures or not, we dare you not to sing along on your hairbrush to these 10 best 90s power ballads of all time.
10. Maria McKee – Show Me Heaven
Maria McKee’s first big hit was Show Me Heaven, a huge, tear-jerking ballad that rose to No.1 off the back of a stunning live performance on the BBC’s “Top of the Pops.” No one was quite so surprised at its huge popularity as McKee herself, who later recalled “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!”
9. Hootie and the Blowfish – Let Her Cry
Before he broke away to forge a fantastically successful career as a country star, Darius Rucker was the frontman of Hootie and the Blowfish, a band that, despite their somewhat ludicrous name, managed to produce a very respectable string of hits in the 1990s. One of their biggest was Let Her Cry, a smokey barroom ballad about a man struggling to cope with an alcoholic wife, who, as liveabout.com says, loved her pop just slightly more than she loved R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe.
8. Bryan Adams – (Everything I Do) I Do It for You
Kevin Costner’s “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” may have been an almighty bore, but it did at least give us Bryan Adams’ (Everything I Do) I Do It for You. Granted, some people found it as hard to stomach as the film, but enough people liked it to keep it at the top of the Hot 100 for a whopping seven weeks in 1991.
7. Bon Jovi – Always
No list of the best power ballads of the 1990s would be complete without at least one entry from Bon Jovi. Always was actually written for the 1993 film “Romeo is Bleeding,” but the band hated the film so much they withdrew the rights. Instead, they included it on their Cross Road greatest hits compilation. The album went stratospheric, the song became an international sensation, and Bon Jovi cemented their reputation as the grandmasters of cheese.
6. Van Halen – Can’t Stop Loving You
As pariahrocks.com notes, Van Halen certainly knew how to write a good love song. Released on the 1995 album Balance, Can’t Stop Loving You is all about love, friendship, and Ray Charles, to whom the band pays a very sweet little homage in both the title and the line “Hey Ray, what you said is true…” It ended up becoming their most successful single from the album, peaking at No. 30 in the US, No. 3 in Canada, and No. 33 in the UK.
5. Meat Loaf – I Would Do Anything for Love
Industry insiders laughed at the idea of a Bat Out Of Hell sequel. The project was a joke and everyone had had enough Meat Loaf in the 70s not to want enough slice in the 1990s, they said. They were wrong. Bat Out Of Hell II sold over 15 million copies, while its gloriously cheesy lead single, I Would Do Anything for Love, soared to number one in 28 countries. We might have all been left wondering what exactly it was that he wouldn’t do for love, but there was no doubt that Meat Loaf was back – bigger and battier than ever.
4. Slaughter – Fly To The Angels
Slaughter were always a much better band than people gave them credit for. Heck, they were a much better band than they gave themselves credit for. Despite trying to pass themselves off as second-rate hair metal wannabees, they were actually capable of delivering some excellent songs, even if they did conceal them in stupidly titled albums like Stick It To Ya. Fly to the Angels is an underrated tear-jerker that was made all the more heartbreaking following guitarist Tim Kelly’s death in 1998.
3. Scorpions – Wind Of Change
Wind of Change was released in January 1991, just after the failed coup that would eventually lead to the fall of the Soviet Union. As udiscovermusic.com says, the song took on an almost hymnlike approach to celebrate the rise of glasnost and the end of Cold War tensions. Its legacy was somewhat tainted when people started circulating rumors that it was written by someone connected to the CIA. Singer Klaus Meine poo-pooed the speculation, saying “It’s a fascinating idea, and it’s an entertaining idea, but it’s not true at all.” Regardless, it’s an epic tune, made all the more special by its inspired use of the criminally neglected technique of whistling.
2. Aerosmith – I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing
If any band cornered the market in big power ballads in the 80s and 90s, it was Aerosmith. They had the look, they had the songs, and in Steven Tylor, they had the frontman. I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing is big and cheesy and it’s got a video with Bruce Willis saving the world. What more could anyone want from a power ballad? It gave the band their first No.1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and soared to the top of the charts in a further eight countries.
1. Guns N’ Roses – November Rain
At a lengthy 8:57 seconds, November Rain is a far cry from your standard 3-minute pop tune. Still, it managed to break the top 10 (the longest song ever to do so), show that Axl Rose was capable of penning some very pretty poetry, and give us one of the best power ballads of all time in the process. It also gave us one of Slash’s killer guitar solos and one of the soppiest videos to ever grace MTV. Perfect.