Top 100 Rock Ballads of the '80s and '90s

Updated on April 29, 2020
dannydeu profile image

Danny has been an online writer for over fours years. His articles often focus on the music industry and pop culture history.

Rock Ballads of the '80s and '90s!
Rock Ballads of the '80s and '90s!

There's nothing like a rock ballad from the '80s and '90s. Back then, they sure knew how to write and sing slow love songs and power ballads.

As Sammy Hagar (of Van Halen) said, "there were moments, like in some of the ballads, I put my heart and soul into those records. Those lyrics when I sang 'em, I gave myself goosebumps."

Welcome to my video list of top 100 rock ballads of the '80s and '90s. Although it was hard to decide which songs to include and what order to list them in, I have compiled my favorite songs here, limiting myself to the 100 songs I love the most.

I hope you like this list, and feel free to leave me a comment or a suggestion about a song I missed. Who knows, it may end up on the list!

My Top 10 Rock Ballads

  1. "With or Without You" U2
  2. "The Unforgiven" Mettalica
  3. "Father of Mine" Everclear
  4. "Keep on Loving You" REO Speedwagon
  5. "Love Song" The Cure
  6. "The Deeper the Love" Whitesnake
  7. "Wonderwall" Oasis
  8. "Promises in the Dark" Pat Benatar
  9. "Price of Love" Bad English
  10. "The Rose" Bette Midler

1. U2: With or Without You

2. Metallica: The Unforgiven

3. Everclear: Father of Mine

4. REO Speedwagon: Keep on Loving You

5. The Cure: Love Song

What Makes a Rock Song a Power Ballad?

A ballad is a song that tells a story about an emotional situation. More than other songs, a ballad's emotion is super pumped-up, maybe a little exaggerated, but the result is that you feel satisfied, like the song was therapeutic.

Rock ballads and power ballads are the same thing. A typical rock song, with its electric guitars, bass, drums, and intense vocals, becomes a power ballad when it gets all sentimental and gooey about love, or sadness, or any other big emotion. Music journalist Charles Aaron has said that the first rock ballad may be "Stairway to Heaven," which was released in 1971. Other early rock ballads include Aerosmith's "Dream On" and "Freebird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Simon Frith, the British sociomusicologist and former rock critic, has written that the power ballads of the '80s were also inspired by soul. Think "Sexual Healing" and "Midnight Train to Georgia." Singers like Ray Charles sang in a soulful way that influenced rockers like Joe Cocker to write slow songs with loud, emotional lyrics backed by electric bands.

In the '80s, big-haired (but macho) rockers started cranking out the slow-tempo, sentimental songs that—and here's the "power" part of power ballad—built up to the crazy, thrilling crescendo of electric guitar, bass, drums, and vocals that we all love.

6. Whitesnake: The Deeper the Love

7. Oasis: Wonderwall

8. Pat Benatar: Promises in the Dark

9. Bad English: Price of Love

10. Bette Midler: The Rose

That's Right. No Aerosmith or Queen.

It was hard to come up with just 100 of my favorite rock ballads. I know there are lots of you out there who will take me to the mat for leaving off Aerosmith's "What it Takes," and "Dream On," not to mention Queen's "Somebody to Love" and the ever-popular "Bohemian Rhapsody."

What can I say except that while I love these songs . . . they're not in my top 100?!? The hard part, but also the fun part, of making this list is that I know it'll stir up some debate.

11. John Mellencamp: Jack & Diane

12. INXS: Never Tear Us Apart

13. Roxette: It Must Have Been Love

14. Stevie Nicks: Edge of Seventeen

15. Lisa Loeb: Stay

"Judas," the First Ballad

Historians believe that one of the very ballads was written in the 13th century and was called "Judas." In that song Christ gives Judas 30 pieces of silver to buy food for the Apostles, but on his way to the market, Judas runs into his sister, who lulls him to sleep and steals the money. Unwilling to confess his loss, Judas sells Christ to the Romans for the same amount of money.

16. Heart: Alone

17. Loverboy: Heaven in Your Eyes

18. Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart, and Sting: All for Love

19. Poison: Something to Believe in

20. U2: I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

Best Rock Ballads for Karaoke

  1. "Alone" Heart
  2. "Love Song" The Cure
  3. "Jack & Diane" John Mellencamp
  4. "Wonderwall" Oasis
  5. "Keep on Loving You" REO Speedwagon
  6. "Every Breath You Take" The Police
  7. "I'll Stand By You" The Pretenders
  8. "Disarm" Smashing Pumpkins
  9. "Free Falling" Tom Petty
  10. "Only the Lonely" The Motels

21. Soul Asylum: Runaway Train

22. Eric Clapton: Tears in Heaven

Oh can't you see?

You belong to me.

How my poor heart aches

With every step you take.

