There’s nothing more poignant than hearing a song with lyrics that pull at your heartstrings while also giving you the blood-pumping excitement of dynamic vocals. Power ballads do just that: these songs are charged with emotions and powerful beats!
From the soulful yet powerful vocals of Journey to the somber yet emotional songs of Creed, head on to our list of 23 of the best power ballads of all time. Let’s get started!
1. “Open Arms” By Journey
It should come as no surprise that the first of our power ballads comes from Journey. “Open Arms” is an instantly relatable song that details the plea from one lover to another for forgiveness after a mess-up. Who hasn’t felt the desperate need for acceptance from a loved one?
In addition to being memorable, “Open Arms” has been featured in movies, and it earned the #2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for six consecutive weeks. This song also enjoyed number 1 on VH1’s “25 Greatest Power Ballads” list.
“Open Arms” is considered one of Journey’s greatest hits, and it’s easy to see why!
2. “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” By Aerosmith
Next up on our list is an Aerosmith classic, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” Even though it was originally written for the Armageddon soundtrack and wasn’t intended for radio play, it became so instantly popular that it wasn’t long before it was picked up in the regular rotation.
The song’s lyrics are simple yet soulful and supposedly were inspired by an interview between a celebrity couple. The song’s title plays an integral part of the chorus, which Steven Tyler’s vocals immortalized.
This song debuted at the #1 slot on the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks. It also enjoyed #1 status in numerous other countries.
3. “I’ll Be There For You” By Bon Jovi
You had to know that Bon Jovi would show up on this list. With his distinctive voice and chart-topping singles, “I’ll Be There for You” perfectly captures the essence of a rock power ballad. Feeling your heart fall apart from love engages a sentimental response from any listener, and Bon Jovi’s lyrics don’t disappoint!
This song’s rise to the #1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 was instant, and it topped the charts worldwide too. This level of success was pretty standard for Bon Jovi at this point, as it was his fourth single to reach the #1 spot on the charts.
4. “With Arms Wide Open” By Creed
Since the beginning, Creed has been a powerhouse of emotional songs. It’s no wonder their song “With Arms Wide Open” got so popular! The song details the love a father has for his children, and it’s genuinely an emotional and sweet song.
Along with its heartfelt sentiment, this song reached the #1 slot on Billboard’s Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks for four weeks straight, and it continued to top various other charts during its year of release. It even took the #1 slot on VH1’s top 10 countdowns in 2000!
Since its release, the song “With Arms Wide Open” has been featured in several TV shows and video games, maintaining its relevance even today.
5. “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” By Poison
The next song on our list is from the 80s rock band Poison, and it’s considered their signature song. “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” is a powerful melody depicting the ending of a relationship that can be devastating and inevitable.
It snagged the #1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart for three weeks in 1988, the very year it was released. It also reached the 11th and 13th spots in Mainstream Rock and on the UK charts, respectively. It maintained widespread success and is still considered Poison’s best song up to this day.
6. “Kiss From A Rose” By Seal
Did you know that Seal’s song “Kiss From a Rose” gained popularity when it was included in Batman Forever? The official music video takes place in Gotham itself! Even though the exact meaning of the lyrics hasn’t been disclosed by Seal, the highly poetic lines leave plenty to the imagination.
In 1995, this song topped the US charts for a week, and it was nominated for the MTV Movie Award For Best Song From A Movie in 1996.
Even though “Kiss From a Rose” quickly fell off the charts, it has remained a staple for karaoke-goers and romantics alike.
7. “Iris” By Goo Goo Dolls
Considered Goo Goo Dolls‘ best work, the band released their hit song “Iris” in 1998 to critical success. With powerful lyrics that belt out the wish to give everything up to be the person you love, “Iris” is a song that sticks in your heart.
This song has been included in movie soundtracks and topped Billboard‘‘s Adult Top 40 chart for a record-breaking 17 weeks. It also succeeded abroad, and it’s considered the most successful single in Ireland of all time.
“Iris” has also received a nomination for Record of the Year from the 41st Grammys, although it didn’t win. However, the song received several certifications, including seven Platinum in the US alone.
8. “November Rain” By Guns N’ Roses
Even though Guns N’ Roses is most known for their up-tempo, driving rock songs, they have been known to release solid power ballads too. “November Rain” is one such song!
