21 Best 80s Power Ballads

21 Best 80s Power Ballads

Big hair, bright clothes (including neon leg warmers and florescent socks) and broad, padded shoulders – there was nothing subtle about the 80s. And that applies to the music scene too. The best 80s power ballads had a rousing effect on the listener, with emotional vocals and catchy melodies that today’s karaoke fans cannot resist.

So whose tracks would belong in the 80s power ballads top 100? There are many contenders, from 80s hair bands to female solo artists who really found fame on the basis of one big-hitting song. This piece will explore the world of the top 80s power ballads, creating an 80s power ballads list you can refer to when you want to remember – or discover – the best ballads of the 80s.

Without further ado, then, here’s my countdown of the greatest 80s power ballads.

21 of the best 80s power ballads

Alone – Heart

This is without a doubt (in my mind, anyway) one of the best 80s rock power ballads. It’s deeper and edgier than most. ‘How do I get you alone?’ I’m sure many of us have asked that question at one time or another.

Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad – Meatloaf

He wants her. He needs her. But there ain’t no way he’s ever gonna love her. How could this classic be missed off any list of 80s ballads? Even though it was actually released in 1977, it was played a lot during the 80s. So there 😉

Suddenly – Angry Anderson

If, like me, you loved Neighbours during the 80s, then you’ll know this track pretty well. It was played as the theme tune to Scott (Jason Donovan) and Charlene’s (Kylie Minogue) wedding. Who recently appeared in Ramsay Street for the big finale (that now should never have been as Neighbours is now coming back. Yay!) One of the best known 80s power songs in Britain, if not in Australia.

Take My Breath Away – Berlin

With the recent runaway success of Top Gun: Maverick, how could I not include the song from the original Top Gun motion picture soundtrack? Unlike Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone, this wasn’t featured in the second film, but it couldn’t really, as this track belonged only to Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis. Any power ballads of the 80s list would be incomplete without it.

Eternal Flame – The Bangles

Another female-led banger that’s among the best 80s ballads every recorded. The harmonies are beautiful, and of course all the dads and lads at school thought a lot about The Bangles’ lead singer when this was released.

Every Rose Has Its Thorn – Poison

Does every cowboy really sing ‘a sad, sad song’? Whether or not that’s true, this was one of the best rock power ballads of the 80s from a band with really big hair. In the words of my beloved Michael Hutchence (at Wembley in 1991) ‘no waving and no cigarette lighters please’. Yeah right!

Wanted (Dead or Alive) – Bon Jovi

What is it with cowboys? Jon Bon Jovi even claims to be one on this track, which is among the ultimate 80s hair bands power ballads. This list wouldn’t be complete without a Bon Jovi song on it somewhere.

Move Closer – Phyllis Nelson

This was the seventh best selling UK single of 1985, though it didn’t make much impact stateside. It was typical of 80s power ballads by female artists, with soaring vocals, romantic lyrics and a compelling tune.

The Lady in Red – Chris de Burgh

This one topped the singles chart on four countries, yet divides opinion. Romantic or sickly? The jury’s out, but at number 71 in the UK’s top 100 of the entire 80s decade, you cannot argue with the success of one of the biggest 80s love power ballads of all.

True – Spandau Ballet

It’s true. It was big. Number 62 on the 80s top 100 singles in the UK. Set Adrift on Memory Bliss by PM Dawn included a sample of the tune written by Gary Kemp. Having recently read Martin and Shirlie Kemp’s book, I’d say it suited them very well. Among the best power ballads of the 80s for sure.

Total Eclipse of the Heart – Bonnie Tyler

Big, backcombed hair, a throaty voice and a romantic theme – Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart is one of the quintessential tracks for any list of 80s power ballads.

I Want to Know What Love Is – Foreigner

This might well be my all-time favourite of all those stirring 1980s power ballads. Somehow, for me, this one avoids being naff. It seems merely heartfelt and fairly understated. Well, apart from the bit with the choir, perhaps. Knocking Band Aid off the number one spot and Madonna in the states was some achievement too.

