What I would like to know, seriously, is what kind of crack the folks over at Sony are smoking. See because, okay. I went into work at ShopRite on Saturday, not exactly thrilled at the prospect of working an 8-hour shift, but in a decent mood.
Decent quickly turned to AWESOME, however, when I heard Rich’s voice a few feet from my register: “When did we start selling CDs?” When did we start selling CDs? This was news to me! And before I knew it, I was in seventh heaven, because one of the CDs was called “Metal Ballads!”
Now, I won’t even try to front. I am an absolute sucker for hair bands. I was in junior high in the late ’80s, so how could I help it? Sure, I listened to Debbie Gibson, and was in love with New Kids on the Block, mostly Donnie, because he was the bad boy, but the REALLY bad boys were all the dudes on MTV with the long, messy hair full of Aqua Net. Something about the combination of larger-than-life ‘dos and leather just really got me, you know?
And that is why the Power Ballads were so key. The Power Ballads were hair bands’ way of saying, “Yes, we are sexual energy incarnate, but we also have deep feelings.” And that right there is every teenage girl’s dream — a sexy, misunderstood bad boy with a good heart and a large capacity for love! Because you know, he could talk a good game, about wanting girls, girls, girls and someone to talk dirty to (him), but what he really wanted was you — that special girl who would totally just GET him and be able to say I love you (babe) without a sound, and also chill on the playground whilst discussing the plight of crying children.
Sure, I know better now. Or, ummm, maybe I still have a bit of a ways to go with the whole bad boy thing. But the point is that I was very excited that ShopRite was selling “Metal Ballads.” Filled with anticipation, I grabbed the CD and brought it back to my register.
The cover was as excellent as you would expect:
There was a metal…I don’t know what that thing is called. It’s in lots of videogames, and the idea is that you don’t want it to get you. Maybe a circular saw? Anyway, in front of that was a rose, to juxtapose sharp edges with soft romance, you see — the formula for the great Power Ballad. Over this ingenious design were the words “METAL BALLADS,” in jagged letters to represent the edginess of the whole production.
And it was only $6.98! I eagerly turned over the CD to examine the track listing, wondering which songs were soon to be filling my apartment with scratchy-voiced angst, paving the way for nostalgic melancholy for many a night.
The first song on the album was “Carrie” by Europe. Awesome! Europe earned my undying love with “The Final Countdown,” a song featuring everything necessary in a perfect hair band single, right down to the nonsensical lyrics. I mean, I think he was comparing his love to a rocket ship? And there was some really dramatic synthesizer going on, and like, explosions, so what’s not to love? Really, my affection for “Carrie” does hinge heavily on my deep love for “Countdown,” but it’s cool. “Carrie” was exactly the kind of song I was hoping to find on “Metal Ballads.” I was a tiny bit surprised that Europe was the first band on the album, as I always saw them as the Jessica Simpson to say, Def Leppard’s Britney Spears, circa 1999. But whatever, I like “Carrie,” no problem.
Second track: “I Saw Red” by Warrant. Hmm, don’t know that song. When I think “slow Warrant song,” I think “Heaven,” but maybe “Metal Ballads” was taking a more avant-garde approach. Cool!
Next up was “I Live My Life For You” by Firehouse. Now, I won’t lie. I somehow completely missed the fact that Firehouse was a real band, much less a metal band, although they are on all the ’80s hair band sites, I am finding. All I knew of Firehouse was that they had that single, “Love of a Lifetime,” which fit in perfectly with my Important Highschool Romance of 1992, in which every slow song had Deep Meaning, including Vanessa Williams’s “Save the Best for Last,” so lets just move on, shall we?
Bad English had the next song with “When I See You Smile.” Really, I have no way of knowing if this is a legitimate pick or not. In the very late eighties into the very early nineties, there was a new type of band that came around, this Hair Band 2.0, which featured shorter — but not short — hair, less makeup, and deeper, soulful lyrics. Think Creed before Creed was Creed, and before Creed begat all of that mush-mouthed music that was to come ten years later. Although grunge overtook the music scene, I think Hair Band 2.0 was supposed to be the next wave of music for the new decade. And in this group I am including Damn Yankees, “Miles Away”-era Winger, and Bad English. I don’t know if there is any validity to this compartmentalization, but it really does make a lot of sense in my mind, and which is to say that when I saw “When I See You Smile” on the “Metal Ballads” CD, my apprehension was steadily building, but I was still thinking I’d probably buy the CD. After all, we were not even halfway through; things were bound to get better!
Well not quite, because the fifth song was “A Man I’ll Never Be” by Boston. I don’t like Boston. To me, Boston sounds like everything bad about hanging out with musicians, with none of the good. There’s something about the sound, like they are just a little too pleased with themselves, and one step away from saying that they know you had plans, but the guys are gonna come jam, and maybe you could just chill for awhile with that girl who hates you because you brush your hair sometimes and also don’t own enough Ani DiFranco CDs.
Yeah okay, anyway. At this point, all was not lost. I was still holding out hope. Halfway through, things could turn around, couldn’t they? I mean, we had still not seen Cinderella, even! I looked to the next track, thinking we were about to really kick it up a sexy notch, and sure enough, there was…
Meat Loaf? Why? WHY! Is it like, because of “Bat Out of Hell,” the makers of this CD thought, “People won’t know! It’s like Ozzy! Ozzy ate bats, and was the prince of darkness, and so people will think of that” and just whaaaaaaaaattttt??? So anyway, the song was “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” and it was at this point that my brain began to melt, and the rest of it’s all sort of a blur.
Thank God, because the next song was “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler. I’ll let you all just think about that for a second.
Up next? What else, but Loverboy, with their Metal Classic, “Heaven In Your Eyes.” You may better recognize Loverboy from their hit heavy metal song, “Working for the Weekend.” They were extremely edgy.
But not as edgy as the band from the 9th track. Thats right, I’m talking about REO Speedwagon! I wasn’t even allowed to listen to REO Speedwagon until I was 16, for fear that I would be too influenced by their suggestive lyrics, sick guitar riffs, and overall badassery. And “Can’t Fight This Feeling” was just the metal-est of the bunch.
So obviously, the makers of “Metal Ballads” had just completely lost their shit at this point in like, every way. There is no other explanation for ANY of this. Or else they did the track-listing version of Babelfish, and plugged in all the info to churn out a bitchin’ CD, but something along the way went terribly wrong because, seriously, you might think that it couldn’t get any more bizarre.
You would be wrong.
The last track…
…on “Metal Ballads”…
…was “Eternal Flame.”
By The Bangles.
And that was when my few remaining brain cells shut down, and I ran out of words.
KEEP ON ROCKING!
© January 31, 2006