Indeed, it’s easy enough to make fun of so-called hair metal, but there’s a good chance that some of the same people who bring it down are singing their lungs out whenever a Poison song comes on the radio. Hair metal at its best appeals to that part of us that only wants to rock, regardless of what anyone else thinks. That’s what this list aims to celebrate.
To clarify, this list includes only those artists most squarely defined as hair metal. While many artists, Bon Jovi and Def Leppard for example, have given the label at one time or another, I feel they’ve kind of transcended the label to the point that they should be considered as associated with it, but not really a part of it. Debate that if you will, but point being that these are the artists you think of when you think hair metal. So roll down the windows, crank up the volume, and release all inhibitions as we feast on the glory of these greatest hair metal songs.
Is this a cautionary tale or just a little creepy? Perhaps a bit of both? Regardless, there’s no denying the catchiness of the chorus. Just try not singing “She’s only seventeen” to yourself every time you meet someone who’s, well, seventeen.
You wouldn’t think a group of women would be called hair metal, perhaps because women are often expected to have long hair. Yet, only a few seconds into the video for “Edge of a Broken Heart” and it’s clear you couldn’t call it anything else. While not achieving the notoriety of many of their contemporaries, Vixen should really be given more credit for tackling an area few women dared to tread.
8. Autograph-“Turn up the Radio”
If one song could be used to describe hair metal, this could be it. As the lyrics say, “Things go better with rock…I need the music, gimme some more.” Plus the video has a robot in it which is pretty neat in its right.
While keyboards are a staple of a genre, few songs can boast the kind of Elton John-style piano licks found here. Once the piano kicks in, you’re suddenly a little less sure of what you’re listening to, but it’s undeniably hair metal. Just with a delicious jazzy kick.
6. Skid Row-“18 and Life”
Proof that hair metal can tell hard-hitting stories within its fist-pounding rock grooves. The music rocks just hard enough to not keep you from missing the punch-in-the-gut lyrics. Throw in Sebastian Bach’s powerful vocals and you’ve got a hair metal experience that’s not quite the typical.
I actually didn’t realize until I started researching this list how big a roll story telling has played in the genre. Replace those electric guitars with acoustics and this one could almost as easily be a country song. As is, this lament of a little sister growing up continues to strike a chord today.
If you’re ever watching a scene from a movie spotlighting a sexy girl, there’s good chance this song is playing in the background. With lyrics like “Tastes so good, make a grown man cry/Sweet cherry pie,” it is hard not to feel a wee bit dirty. However, it’s even harder not to rock out to every pulse-pounding second.
It’s hard to believe they actually came out fairly late in hair metal’s reign, considering they’ve since become the genre’s poster child. While they have plenty of fun rockers that could have been listed here, the list just could not be completed without the most central of power ballads. The image of Brett Michaels solitarily strumming to the chorus is as synonymous to the ‘80s itself as to the genre.
Rebellion has long been considered an important characteristic of rock and it doesn’t get any more rebellious than this immortal anthem. “We’re right! We’re free! We’ll fight! You’ll see!….We’re not gonna take it anymore!” As adrenaline charged as they come, but also oddly uplifting.
When it came down to deciding what song deserves top honors, there really was no other option. As music styles fall in and out of fashion, it’s the true anthems that never fade and that just about sums it up for this signature song from one of hair metals pioneering artists. To anyone who can say they “know what it means, to walk alone the lonely street of dreams” this is indeed the anthem that will never die.
So concludes this look at some of hair metal’s most memorable tunes. It may be worth noting that the selection process was 100% opinion based. Of course, everyone will have their own favorites. Regardless, I feel its fair to say that these are ten songs that embody the spirit of hair metal. May it forever rock on.