The Best Hair Metal Songs of All-Time
All the biggest names in the game are on our list, including Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Guns N' Roses, Mötley Crüe, Poison, Warrant and more.
From gritty rockers to power ballads, we have put together a list of the best songs from the hair bands of yore.
This would be the mixtape we'd toss into our Alpine deck in the IROC-Z as we drove down the Jersey Shore, T-Tops down, stonewashed jean jacket on, and the wind coursing through our feathered mullets. Sammy couldn't drive 55, and neither can we.
There will be songs about girls, songs by girls, and songs by guys who look like girls. Some will be about partying, some will be about finding love, and some will be about both.
And videos. There will be videos. Excellent videos. Triumphant videos. Because you can't get Eddie Van Halen on your album without a triumphant video.
These are all songs that would get played by an 80s Cover Band.
A list of the Best Hair Metal Songs
- Livin' On A Prayer
- Home Sweet Home
- Welcome to the Jungle
- Pour Some Sugar On Me
- Kickstart My Heart
- Cherry Pie
- Here I Go Again
- 18 and Life
- Round and Round
- Kiss Me Deadly
- Nothin' But A Good Time
- Talk Dirty to Me
- Rock You Like a Hurricane
- Edge of a Broken Heart
- Love Song
Livin' On A Prayer
The biggest hit song for Bon Jovi is how we kick this off. Livin' On A Prayer is everything you'd want in a hair metal tune. Awesome voice box intro. A huge pre-chorus. An even huger chorus. And, an unheard of step-and-a-half key change. All of this with inspiring lyrics layered over the top.
Then there's the Prayer video. JBJ & team swinging around the stage on a harness. Black and white going color at the second chorus. Bon Jovi throwing a finger gun when he says "shot" and smiling at the camera.
Home Sweet Home
Home Sweet Home is one of the biggest power ballads in hair metal. And who bigger to bring it to you than the lords of hair metal, Mötley Crüe. Kind of funny that The Crue's biggest hit, and they had many, is a piano-led ballad that isn't about drinking and drugging. Unless "home" was the cocaine.
The Home Sweet Home video is 100% pure Mötley Crüe. Tour bus travel. Pyrotechnics. Swinging from the stage lighting rig. Up close singing with babes in the front row.
Welcome to the Jungle
That opening riff. You know what we mean. Everything you need to know about Welcome to the Jungle is conveyed in that opening riff. It's the sonic equivalent of aerosolized alcohol. The ultimate pre-game drinking for the party coming. You can find everything in the jungle, just don't take Axl's girl. Or his drugs.
The Sunset Strip was never the same after Appetite for Destruction was released in 1987. How could it be? Appetite changed rock & roll forever and it led off with Welcome to the Jungle.
The post-solo buildup might just be the best part of the song. Adler & Duff, the rhythm section, lay down a solid groove that Slash throws some delayed harmonics over and then key bump 2 kicks in and the sails of the good ship, Guns N' Roses have caught their second wind, hitting flank speed until the end.
Bonus points for Axl's red microphone screen by the way.
Pour Some Sugar On Me
If there were a National Stripper Union, we'd be 1,000% convinced that they commissioned Def Leppard to pen the 1987 hit, Pour Some Sugar On Me.
Unlike the coke-fueled, live or die trying mentality of Welcome to the Jungle, Pour Some Sugar On Me sets its target on making nice with the ladies, and does so in spectacular fashion. The band managed to avoid a bad boy rep, but that doesn't mean they didn't know how to party. Pour Some Sugar On Me is the chocolate martini to hair metal's obsession with drinking straight bourbon out of the Jack Daniel's bottle.
Don't believe us? Check out 3:09 in the Pour Some Sugar On Me video below. That lass is absolutely feeling Rick Allen's beat. She's also probably feeling the love of that second chocolate martini she had before the show.
The song wasn't even supposed to make the album Hysteria, which would have been criminal, as it helped revive sales of Hysteria and brought Def Leppard to the attention of everyone in America.
Still don't believe us? Well believe Phil Collen, guitar player in Def Leppard when says that, “The song became a hit because strippers in Florida started requesting it on the local radio station,” Collen recalls. “It had a second lease of life. Hysteria was all over bar the shouting, and then all of a sudden this song just got popular, and then the album went to Number One. It’s really funny how it suddenly became cool because it was a stripping song." Perhaps the only song that could compete is Girls, Girls, Girls by Mötley Crüe.