Vienna – Ultravox

Oh Vienna. This was within the UK’s top 50, of the whole 80s, in terms of singles sales. Not bad for Midge Ure and co. Altogether now – ‘This means nothing to meee…’ (and so on). This was one of the eighties power ballads performed at Live Aid, of course.

Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now – Starship

Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now featured in an 80s movie starring Kim Cattrall called Mannequin. It also did well in the charts, selling more copies than all but 41 of the UK’s top hits of the decade. One of the biggest power songs of the 80s to come from a film soundtrack.

Imagine – John Lennon

I know, this one doesn’t slot quite so neatly into the power ballads of the 80s category. It’s more about peace – and perhaps politics – than love in the romantic sense. But I cannot leave a Beatle’s ballad out and that’s that.

I Know Him So Well – Elaine Paige & Barbara Dickson

This one definitely belongs on my 80s power ballads playlist. Oh yes. It’s from the musical Chess, and was in the top 25 best selling singles of the 80s here in the UK.

Hello – Lionel Richie

‘Hello. Is it me you’re looking for’? Surely one of the most instantly recognisable lyrical lines of the 80s. This topped the charts for 6 weeks here in the UK during 1984, and was also number one in 9 other countries. A big power ballad of the 80s in every sense.

The Power of Love – Jennifer Rush

This made the top 10 best sellers of the 80s list here in the UK – and was also the top selling single in 1985. Jennifer Rush didn’t make it to number one in the US with this, but it’s still one of the best known 80s female power ballads of all time.

Careless Whisper – George Michael

You’ve got to love a bit of Wham or George Michael (solo). This was the hit that bridged the gap between duo and solo success for George, though Andrew Ridgeley gets a writing credit. I doubt he ever needed to work again after having a hand in one of the biggest power ballads of the 1980s!

I Just Called to Say I Love You – Stevie Wonder

This Motown hit was huge – number 3 on the 80s top 100 UK hits. It’s little more upbeat than many power ballads from the 80s. Which may be the secret to its success. Nice one Mr Wonder. Or Stevland Hardaway Morris, to give him his real moniker.

Saving All My Love For You – Whitney Houston

And finally – this list wouldn’t be complete without something from Whitney. Whom I used to listen to at weekends during the 80s when travelling between my Northumberland home and my cousin’s house in Newcastle. This one was actually a cover released in 1985, and was number one in the US, the UK and Ireland.

80s power ballads – FAQs

What is a power ballad?

Typical 1980s ballads begin slowly and often have a romantic theme. They often tell tales of great yearning and build as the song progresses, reaching a big, rousing crescendo by the end of the track. A power ballad often soars like an eagle, stirring strong emotions in the listener. If it’s really belted out by the singer too, then it’s probably a power ballad!

What is the greatest power ballad of all time?

Which is the greatest power ballad of all time is a matter of musical taste – but one thing’s for sure. The power ballads of the 80s defined the decade, so it’s likely to have been recorded during that decade by acts such as Stevie Wonder, The Bangles, George Michael, Heart, Lionel Richie, Bonnie Tyler or another of the decade’s most successful artists.

What were the biggest hits of the 80s?

In the UK, the biggest hits of the 80s came from Band Aid, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Stevie Wonder, The Human League, Culture Club, Wham, George Michael, Jennifer Rush and Dexy’s Midnight Runners.

What song was the first power ballad?

Lady by Styx was released in 1973, and is credited with being the first ever power ballad. The genre grew in popularity from then on, peaking during the 80s. The penultimate decade of the 20th century was when some of the greatest rock ballads of all time were recorded.

Which 80s power ballads make your playlist?

Well that’s my rundown of the 80s ballads by male and female solo artists and bands. What would make the grade for you? Do acts like Bryan Adams, Def Leppard, Motley Crue or Journey belong on your list of the top ballads from the 80s?

One thing’s for sure. Power ballad singers excelled in this genre during the 80s, and today’s playlists of power ballads by rock and pop artists always include a fair few from the second-last decade of the 20th century!

Marcy x

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