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Top 10 Ballads from the 80s and 90s

The Valentines Day List

By Kent BrindleyPublished 4 months ago Updated 4 months ago 9 min read
Top 10 Ballads from the 80s and 90s
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash


Full disclosure: "my soft, tender, sensitive side is very visible; and can generally be brought out through music."

Always a lover of music and vocalizing along, many of my favorite songs from the 80s and 90s were the "power ballads" (to varying degrees of success; for instance, with the backing track vs. acapella; whether or not I'm in front of an audience; whether or not I'm directly projecting/thinking of my crush du jour at the time of performance, etc).

...Who am I kidding? I love these songs because they invoke me to think of at least SOMEONE to imagine serenading them with.

I'm going to try to get through my "Top 10 Favorite Ballads" (and try my very best to rule out break-up songs or not delve into 90s country [I have to KEEP THIS to TEN somehow!]).

...We'll kick off with HONORABLE MENTIONS

  • "Will You Still Love Me?" (Chicago). (Great song and no one is taking anything away from it; but I couldn't remember for the life of me if it was called "Say You'll Love Me," "JUST Say You'll Love Me," or something similar. Still great for an 80's ballad however with the synth, backing tracks, and overproduced vocals. Oh; and far more listenable than hearing "You're the Inspiration" for the 5000th time in rotation. I said what I said).
  • "To Be With You" (Mr. Big) (Great for 90's hair metal and, due to poor timing, many great hair bands got the axe way too soon to make way for Seattle Grunge. But let's revisit "...Waited on a line of..." WAITING IN LINE??? Big is either pursuing an ice cream cone, an appointment at the Secretary of State, or a w..."Woman of Such High Quality That She's In High Demand. Now *serving* number..." Next...)
  • "High Enough" (Damn Yankees) (The Damn Yankees were a former member of Styx, former member of Night Ranger, a FUTURE member of Lynrd Skynrd, and The Motor City Madman," MR. Ted Nugent; "The Nuge." They came together and wept out a ballad; also a breakup song).
  • "I'll be There For You" (Bon Jovi) ("...These FIVE words I SWEAR TO YOU! When you BREATHE, I wanna be the AIR for you; I'LL BE THERRRE FORRR Y..." Oh. After much deliberation, Jon and the boys made the official list with ANOTHER song (but just barely deepsixed THIS one...)

Okay; we got those out of the way (and if the lyrics are still swimming in your skull, or, better yet, straight out of your vocal chords, you're welcome).


10. I Remember You (Skid Row).

The soothing guitar opener to slap the sign of "This is a ballad" on the track, Sebastian Bach singing delicately to the song's recipient, and Sebastian Bach, spontaneously, WAILING TO EFFECTIVELY SHOOT DOWN PASSING AIRCRAFT!

As a vocalist, Bach took his classic and refined vocal training from many other "hair metal" frontmen; and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith.

There is absolutely nothing to disparage about "I Remember You," and the instrumentals and lyrics are infectious. It's only problem is that it's competing for notoriety against 9 other songs...

9. I Live My Life For You (Firehouse)

Firehouse, with better timing, should have been bigger. I loved "Don't Treat Me Bad," "All She Wrote," "Love of a Lifetime," "Reach For the Sky," and, especially, "I Live My Life For You." Now that the time has long since passed for Firehouse to be a household name (tragically, they too also arrived right around the time that Seattle Grunge was replacing hair metal), Firehouse has performed at local festivals in South Haven a couple of times now and they are, surprisingly, still good live.

It might have been '94 when, one day, "I Live My Life For You" randomly crept out of lite rock radio to my ten-year-old ears and I wanted the CASSETTE! (With no knowledge of who SANG it or where it suddenly came from).

I can't remember how I researched this but, one day, I did find the correct single tape.

I'd been introduced to "Firehouse."

THEN, somewhere down the line, my ears beheld "All She Wrote," "Don't Treat Me Bad," "Love of a Lifetime..." ad hominem.

8. ALWAYS (Bon Jovi)

I was in college by now (It might have been 05/06) and Jon had traded in his rock roots for cowboy boots with "Who Says You Can't Go Home?"

I cannot for the LIFE of me remember the story behind how I discovered "Always" (It might have been YouTubing for his other videos. In fact, it may have come up because I was watching the video for "I'll Be There For You.")

Anyway, right time, right place. I was pining for yet another fellow Laker and could finally set my daydreams about her to music...

The video wasn't too bad either...

7. "Keep On Loving You" (REO Speedwagon)

Simplistic piano accompaniment. Baritone pining for someone.

The makings of classic 80's lite rock.

...Oh; and I first heard it over lite rock radio when I must have been in middle school and the song itself must have been 17 some years old, so it was enough to invoke the image of whoever I, privately, wanted to pursue at the time to imagine my wooing her with THIS drivel. After all,

"...and I MEANT, every word I SAID; when I SAID THAT I LOVE YOU, I MEANT ..."