Originally recorded at 18 minutes long, the song has undergone several edits. Its lyrics about love lasting forever or leaving the singer alone in the rain have remained consistent, however.
This song peaked at #3 in 1992, and its success was due in part to Guns N’ Roses’ many other chart-topping singles. It performed especially well in Germany, Portugal, and New Zealand, staying at the top of their respective charts for several consecutive weeks.
9. “Is This Love” By Whitesnake
Originally intended for Tina Turner, “Is This Love” was eventually given to Whitesnake to the great joy of their fans. This song’s lyrics are about the grip love has on a person’s whole being blended over a distorted guitar.
Reaching #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart wasn’t the end for “Is This Love.” Even after it stopped appearing on US charts, it continued to show up in radio play. This radio circulation keeps it popular and remembered years after its debut!
The song is well-loved by both fans and non-fans alike that even nearly three decades later, in 2015, the song was ranked seventh on Classic Rock magazine’s Top 40 Greatest Power Ballads List.
10. “Love Bites” By Def Leppard
The next song on our list is “Love Bites” by Def Leppard. You probably know this band from their other hit singles, but their power ballad doesn’t disappoint!
Originally intended to be a country-style song, the band spruced it up with heavier guitars to keep it more in line with their style. The lyrics are straightforward about the difficulties of love.
This song is Def Leppard’s only single to reach the #1 spot on the US Billboard Hot 100. It received top spots in the charts of other countries, too, peaking in places like Ireland, New Zealand, the UK, and Canada.
11. “Keep On Loving You” By REO Speedwagon
You may not think of love songs when you think of REO Speedwagon, but their single “Keep on Loving You” was a success when it debuted, even though it’s contrary to their usual style.
Writing this song was painful for the band’s frontman Kevin Cronin, as the lyrics are about his wife’s infidelity and how his love for her remains eternal regardless.
Achieving instant success, “Keep on Loving You” was certified Platinum in the US and reached the #1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100. It maintained its spot for a week in the US, and it even made the top 10 in other countries’ charts!
12. “How You Remind Me” By Nickelback
Among Nickelback‘s most popular songs, “How You Remind Me” propelled the band to stardom in 2001. It deals with the theme of getting into a fight with your significant other and getting caught by surprise when they apologize for once.
“How You Remind Me” was named the #1 most-played song on the radio for the entire decade between 2000 and 2010. It also peaked at #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100!
There are plenty of other charts it made it onto, consistently outperforming other songs in its genre, and it kept Nickleback in fame.
13. “These Dreams” By Heart
Next up, we have “These Dreams” by Heart. The vocals are unique, the chorus is catchy, and the lyrics are memorable—it’s no wonder it’s an instant hit. With lyrics detailing a rich dream life for the singer to escape her problems, this song strikes a chord for most audiences.
Although Heart would go on to have many hit singles, “These Dreams” is the first of their songs to top the charts! It gained the first spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1986 upon its release. This song also peaked at #1 in both the US and Canada Adult Contemporary charts.
14. “When It’s Love” By Van Halen
The most popular song in Van Halen’s eighth studio album, “When It’s Love,” is among the band’s most poignant songs. The song’s lyrics reflect the search for love and the uncertainty in knowing when you’ve found it.
Although “When It’s Love” snagged the #1 spot on the US Billboard’s Mainstream Rock list, it didn’t rank as well in other charts. It was, however, ranked 24th in VH1’s 25 Greatest Power Ballads list and 5th on the US Billboard’s Hot 100.
15. “I Won’t Hold You Back” By Toto
Known for their progressive rock music, Toto may not be likely to make poignant ballads, but “I Won’t Hold You Back” nonetheless achieved recognition! It’s a somber tune about a man who lets go of his lover, and the piano and guitar parts serve to highlight the sadness.
During its debut, “I Won’t Hold You Back” reached the 10th spot on the US Billboard’s Hot 100 list. Even though most of its success was domestic, it also topped the charts in Ireland. Despite its critical success, however, it was the last of Toto’s singles to break the top 10.
16. “Lady” By Styx
Even if you’ve never heard of this Styx song, “Lady” is often credited as the first example of a power ballad, solidifying its placement on our list. The keyboard player for the band wrote this song for his wife, whom he met in high school and whom he considered to be his one true love.