The best pure rock song that Van Halen ever wrote. Panama is the musical equivalent of your youngest uncle leaving a case of beer in your trunk when you head back to college after Christmas break. What we're trying to say is that Panama is a lot like free beer. Panama is free beer. In a way, it's a lot like the cherub on the album cover of 1984.
Editor's note: If you're interested, check out our thoughts on Van Halen Album Covers.
Panama has one foot on each side of the line of control. It causes some trouble, but never bad enough to get arrested. It's not afraid to swipe a few shots of vodka from your parent's liquor cabinet and replace them with water, but it stays away from the hard drugs. Which leads us to ...
Kickstart My Heart
Mötley Crüe's Kickstart My Heart, off of Dr. Feelgood, calls Panama's keg stand and raises it hard drugs!
Kickstart My Heart is eager for it all. Be it fast cars or fast women, Kickstart My Heart consumes all. It is the ticket to the Nighttrain. It is the skis by which you traverse Coke Mountain. It is Mötley Crüe.
They are still kicking ass. Which is stunning, since we constantly ask ourselves, "How are these guys still alive?"
Mick Mars voice box over the solo is a class move.
The Crue sometimes gets called Butt Rock, along with other 80s glam, but we entirely disagree with that perception/moniker.
Not the best Warrant song, but by far the most popular, was 1990's Cherry Pie off the album, Cherry Pie. Go figure.
The callback to Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich at the beginning is Warrant's bat signal to let the audience know that they've evolved from their first album where they wrote songs about getting women to really writing songs about getting women. "She's My Cherry Pie" is an amazing hook for a song. We've never thought of Cherry Pie the same since, and that's 30+ years ongoing.
Remember Axl's red microphone screen in the Jungle video? Well everything important in the Cherry Pie video is red. The instruments, the car, the firetruck, the helmets, the sexy tops, Jani Lane's red mansuit, and of course, the cherries. And the bed. Couldn't forget that.
80s video vixen, Bobbi Brown got her start here in the Cherry Pie video. She's known internationally as the Cherry Pie Girl. She acknowledges this readily in her book, Dirty Rocker Boys. It's a good read if you want to bone up on the female perspective of the Sunset Strip.
Here I Go Again
Whitesnake wrote the consummate power ballad. That's correct, we view Here I Go Again, released on Saints and Sinners as well as Whitesnake's Self-Title Album, to be the pinnacle of power balladry. Sorry if you think Home Sweet Home owns the title.
The biggest question of the song Here I Go Again actually revolves around its video. And no, it's not how much smolder Whitesnake singer, David Coverdale throws at the camera or how many vertical mic stand pumps he throws at the rock club's ceiling. It's ...
Who is the girl on Whitesnake's car?
Tawny Kitaen. Perhaps no single video vixen took over the screen, and, the performance of the band itself, like Tawny Kitaen did in the Here I Go Again MTV music video. Kitaen's performance atop those Jaguars is scorched onto the minds of every single child of the late 70s and 80s. Should we get dementia in our old age, we're fairly confident that we will forget the names of our parents long before Tawny.
18 and Life
Jersey rockers, Skid Row knew how to pen harsh, gritty tunes. Tunes that most hair metal bands wouldn't go near. Such is the case with 18 and Life of Skid Row's self-titled debut album. And this makes us laugh, as Skid Row had one of the prettiest vocalists in hair metal in Sebastian Bach. One would think that this would have driven them toward the commercial success of fellow Jersey boys, Bon Jovi, as they received countless commercial accolades over the years. However, Skid Row consistently went harder with each successive song after their power ballad, I Remember You.
Much like Pearl Jam's Jeremy, they've managed to turn a song about a tragedy into a bonafide hit song. Sure, it deals with partying, but the results aren't the same. The protagonist of the story ended up behind bars where there are no babes and no booze. Actually, booze is how Ricky ended up there.
Much like Pour Some Sugar On Me, we have often wondered if D.A.R.E. had sought out the band to put out 18 and Life to help counter youth crime and substance abuse. If so, they really, really didn't think that through. Everyone we knew growing up who liked Skid Row liked to kick ass, and kicking ass is not written into the mission of D.A.R.E.