— "Every Breath You Take" The Police

23. Foreigner: I Want to Know What Love Is

24. 3 Doors Down: Here Without You

25. Air Supply: The One That You Love

Best Power Ballads by Female Singers

  1. "The Rose" Bette Midler
  2. "Promises in the Dark" Pat Benatar
  3. "It Must Have Been Love" Roxette
  4. "Edge of Seventeen" Stevie Nicks
  5. "Alone" Heart
  6. "Stay" Lisa Loeb
  7. "I'll Stand by You" The Pretenders
  8. "Only the Lonely" The Motels
  9. "Take My Breath Away" Berlin
  10. "One of Us" Joan Osborne

26. Def Leppard: Stand up Kick Love into Motion

27. Bad English: When I See You Smile

28. Cheap Trick: The Flame

29. The Police: Every Breath You Take

30. Bryan Adams: Heaven

What Makes a Great Power Ballad Video?

Kevin Cronin of REO Speedwagon has said that power ballads are basically folk songs played on electric instruments, with the wattage turned way up.

  • Rock ballad videos feature footage from live performances, in huge venues, with the fans all holding their lighters up.
  • The story of the band is featured. We see them playing on stage and then another story is intercut—maybe a gorgeous woman in high heels who's waiting around for the band.
  • Members of the band have big hair and the singer delivers the lyrics like he's singing an anthem, microphone in one hand and his head back.
  • Look for lots of dry ice, too.

31. Pretenders: I'll Stand By You

We walked the loneliest mile.

We smile without any style.

We kiss all together wrong,

No intention.

— "Only the Lonely" The Motels

32. Chicago: You're the Inspiration

33. Bon Jovi: Always

34. The Motels: Only the Lonely

35. REO Speedwagon: Can't Fight This Feeling

36. Chicago: Look Away

37. Night Ranger: Sister Christian

38. White Lion: You're All I Need

39. Tom Petty: Free Falling

40. Collective Soul: Shine

41. Boston: Amanda

42. Warrant: Heaven

43. Bryan Adams: Please Forgive Me

And I would do anything for love.

I'd run right into hell and back.

I would do anything for love.

I'd never lie to you and that's a fact.

But I'll never forget the way you feel right now,

Oh no, no way.

— "I Would Do Anything for Love" Meatloaf

44. Guns N' Roses: Sweet Child O' Mine

45. Guns N' Roses: November Rain

46. Lita Ford & Ozzy Osborne: Close My Eyes Forever

47. Meatloaf: I Would Do Anything for Love

48. Richard Marx: Right Here Waiting

49. Def Leppard: Love Bites

50. Whitesnake: Here I Go Again

Best Rock Ballads for a Wedding

  1. "Take My Breath Away" Berlin
  2. "Up Where We Belong" Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes
  3. "Faithfully" Journey
  4. "Can't Stop Loving You" Van Halen
  5. "Glory of Love" Peter Cetera
  6. "Love of a Lifetime" Firehouse
  7. "Nothing Else Matters" Metallica
  8. "Avalon" Roxy Music

51. Skid Row: I Remember You

52. Slaughter: Fly to the Angels

53. Berlin: Take My Breath Away

54. Extreme: More Than Words

55. Queensryche: Anybody Listening?

56. Alias: More Than Words Can Say

57. Alphaville: Forever Young

58. Howard Jones: No One Is to Blame

59. Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes: Up Where We Belong

60. Creed: Higher

61. Soundgarten: Black Hole Sun

62. Soundgarten: Fell on Black Days

63. Nirvana: Come As You Are

64. Goo Goo Dolls: Iris

When your day is long

And the night

The night is yours alone.

When you're sure you've had enough

Of this life,

Well hang on.

Don't let yourself go.

'Cause everybody cries

And everybody hurts sometimes.

— "Everybody Hurts" R.E.M.

65. Journey: Faithfully

66. Tesla: Love Song

67. R.E.M.: Everybody Hurts

68. Jeff Buckley: Hallelujah

69. Heart: These Dreams

70. Roxette: Listen to Your Heart

71. Van Halen: Can't Stop Loving You

72. Edwin McCain: I'll Be

73. Def Leppard: Two Steps Behind

74. Mr. Big: To Be With You

75. Smashing Pumpkins: Disarm

Rock Ballads in Movies

  1. "Heaven in Your Eyes" Loverboy Top Gun (1986)
  2. "Take My Breath Away" Berlin Top Gun (1986)
  3. "Up Where We Belong" Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)
  4. "I Want to Know What Love Is" Foreigner Raising Helen (2004)
  5. "Stay" Lisa Loeb Reality Bites (1994)

76. Peter Cetera: Glory of Love

77. Firehouse: Love of a Lifetime

78. Faith No More: Ashes to Ashes

79. Def Leppard: Hysteria (Featuring Taylor Swift)

80. Cinderella: Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)

81. Bon Jovi: I'll Be There for You

Every rose has its thorn,

Just like every night has its dawn.

