I'm obsessed with Monster Ballads right now. As I write this I'm listening to Every Rose Has Its Thorn, a classic Monster Ballad. I'm even obsessed with the term Monster Ballad - I just want to say it a bunch of times in a row. But I’ll refrain, because I’m running a classy show here.
Now, there are some different interpretations of what exactly constitutes a “Monster Ballad,” and I’m sure I’ll get a few angry comments from people who disagree (this IS the internet after all), but what follows is my personally accepted definition. The Monster Ballad, also known as the Power Ballad, was a genre of rock song spawned in the age of hard-rocking Hair Bands (a term I like almost much as Monster Ballad) like Poison, Def Leopard and Journey. Every once in a while, because their record company forced them to, or because they were attempting to make a Top-40 hit, bands like these would mix things up a bit and do a slower song about more sentimental subjects than their usual topics of hedonism and drug-use. Monster Ballads usually contain several of the following characteristics:
The best part about Monster Ballads is that occasionally, the Hair Band involves becomes convinced that it's actually doing something meaningful. And that's when things turn awesome. Carried away by its own histrionic momentum, the song gets longer and longer, the shift between soft-beginning and hard-rocking chorus becomes more pronounced, and the lyrics start to stray into subjects utterly inappropriate for Hair Bands like true love, the meaning of life, and the nature of man. The greatest part is that the Hair Bands have no idea that they've gone too far; they're just so caught up in the epic-ness of their Monster Ballad.
Hair Bands are not the only ones guilty of songs like this. Other bands can go overboard as well, with the same result. And it's these songs I'm especially obsessed with right now. So much so, that I'm declaring a new genre: The Monster-Epic.
Monster-Epics are much like Monster Ballads, except they go a little further:
#9 - The Heights - How Do You Talk To An Angel?This songs gains a lot of points for having a saxophone in it. Gotta love the choir at the end.
#8 - Poison - Every Rose Has Its ThornThe first thing you hear in this song is Bret Michaels sighing. Great start. And through the entire thing, you kind of feel like he might break into tears at any moment. If only Every Rose could get past its slow, swaggering pace and rock out in a couple places, it could really be a contender.
#7 - Firehouse - Love of a LifetimeOnly Firehouse could sing the clichéd lyrics "I've Finally Found the Love... of a Lifetime" and really mean it.
#6 - Poison - Something to Believe InNow we're really starting to rock, yet Poison still remembered to put the slow piano opening at the beginning. Ridiculously slow. Something to Believe In also does the great Monster Epic thing where it dies out to piano again at the end, as if to suggest that a band like Poison were capable of doing something poetic like "coming full-circle."
#5 - Guns 'N Roses - November RainNovember Rain makes it halfway up this list for sheer length, clocking in at a marathon eight minutes, fifty-seven seconds. I heard they had to wrestle Slash's guitar away from him just to keep it in single digits. Also gotta love the thunder sound effects.
#4 - The Scorpions - The Winds of ChangeThe Scorpions and The Winds of Change will always have a special place in my heart ever since Sam and I put them in a movie we wrote. A ballad that will have you whistling all the way down to Gorky Park, Winds of Change is a perfect example of the 90-second drums kick-in after the slow start. The second guy scream-echoeing the lyrics during the later refrains is also something we couldn't help but put in the movie.
#3 - Night Ranger - Sister ChristianSister Christian has such a slow, soothing piano opening, you almost think you're listening to Billy Joel or something. But is Night Ranger worried about being perceived as weak? Fuck no. Because they know how hard they're about to rock. This song has a perfect build-up that starts at 49 seconds and kicks in exactly at one minute, and the song is exactly 5 minutes long, dying back down to just piano at the end... If there was a book how to write a Monster Epic (there should be), Night Ranger should author it.
#2 - Whitesnake - Here I Go Again On My OwnNo Monster Epic band rocks as hard as Whitesnake. And there is no more audacious, meaty guitar solo than the one in this song. I'm not sure if the eventual fade-out takes something away, or if it just means that Whitesnake doesn't know how to stop rocking once they've started.
#1 - Meatloaf - I Would Do Anything For LoveOK, I'm sure I'll take some flack for this one, since Meatloaf is far from a Hair Band. But as I said, Monster Epics can be crafted by anyone as long as they’re delusional enough, and no song out there is more crammed full of "I'm the greatest musician who has ever lived and this is the greatest song that has ever been written" than this one. I Would Do Anything For Love has a full orchestra in it. There are wind sound effects. The song absolutely explodes at 1 minute. There are about thirty tempo changes, and a full choir serving no other purpose than to go "Oooooooo", and then "Aaaaaaaa" behind Meatloaf during certain parts. And I'm not sure if you've listened, but the lyrics basically don't make any sense, and yet Meatloaf is almost crying during every line of the song. Seriously, just listen to this song and try tell me that Meatloaf doesn't think it's the greatest musical accomplishment the world has ever seen. He might be the only one.