Round and Round
Round and Round is Ratt doing Ratt things. They go literal in the Round and Round video by actually showing a rat. They also look stunningly out of sync. It cannot be intentional. However, it's a storytelling device that only works with Ratt.
The song though ... it throws some slick harmonized lightning. Boston's Bang Camaro was clearly inspired by the Round and Round guitar solo.
Kiss Me Deadly
Mega babe, Lita Ford, bursts with big 80s energy on her 1988 hit, Kiss Me Deadly. She comes out swinging like Iron Mike Tyson with the lyrics, "I went to a party last Saturday night, I didn't get laid I got in a fight, uh-huh, It ain't no big thing" to open up Kiss Me Deadly. Hair Metal would like you to believe that Saturday Nights, as well as fighting and fornication, belong to men, but that's just not true, as Lita, the Holy Rock Goddess, proves.
Lita, removed from her days with The Runaways, was arguably the biggest female name in hair metal. She also slayed hearts in the Kiss Me Deadly video. Check it out.
Nothin' But A Good Time
Hair Metal at hair metal's best is the 1988 hit song, Nothin' But A Good Time, off the album, Open Up and Say ... Ahh!. Bret, CC, Rikki and Bobby pen one hell of arena rock tune. The song has a great intro, ultra catchy hook, and the pre-solo breakdown is a well-constructed break for Michaels to address the audience.
The Nothin' But A Good Time video is also superb. Pyro? Check. Stage leaps? Check. Jump kicks? Check. Slow motion group power slides on their knees? Check and check. The group pulls off enough coordinated moves that they could be junior Rockettes.
The tone is set with the damn-the-man beginning where the dishwasher is cussed out for slacking. He then kicks down the back door of the restaurant only to discover that the restaurant is really connected to a concert hall and Poison is playing. We have so many questions.
Like, how the hell does Rikki Rocket get so much sound out of just a kick drum and snare? We'll never know. We'll also never know what an Unskinny Bop is.
Talk Dirty to Me
No hidden meanings. No double entendre. No innuendo. Total Cock Rock tune.
Poison wastes no time letting everyone know what they want on Talk Dirty to Me, the biggest hit song on their 1986 debut album, Look What the Cat Dragged In. The fact that it was the sixth track on the album is crazy to us. Usually a song such as Talk Dirty to Me would be slotted in the power position as the third track on the album. Maybe record execs at Enigma, including producer Ric Browde, thought I Won't Forget You was the stronger track.
Anyway, the Talk Dirty to Me is a glowing representation of the greatness of the hair band genre. Teased locks, leopard print attire, high fives, and a whole lotta suggestive gyrations.
"That Bret, sounds like such a nice boy" ... sure, lady. Sure.
Rock You Like a Hurricane
Are we sure the word rock really means rock? The Scorpions were German, and as English wasn't their first language, there may be a translation error with their hit song, Rock You Like a Hurricane. Maybe.
Then again, maybe not. Maybe the Scorpions just wanted to play loud music for You. See, they had some issues with animals.
Edge of a Broken Heart
Vixen made the list with Edge of a Broken Heart. Besides having supremely teased manes and good looks, Vixen had enough chops to drop Edge of a Broken Heart in 1988. Founder and lead guitar player, Jan Kuehnemund, unleashes some tasty licks on this hit single and that's good enough for us.
Actually, it's not. Do you know who penned this tune? The almighty Richard Marx wrote it. Guy is a National Treasure.
We're big fans of ending an album with a slow song. Call us sentimental, that's fine. Love Song, the eleventh (11th!?!?) track off of 1989s, The Great Radio Controversy, is anything but a controversial pick to end our list of the top hair band songs of all-time.
Penned by guitarist, Frank Hannon, and singer, Jeff Keith, this 5+ minute song, trimmed down to 4 minutes for the radio and video edit, has one of hair metal's greatest acoustic intros (listen to the Love Song intro. It starts slow, builds, gets triumphant, then transitions to a lazy electric country riff, all before dropping into E minor when Keith belches out, "So you think that it's over!"
Guitar solos and over the top vocal work are what separates this tune from some of the contemporary slow rock tunes of the day. We could almost see this being a track on The Black Crows' Shake Your Money Maker, if not for Tesla's pageantry.
Among Tesla songs, it's one of the best.
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