Who doesn’t like a power ballad, that soft underbelly of a hard rocker that's rarely seen in the light of day?
You’ve probably heard the story: the power ballad often is the biggest hit for heavier bands, opening up their music to the love-song-loving masses.
But what makes a song a “power ballad?” It's typically characterized by intense emotional lyrics, a quiet verse with a heavy-hitting, sing-along chorus and tons of drama.
They’re metal’s version of love songs, and you should add one or two to your set! The beauty of these selections is their simplicity. Will they bring a tear to your eye? Maybe.
Will you be able to figure out how to play them? Most likely.
Poison, “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”
This song is the very definition of power ballad. Drama to the max. “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” was released in October 1988 as the third single from Poison's second album, Open Up and Say... Ahh!. It is the band's only Number 1 hit in the U.S., reaching the top spot on Christmas Eve 1988 for three weeks (carrying over into 1989), and it also charted at Number 11 on the Mainstream Rock chart. The verse starts in G and moves to Cadd9for each phrase, ending with D to C. The chorus echoes this chord pattern with G to C for two lines, then G D C with the final line G to C. Easy and rocking!
Whitesnake, “Is This Love”
Another power ballad about love that rocks it. “Is This Love” is taken from Whitesnake’s self-titled album, which was released in 1987. It was long rumored that the song had originally been written for Tina Turner. David Coverdale confirmed these rumors in the booklet of Whitesnake's 20th anniversary edition: "Before I'd left [for the south of France] a friend at EMI had asked me for any ideas that would work for Tina Turner. So that was where the original idea for 'Is This Love' came from." "Is This Love" became one of the most popular Whitesnake songs. The verse chords are Em7, Bm7, Cadd9. The verse uses C9, D/C, Bm7, C, Bm7, Am7, G7.
Skid Row, “I Remember You”
"I Remember You" is the third and final single from Skid Row's 1989 eponymous debut album. This power ballad was released in November 1989 and written by bandmates Rachel Bolan and Dave "the Snake" Sabo. In a 2007 interview, vocalist Sebastian Bach said, "'I Remember You' was the Number 1 prom song in the U.S. in the year 1990....You talk about making memories! Literally the whole country did their prom dance to 'I Remember You' one year, and that's a real heavy memory to beat." This song is literally the easiest one to play of all the songs listed here. The verse uses G to C. The chorus is G, D, Em, C, D, G.
This song was released in 1989 as the second single from Warrant's debut album Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich. It was Warrant's most commercially successful single, reaching Number 1 in Rolling Stone, Number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Number 3 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. "Heaven" took Warrant's record company by surprise. Once the widespread appeal of the song became apparent, the band were instructed to re-record the track to lend it a "bigger radio sound." The first 250,000 copies of the record featured the original version, while later pressings featured a new version. This song uses G, D, Dsus2 and Cadd9 throughout.
Cinderella, “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)”
This song is from Cinderella’s second album, Long Cold Winter. Released in August 1988, it was their most successful single, peaking at Number 12 on US Billboard Hot 100 in November 1988. A 254-show tour to support the album lasted more than 14 months and included dates on the Moscow Music Peace Festival alongside other metal acts, such as Ozzy Osbourne, Scorpions, Mötley Crüe, Bon Jovi and Skid Row. The tour's stage show included Tom Keifer being lowered to the stage while playing a white piano during the performance of "Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)." This song uses these chords: E, F#m, E, D, A. The chorus is Bm, F#m, Bm, F#m, E, D, A.
Night Ranger, “Sister Christian”
“You’re motoring!” What a great lyric! It was released in June 1984 as the second single from Night Ranger’s Midnight Madness album. It was written and sung by the band's drummer, Kelly Keagy, for his sister when he was surprised by how fast she was growing up. It was the band's biggest hit, peaking at Number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and staying on the charts for 24 weeks. It also reached Number 1 in Canada. The song has also been featured in Friday the 13th, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Saints Row 2, Boogie Nights and Superstar. Another super-easy one, it uses these chords: C, F, G, E-D-C Chorus: C, F, C, F, Bb, F, Bb, Bb-A-G.
Foreigner, “I Want to Know What Love Is”
This song hit Number 1 in the U.K. and the U.S. and is the group's biggest hit to date. "I Want to Know What Love Is" was the first single released from Foreigner's 1984 album, Agent Provocateur. The song features backing vocals from the New Jersey Mass Choir. The song was written and composed by Mick Jones, with an uncredited portion (somewhere between 5 percent, according to Jones and 40 percent according to Gramm) by Lou Gramm. Verse chords: C, F, Bb, Dm Prechorus: Gm, C, Bb, F, Gm, Bb, C Chorus: F, Dm, C, G, C, F
Aerosmith, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”
This Aerosmith hit was written by a true songwriting master, Dianne Warren. It was recorded for the 1998 film Armageddon, which coincidentally featured Steven Tyler’s daughter, Liv Tyler. The song debuted at Number 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, the first Number 1 for the band after 28 years together. Take the time to learn this crowd pleaser. Who doesn’t like an Aerosmith ballad? Verse chords: D, A, Bm, G, D, Em, A Chorus: D, A, Em, Bm, G, D.
Heart, “What About Love”
"What About Love" was originally recorded by Canadian rock group Toronto, but is best known for the 1985 release by Heart. It was Heart's "comeback" single and the first Heart track to reach the top 40 in three years. It was released as the first single from the band's self-titled 1985 album as well as their first hit single on their new record label, Capitol Records. Grace Slick and Mickey Thomas, co-lead vocalists of Starship at the time, provide additional background vocals. Check out these chords and then give it a try! Verse chords: Em, C, G, D Chorus: G, C, D
Mötley Crüe, "Home Sweet Home"
"Home Sweet Home" is a power ballad by Mötley Crüe. It was originally released in 1985 on Theatre of Pain and again in 1991 for the Decade of Decadence compilation. It has been recorded as a cover version by several artists and was released as a single by Carrie Underwood in 2009. Along with "Wild Side,” "Home Sweet Home" is one of the rare Mötley Crüe hits to have Vince Neil credited with the songwriting, although he did play a part in writing many of their non-hit songs. Chords: Em, G, C, D Chorus: G, C, D