If the popularity of movies like "Pretty in Pink" and "St. Elmo's Fire" proves anything, its that the 1980's was a pretty sappy, sentimental decade making narrowing down the 10 best ballads of the '80s hard because there were so many popular songs released. These 10 songs, while perhaps a bit dated, have stood the test of time for their stark melodies and for their ability to invoke images of Molly Ringwald balling her eyes out.
- “Total Eclipse Of The Heart.” Jim Steinman, the man responsible for Meatloaf’s gigantic singles “Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad” and “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” delivered another over the top and unorthodox ballad with this song. Only Bonnie Tyler could sound convincing singing lyrics like “every now and then I get a little bit tired of listening to the sound of my tears.” The world will never get tired of this song however, as its one of the best ballads of the ‘80s.
- “When I See You Smile.” Before she penned mega-ballads for the likes of Celine Dion (“Because You Loved Me”) and Aerosmith (“I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing”) pop songwriter Diane Warren wrote this 1989 hit single recorded by “hard rock” band Bad English. The keyboards sound more than dated and the video is nothing but hair, but the song’s melodies and message still do the trick.
- “Eternal Flame.” Along with The Go-Go’s, The Bangles carried the flag for female pop/rock in the 1980s and performed one of the best ballads of the ‘80s. A sharp contrast to the group’s silly (“Walk Like An Egyptian”) and fun (“Manic Monday”) songs, “Eternal Flame,” complete with its totally 80s synth string arrangement, could make even the most hardened Dokken fan cry. Thank songwriters Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly, responsible for hits like “Like A Virgin” and Whitney Houston’s “So Emotional,” for this tearjerker.
- “One More Try.” George Michael rose from the ashes of the 1980’s most unintentionally campy duo Wham and shocked critics and the world with his solo debut “Faith.” He could do it all, pop, soul, R&B and ballads, as in the case of “One More Try,” the 80’s answer to Procol Harum's “Whiter Shade of Pale.”
- “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” A list of the 10 best ballads of the ‘80s wouldn't be complete without the inclusion some sort of hair metal power ballad. Poison ruled the 80s spandex scene with hits like “Your Mama Don’t Dance” and “Nothin’ But A Good Time,” but really owned it with its poignant “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” Bill and Ted quoted it in their Bogus Journey; the sign of a true hit.
- “Patience.” While hair metal bands released a bulk of the ‘80s ballads (it was an instant moneymaker), it took the blues and punk influenced sleaze metal band Guns ‘N Roses to write one of the best ballads of the ‘80s with "Patience." The song’s stripped production and arrangement make it a true classic. Compare that to anything Cinderalla put out.
- “True Colors.” Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly hit the nail on the head again with this gorgeous ballad sung by Cyndi Lauper who showed her true colors in every kooky outfit she wore in in wrestling matches across the country. Lauper’s other slightly more upbeat “Time After Time” is a tie for best New Wave ballad.
- “Hello.” Lionel Richie, formerly of R&B group The Commodores, released this melodramtic song in 1984 and it’s definitely one of the best ballads of the ‘80s. The accompanying video, in which Richie falls for a blind art student, laid it on pretty thick, but the song’s dark melodies was its saving grace.
- “Purple Rain.” “Purple Rain” was perfect as a movie, since the album was such an over the top party. Its closing track is a slow-building masterpiece, accentuated by tasteful Hendrix-inspired guitar work and Prince’s echoing vocals.
- “Live To Tell.” This is one of the best ballads of the ‘80s and also one of the darkest. Madonna proved she could do more than pop and dance with this somber song, which is saved by some light keyboard touches here and there.
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