I love music lists.
I know they are mainly designed just to infuriate readers who will then hopefully share the link and generate clicks. Still, I love them. Especially when they are horribly wrong. One of the recent ones that fit this criteria is from Loudwire. The just released the 10 Best Hair Metal Bands. I expected this to be off since everyone that works at Loudwire probably weren’t born when this genre was at the top
So in another excuse to take someone else’s idea and write something about, here is the actual 10 Best Hair Metal Bands.
Let’s get one thing out of the way, I loathe the moniker “hair metal”. It was a term thought up by music writers that had come into power with the grunge/alt rock wave. It was their not so clever way to diminish and invalidate the genre that they didn’t like. In all genre’s of music there were great bands and then the waves after of horrible imitators.
Also, let’s loosely define what “hair metal” is. For me I say it is hard rock with a commercial sensibility. A buddy came up with the term “hard pop” and I think that’s fair. There has to be either a dreamboat of a lead singer or a shred meister on guitar. Lyrics should have a bit of a blue streak to them. Power ballads are not a must but extremely encouraged.
Anyway, here is the list from Loudwire.
5. Skid Row
3. Twisted Sister
2. Def Leppard
1. Mötley Crüe
The list as a whole is not bad but there are a couple big mistakes. Two of them should not be on it. W.A.S.P. is not a hair metal band. They were more shock rock and traditional metal, even though they did dip their toes in the hair metal pond with the excellent power ballad “Forever Free”.
The other band that shouldn’t be on the list is Twisted Sister. Being honest, they are a glorified one hit wonder. While Stay Hungry is an excellent album the rest of their output is “eh”. Not to undercut the impact of Stay Hungry, more specifically the videos. However, one good album does not warrant being on this list.
If you listen to the Hair Nation channel on Sirius XM you will hear several acts that are not Hair Metal. Tesla is just a straight up rock band. Queensryche are a metal band that just had a big power ballad. Scorpions were extremely popular in the 70’s beforehand.
The other band I am removing is Poison. While they were an extremely popular act. One that you could argue are the poster boys for the genre, they just aren’t as good as the others.
10-Def Leppard-There is no denying how awesome their first 4 LP’s are. I listened to High N Dry the other day and it is still a mother trucker. So good. The reason I have them this low is because how they have distanced themselves from the genre and fanbase that loved them. In hindsight, it may have been a smart move since they are still playing big shows. However, I’d argue that it is because they were one of the biggest acts of that time.
9-White Lion-Pretty boy lead singer √
Shredding guitar god √
Huge power ballad √
While they did have three keys to this genre, they were also a really good band. 4 solid albums is nothing to sneeze at. As a whole they hold up better than one would think. Plus, I love their cover of Radar Love. Lastly, the fact that after the band broke up, guitarist Vito Bratta just said “fuck it!!” and left the music industry is bad ass.
8-Warrant-There are several bands that were severely harmed by their biggest hit. Extreme and Saigon Kick were so different than the songs they became known for. While “Cherry Pie” was a big hit and a popular video, it became an anchor for the band. It’s a shame because they were so much more. I remember driving and listening to Z-Rock, anyone remember that? I heard this heavy yet catchy song that blew my mind. When the DJ said it was “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Warrant I was dumbfounded. Previously, they were just a band that was there but that song changed my mind. Then they released the acoustic version of “I Saw Red” and was all in. But the “Cherry Pie” video with all it’s over the top cliché was the perfect touchstone for naysayers. Unfortunate because the band never got a fair chance withtheir follow-up Dog Eat Dog an oustanding album. Even their “grunge” album Ultraphobic is good. Plus, the two albums they have recorded with new singer Robert Mason hold their own with the catalog.
7-Cinderella-This is another band that is wrongfully pigeon-holed. When you look at the cover of their first album, they are totally glammed out. Because of that I think they are thought of as a Poison clone when they are clearly not. The sound is a lot heavier than one thinks. Tom Keifer’s voice is one of the more unique ones plus being a fantastic songwriter too. Cinderella really made a leap from Night Songs to Long Cold Winter. Heartbreak Station was a slip though. Keifer’s throat problems have hurt the band more than once tour-wise hindering their growth. Every time they seemed poise to have a comeback and do something big it ended up not happening. Plus, they made the most awesome commercial for a chili dog stand..
6-Dokken-It’s funny researching all these bands, it seems like 4 albums in and it goes off the rails. Same with Dokken but I get why they broke up, Don is kind of an ass and George is no saint himself. The band has an interesting backstory in that Don essentially joined George’s band yet somehow they ended up using Don’s last name. In between all the ego clashes and silliness, they released some essential albums. Great mix of a commercial sound with a heaviness to it. Plus Lynch was a monster player. Even their comeback album Dysfunctional is good. It was originally released in Japan simply titled Dokken. It sold so well that Elektra in the States picked it up, added some songs and remixed it. Get the original Japanese version as it sounds more like classic Dokken while the US version tries to make them sound alternative. It still sold over 300k copies which is amazing at that time. Since then been a lot of misses and drama. The Erase the Slate album with Reb Beach on guitar is severely overlooked. I think most of the criticism of the band nowadays is because of the band fighting than the music. Shame.