— "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" Poison

82. Poison: Every Rose Has Its Thorn

83. Cutting Crew: I Just Died In Your Arms

84. Bon Jovi: Livin' on a Prayer

86. Live: Lightning Crashes

87. Metallica: Nothing Else Matters

88. Joan Osborne: One of Us

90. Roxy Music: Avalon

91. Crowded House: Weather With You

93. Scorpions: Wind of Change

94. Nine Inch Nails: Hurt

95. Howard Jones: Everlasting Love

96. The Heights: How Do You Talk to an Angel

97. Bonnie Tyler: Total Eclipse of the Heart

98. Hootie and the Blowfish: Let Her Cry

99. Queensryche: Silent Lucidity

100. Judas Priest: Before the Dawn

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 dannydeu

    Tell me what you think. If I missed you of your favorite rock ballads of the '80s or '90s, I'll try to add it.

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • profile image

        Christopher Nowak 

        6 months ago

        Sorry folks. I am wrong. "Nothing at all" was released in 1970.


      • profile image

        Christopher Nowak 

        6 months ago


      • profile image

        Christopher Nowak 

        6 months ago

        My all time favourite pop songs of all time are: AFRICA, DO YOU BELIEVE IN LOVE? and the greatest pop/rock ballad of all time (in my books): DREAM COME TRUE by FROZEN GHOST. Example: "I've been waiting my whole life for you....."

      • profile image


        10 months ago

        Some big hair ballads to consider

        Ozzy Osbourne - Mama, I'm Coming Home

        Motley Crue - Home Sweet Home

        Steelheart - I'll Never Let You Go

        Kix - Don't Close Your Eyes

        Whitesnake - Is This Love

        Dokken - Alone Again

        LA Guns - The Ballad of Jayne

      • profile image


        16 months ago

        great playlist....

      • profile image


        2 years ago

        really amazing

      • profile image


        2 years ago

        Don't close your eyes KIX!

      • profile image


        2 years ago

        songs by queen, scorpio and the like

      • profile image


        2 years ago

        nothin by Aerosmith???

      • profile image


        3 years ago

        Can you make it as a playlist in Youtube? It will be a lot easier to watch all the videos.

      • profile image


        3 years ago

        You take my breath away

      • profile image


        3 years ago

        That was dead on. Thanks for taking the time to put those great albums in order. I for got about some of the artist until I saw your list.

      • profile image

        4 years ago

        Maybe 20% of those aren't rock songs, but as for the rock, some great forgotten gems listed there.

      • profile image


        4 years ago

        No House of Pain by Faster Pussycat? It's a seriously good song.

      • profile image


        5 years ago

        What about honestly by stryper?

      • profile image


        6 years ago

        Great selection! I would have added 2 more..... Chris Issacs ..Don't wanna fall in love & Steelheart Never let you go

      • profile image


        7 years ago

        Very nice selection. I see you have "Love Song" by Tesla. I think you would also like "What You Give" by Tesla.

      • profile image


        7 years ago

        Love of my life-----Freddie mercury (QUEEN)

        How did you miss that one??????

      • profile image


        7 years ago

        what about "Beth" by Kiss??? one of my the list!

      • profile image


        7 years ago

        what about Beth by Kiss??? otherwise awesome list

      • profile image


        7 years ago

        you guys forgot: changes black sabbat , i'm still in love with you thin lizzy, goodbye to romance ozzy osbourne and even eyes without a face billy idol! COME OOOOOOON

      • JJGJJG profile image


        7 years ago

        Love it, great list and some good ideas for my M3P, and like the voting thing.

      • RetroMom profile image


        7 years ago

        Those songs are great! I love it! You have a wonderful lens! Thanks for sharing!

      • profile image


        7 years ago

        great lens :)

      • Edwardjames81 profile image


        8 years ago

        You have included some cracking Rock classics there. I don't agree with your order, but then musical tastes are an individual thing, but this is an awesome lens.

      • nophie lm profile image

        nophie lm 

        8 years ago

        You are rock... great lens

      • navalava lm profile image

        navalava lm 

        8 years ago

        Such a great lens! Love those songs!

      • profile image


        8 years ago

        Great list! Not the order I would put them, but I'm sure it would be different for everyone. Nice page though. Thanks!

      • dannydeu profile imageAUTHOR


        8 years ago

        @hughgrissettsr lm: Thank you

      • hughgrissettsr lm profile image

        hughgrissettsr lm 

        8 years ago

        excellent choices!

      • dannydeu profile imageAUTHOR


        8 years ago

        @glenbrook: Thanks for the tip. I'll look into them. Maybe I will have to have 102 Rock Ballads.

      • dannydeu profile imageAUTHOR


        8 years ago

        @greenmind: Thank you for stopping by my lens. This list was compiled by myself, but I did have to search the web to remember them all.

      • glenbrook profile image


        8 years ago

        I like Queensryche's "I Don't Believe In Love" and Judas Priest's "Before the Dawn." Don't know if they're considered ballads though.

      • greenmind profile image

        GreenMind Guides 

        8 years ago from USA

        Wow -- really a complete list! Did you compile this yourself, or find an amazing source to use?

        \m/ >.< \m/ (rock on!)


      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

      Show Details
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)