10 Best Rock Power Ballads

Head banging and mosh pits are fine for the herd, but listening to some of the 10 best rock power ballads are a great cool down. In the fifty years of rock, everyone has complied his or her own list of the best power ballads, but for those that haven’t been around that long here are some suggestions:

  1. “Alive by Pearl Jam Easily the rock power ballad anthem for the Generation X. Coming on the heels of Nirvana’s manic Gen X anthem, "Smells Like Teen Spirit," this song is a powerful tale of personal awareness. A purging of singer Eddie Vedder’s revelation that the man he thought was his father actually wasn’t, he belts out the chorus with a guttural defiance that still has people singing along whenever they hear it.
  2. “Nothing Else Matters by Metallica This song puts the "power" in power ballad. James Hetfield revealed an entirely, up until that point, unseen aspect of his personality. The rock ballad is pure heavy metal Metallica with an infusion of acoustic guitar and likely a favorite in Valhalla.
  3. “Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden This song creeps up on you like the cold winds of the Northwest. Chris Cornell’s high-pitched vocal scream sounds equally at on both a gospel choir and this powerful rock ballad. The slow drawl of the first part of the song builds until Cornell is literally yelling the title chorus at the end of the song. A dark highlight of rock’s grunge era.
  4. “Black” by Pearl Jam The song that refined the definition of power ballad and solidified Eddie Vedder’s position as one of the kings of rock. His baritone belts out the lyrics to this song with a pleading passion that could make a grown man cry. A crowd-favorite during live shows, the band likes to strip down to an acoustic version and let the audience sing. And they do, note for note.
  5. “Rooster” by Alice in Chains This ode to a Vietnam soldier’s homecoming and mourning of a friend is a haunting take on the power ballad. If Cornell is known for screaming, Layne Staley, lead singer of Alice in Chains, is known for screeching. A tragic casualty of the era, Staley’s chilling vocals betrayed the pain he was personally be feeling. A gritty grunge rock ballad from one who will be missed.
  6. “All the Love in the World” by NIN This miserable, warbling, electronic nightmare could be a villain’s theme music. If Bruce Wayne felt any more sorry for himself, he would be singing this song. Trent Reznor takes his time building to the rock of this song and pays it off beautifully in classic tragedy, angry, antagonistic NIN style.
  7. “Gasoline” by Catherine Wheel The chords of this one start off like a regular rock song with a multi layered guitar riff before stripping down to transform into a power ballad. Driven by a solid bass line, it never strays far from its roots. Plus the chorus is a sing-along even though the meaning is cryptic. ”I love gasoline.”
  8. “Shadow of the Sun” by Audioslave This post-grunge ballad combines the talents of Chris Cornell and the remaining members of Rage Against the Machine. Sure enough, Cornell gets to screaming at the end, but Tom Morello’s accompanying guitar smoothes it out perfectly. 
  9. “Lithium” by Nirvana This quaint self-deprecating number goes against Kurt Cobain’s usual energetic grind, but is catchy in that Beatles kind of way. Something that Cobain would frown at, yet it seems to be the intent.  
  10. “Edie” by The Cult The only person on this list whose pitch could rival Cornell’s scream is The Cult’s frontman, Ian Astbury. The range, rock-country whine of this song goes all out in its high-pitched farewell to its title character. An operatic piece, its as powerful a rock ballad as you will ever hear.
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