5-RATT-It has always amazed me how overlooked RATT are. I don’t know if it’s because they were one of the first bands to break through but they have a fantastic catalog. The 5 studio albums have at least 2 hits per. That doesn’t even include their EP with “You Think You’re Tough” arguably their best song. They never had the big power ballad that others did but I kind of respect them for not forcing one. Warren DeMartini was the requisite guitar hero and he’s still held on high regard. Bonus points for their comeback album Infestation being so good it holds its own. The legal fighting over who holds the band name has not helped the bands profile though.
4-Whitesnake-Now some may wonder how I can include Whitesnake here when I left off the Scorpions since both bands were active in the 70’s. One, it’s my list. Two, Whitesnake was basically a blues band until John Sykes joined the band and guitar driven, stripper anthems emerged. I have always said if there is a Stripping Hall Of Fame, Whitesnake should be in there. The amount of dollar bills that went flying because songs from the ’87 album came on is innumerable. The album before it, Slide It In is often overlooked and is the blueprint for ‘87. While the videos of Tawne Kittaen and multiple Jaguars looks silly, the songs still hold up after all these years. The lyrics are dripping with sexual innuendo that became passe, listening to them now they just seem fun. A deep dive is the import album Starker in Tokyo, an acoustic album with just Dave and Adrian Vandenberg. The last two releases Good To Be Bad and Forevermore should not be overlooked.
3-Skid Row-Rolling Stone magazine once declared Sebastian Bach as the last genetically engineered front man. While it has been decades since they wrote that I still thinks it holds true. He was like David Lee Roth with an anger streak. He’s tall and good looking with unbelievable pipes and he knows it. They had the huge power ballad but they were able to not be defined by it. Amazingly they got heavier as they went along. Seeing the video for “Slave To The Grind” after being bombarded by “ I Will Remember You” the previous year was like seeing a color TV the first time. You have to remember on this album they took Pantera out as their opener. After that came Subhuman Race, released in 1995 and is one of the greatest albums that most people never heard. I understand some will say I have them too high since they ostensibly had only 3 albums and most only heard of two.
They need to revisit the catalog.
2-Motley Crüe– It’s tempting to put this band at number one just because of their autobiography The Dirt. Seriously, that book is a degenerate bible. And I mean that in a good way. Nonetheless, the band’s music is pretty legendary. They ended on Dr. Feelgood, their biggest album which is highly unusual. Motley seemed to go up a rung on every album while changing their look and style. Even weirder they changed the logo every album too. No one has ever done that. They sounded so raw on Too Fast For Love that it’s almost punk. It’s a shame Elektra cleaned it up the mix, that’s why you should try to find the original copy on Leathur Records . I don’t know if it’s a demerit but for me their best album is Motley Crue the one without Vince Neil. John Corabi added so much as a singer and lyricist it’s a shame we didn’t get to hear more. Still there are hits after hits on the Neil ones. Look at the setlist for the retirement shows and there are at least a half dozen songs they could’ve added. I know I should take off points for their obvious “going through the motions” retirement tour. Tommy’s drum kit messing up on the last show was an unfortunate yet fitting coda for them.
1-Winger-OK. I know people are calling me names after seeing I have Winger at number 1. I don’t care. I think they are the best band of this genre. Forget about the videos of Kip dancing around and concentrate on the music. Incredibly well crafted hard rock. They were the perfect package. The band are all incredibly competent musicians. Kip studied classical music before playing with Alice Cooper where he met guitarist/keyboardist Paul Taylor. Reb Beach had been a sought after session guitarist and drummer Rod Morgenstein played with the Dixie Dregs. Plus they had the songs. Their MTV popularity was what killed them when Beavis and Butthead came in to popularity. A real shame because they had just released Pull, a truly great album. If given a chance I think people would see the growth they always accused the band of not being capable of. Winger broke up but got back together for IV. After that was Karma and lastly Better Days Comin‘. The band has figured out a schedule to work around everyone’s solo stuff and get back together and make great music. That freedom allows the band to relax and just be themselves. They don’t seem to run from their history like others. Time has passed and on and the line “She’s Only Seventeen” gets changed to “She’s Only 43” at shows nowadays. It’s perfectly pays homage to the song while acknowledging that everyone has gotten older. Older but still having fun.
So there its is. I doubt many, if any, will agree with my list. That’s fine. If you haven’t listened to any of the albums I used to justify a bands rating. I urge you to give it a spin and see if I changes your mind.