When it was initially released, “Lady” was only a local-area hit, not engaging with a national audience. However, when it was re-released through a new record company, it reached the #6 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1975.
This endearing tribute to true love has remained well-known since the 70s, keeping the romance alive.
17. “Reason To Live” By Kiss
Unlike many of the other songs on our best power ballad list, “Reason to Live” by Kiss isn’t about love for somebody else. Instead, it deals with self-sufficiency and finding your inner strength. Self-empowerment is a strong foundation for building a power ballad, and its popularity shows!
Kiss’ popularity is evident in their top singles, and even though “Reason to Live” is only a minor hit, it’s an important change in style for their chart-toppers. This song made it to the 64th slot on Billboard’s Hot 100 list in 1988, the year after it was released.
18. “Home Sweet Home” By Mötley Crüe
A favorite cover song by many artists, most notably Carrie Underwood, the power ballad “Home Sweet Home” is one of Mötley Crüe’s well-known hits.
The song has also been remixed several times over the years since its initial release in 1985. However, each remix has maintained its melodic chorus coupled with its powerful guitar outing.
In one of its re-releases in 1991, “Home Sweet Home” peaked at #37 on Billboard’s Hot 100. It has also been included in movies and TV and has even been performed by John Cena! Now that’s a legacy!
19. “I Want To Know What Love Is” By Foreigner
The next song on our list is “I Want to Know What Love Is” by the soft rock band Foreigner. Unlike songs like “Hot-Blooded,” this song is deeply emotional for the band. The lyrics describe how weary the singer is and how much he believes that love can restore him.
In 1985, “I Want To Know What Love Is” gained the first spot on Billboard’s Top 100 list for two consecutive weeks, making it the first of their singles to do so. It reached the #1 spot in Australia for five weeks as well, and several other countries had it in their charts too!
20. “Sister Christian” By Night Ranger
As the song title suggests, Night Ranger’s power ballad “Sister Christian” is about the songwriter’s little sister. He wrote the lyrics when he noticed how much she had grown in the time he had been absent. Among other things, he is concerned that she’s maybe growing up too fast.
After debuting in 1984, “Sister Christian” reached #5 on Billboard’s Hot 100 list. Even though it got into the top five in other US charts, it outperformed in Canada, where it reached #1.
The band re-recorded the song several times, and it was featured in both movies and TV shows, including the musical drama Glee.
21. “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” By Starship
Among the greatest 80s soft rock songs, Starship‘s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” is a power ballad that deserves its rightful spot on this list. The lyrics encapsulate unstoppable love as the songwriter was finally able to marry his longtime girlfriend after a finalized divorce from his previous wife.
“Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” topped several charts at #1 in the US, and it even made the #5 spot in the year-end performance chart of Billboard’s Hot 100. This song even made it to the top five spots in at least a dozen other countries upon its release.
22. “High Enough” By Damn Yankees
Next up on our list, we have “High Enough” by Damn Yankees. Who hasn’t felt the intensity of their own love and worried it would be too much for the object of their affection? That’s what this song is about!
“High Enough” is the only of Damn Yankee’s songs to hit the top 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, making it all the way to #3. It also secured the #2 spot in the US Mainstream Rock list!
The success of this song did enough to propel Damn Yankee’s second album to the top 20 on the US albums chart, so it certainly resonated with its audience!
23. “Fall To Pieces” By Velvet Revolver
The final song on our list is “Fall to Pieces” by the hard rock supergroup Velvet Revolver. This power ballad boldly approaches the subject of the singer’s struggle with heroin and how it affected his relationship with his wife.
“Fall to Pieces” earned the top spot on the Hot Mainstream Rock chart, where it remained for 11 weeks straight. Even though it never got beyond the 67th spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 list, it was popular enough to bring the band to the spotlight at Live 8, a notable benefit concert in 2005.
Summing Up Our List Of Notable Power Ballads
Drawing inspiration from love and inner strength, power ballads connect with fans on an intimate level. As such, it comes as no surprise that the above-listed songs are well-established timeless classics that remain popular worldwide.
However, we know that over the years, there have been a wealth of other power ballads that we weren’t able to include here. If you have more songs to add to our list, let us know!