Anyhoo, let's move on...

6. "Can't Fight This Feeling" (REO Speedwagon).

...Did I say some nonsense about a "rule" that each band be given ONE space?

My list, my rules, and mine to bend for special circumstances.

Now...Remember your favorite tape?

Remember how devastated you were when the tape deck, through no-fault of its own, one day RUINED your favorite tape because you were so obsessive as to be the one to WEAR IT OUT?

Farewell, Springsteen's "Tunnel of Love," Dire Straits's "Brothers in Arms," and Fine Young Cannibals's "The Raw and the Cooked."

...But WE'RE talking about a mass-produced compilation cassette that included, among other things, Hall and Oates's "Your Kiss is On My List," America's "Ventura Highway," and, you guessed it, "Can't Fight This Feeling" by R.E.O...

I thought that it was great when I was four; and as an adult, I know WHY.

I still pretend to be able to sing it, let alone to make out all of the words, and, yes, I can still hear its synthesizer opening when my MODERN crush comes walking in. (See also the opening chords to "Love Walks In" by Van...I-think-it-was-Haggar-by-now).

So how does "Can't Fight This Feeling" trump "Keep On Loving You?" Among other things, it was its place in history as the FIRST time I ever heard REO Speedwagon.

5. "Bringin On The Heartbreak" (Def Leppard).

Heartbreak track/breakup song.

Allowances are being made for "Bringin On The Heartbreak;" because it's hauntingly beautiful in its heartwrenchingness; the type of heartbreak track BEGGING you to turn up the radio just a little bit more...

Now YOU try to keep "...HeartBREAK" and "...HeartACHE" straight right along with this track's official singers.

4. I Said I Loved You (But I Lied) (Michael Bolton).

There was a time in the late 80s/early 90s when Michael Bolton, his soulful R&B delivery, and his lion's mane could get away with murder; or, helped by endless radio rotation, with begging to remain in the friend zone.

But this isn't about "How Can We Be Lovers?" (Though, now, you're either humming or SINGING "How Can We Be Lovers?"! HA HA!)

But, wait; how can a song ADMITTING that the singer lied be a LOVE SONG ballad vs. a "breakup"/"forgive-me-I-messed-up" ballad???

In this case, we have to review what the "lie" was in its proper context; that context being brow-beaten to us numerous times as part of the chorus and the "lie" being...

"...This is MORE THAN love I feel inside! I said I loved you but I was WRONG; 'cause love could never ever feel so strong!"

Brilliant. My hat's off to YOU for that one, Mike; very clever use of subterfuge there...

3. "I Wanna Know What Love Is" (Foreigner).

This ALMOST went to "Waiting For a Girl Like You." In a lot of ways, I'm still vacilating between the two; but ONE is good enough to stand in for TWO songs by the same artist who DESERVE this slot.

"I Wanna Know..." was starting to hit it big right around the time that I was born; and my mother SWEARS that baby me reminded her of these lyrics.

Nice little anecdote there, ma.

Oh; and I learned to slowdance in the family living room to THIS (move it on over, BSB and N*Sync [or at least know that your proper places are at the actual dance;] THIS is a CLASSIC ballad).

2. Everything I Do (I Do It For You) (Bryan Adams).

SO many decisions to be made about this one.

It could have been "Heaven," or "Please Forgive Me," or "Straight From The Heart."

...and, if it WERE, this submission would have been slightly-to-WAY lower on the list. (I could see "Heaven" in what is now a THREE-way tie for that third spot; or "Please Forgive Me" challenging for FIFTH, or...)

...Well, instrumentals, lyrics, and, again, notoriety from lite rock radio long-after the song's initial release cemented "Everything I Do..." (though, the point about "radio friendliness" is a moot one as this is how I heard ANY of Bryan's tracks...)

1. Faithfully (Journey)

...There will never be another band frontman (still alive today) like Steve Perry.

and in a world where Journey's lead vocalist lineup, over the years, included Steve Augeri and Arnel Pineda, there will NEVER be another band frontman matching the vocal quality of Steve Perry.

While we're at it, in all of the 1980s, there will NEVER be another rock ballad that reaches the echillons reserved for (move over, "Open Arms") "Faithfully."

Thank you for joining me on the voyage into the greatness of "Power Ballads" (movie ballads/r&b love songs/Journey's music) past.

Thanks for reading! What did I get right; where did I go wrong? What if I had reached over to the country charts to snag up some Tim McGraw, Vince Gill, Collin Raye, Sammy Kershaw, George Strait? (But there's time for that for ANOTHER list)...

Write on, fellow vocalites!

Love always,


song reviews90s music80s music

About the Creator

Kent Brindley

Smalltown guy from Southwest Michigan

Lifelong aspiring author here; complete with a few self-published works always looking for more.

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