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CNA Lifestyle

Singapore's obsession with power ballads: Big hair, big feels and Right Here Waiting

As Richard Marx's biggest hit turns 30 and Bon Jovi's Always turns 25, CNA Lifestyle looks back at Singapore's favourite soft rock epics of the 80s and 90s.

Everyone, whether they'd like to admit it or not, loves a good, ol' power ballad. You know, those hyper-emotional, melodramatic anthems of heartbreak you secretly belt out at the top of your lungs in the shower, or purposefully choose during a heart-wrenching karaoke session.

The power ballad – defined by Oxford dictionary as “a slow, soft, rock song, with a strong, emotional vocal delivery and often grandiose production” – was an essential 80s music form.

At its peak, the power ballad defined the decade with a blend of sentiment and obviousness. And was proof that even big-haired hard rockers had a soft spot for romantic yearnings and melodramatic heartache.

Perhaps it is the blatantness of it all that people respond to. Feelings, failings, desperation, longing and regret – they are all laid bare right there in the music and lyrics.

They hit the right chords with listeners due to a combination of great and memorable melodies, lyrics and catchy hooks.

Perhaps it’s how cathartic, inclusive and emotionally resonant the power ballad can be. Or perhaps it's the confluence of rousing choruses, affecting key changes and ludicrously self-indulgent guitar solos all wrapped up in really, really big hair.

Yes, everyone loves power ballads. Especially Singaporeans.

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Philip Chew, Executive Music Director for Mediacorp’s Class 95 told CNA Lifestyle that the biggest song in Singapore back in 1989 was Right Here Waiting by Richard Marx. “It was everywhere and we received tons of requests for it to be played on radio,” he reminisced. 

Indeed, Singaporeans were (and still are) massive fans of Marx's power ballad, which turns – get ready to clutch your pearls – a whopping 30 years old this year.

But we were (and still are) also fans of Berlin, The Bangles, Chicago, Foreigner, Journey and Starship – all of whom ruled our airwaves back in the 80s and 90s.

Based on airplay and requests, said Chew, Singapore's favourite power ballads include Chicago’s You're The Inspiration, Starship’s Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now, Journey’s Open Arms and Faithfully, Berlin’s Take My Breath Away, REO Speedwagon’s Can’t Fight This Feeling, Phil Collins’ Against All Odds and Foreigner’s I Want To Know What Love Is.

“Plus, Singaporeans have a soft spot for, and generally appreciate a good ballad then. And they still do, even now”.

Here's a playlist of Singapore’s favourite power ballads of the 80s and 90s to take you down memory lane. Don't sing too loud in the office. It's not polite.

1983: Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse Of The Heart 

Best line: "Once upon a time there was light in my life / But now there’s only love in the dark” 

1989: Bad English –  When I See You Smile

Best line: "Sometimes I want to give up / I want to give in, I want to quit the fight / And then I see you, baby / And everything's alright"

1989: Warrant – Heaven 

Best line: "I don't need to be a superman / As long as you will always be my biggest fan / Heaven isn't too far away / Closer to it every day"

1990: Scorpions  Wind Of Change 

Best line: "Take me to the magic of the moment / On a glory night / Where the children of tomorrow dream away / In the wind of change"

1991: Guns N' Roses –  November Rain 

Best line: "If you want to love me / Then darlin' don't refrain / Or I'll just end up walkin' / In the cold November rain"

1992: Roxette – It Must Have Been Love 

Best line: "Make-believing we're together / That I'm sheltered by your heart / But in and outside I've turned to water / Like a teardrop in your palm"

1993: Meat Loaf – I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)

Best line: "Some days I pray for silence / Some days I pray for soul / Some days I just pray to the god of sex and drums and rock 'n' roll"

1994: Bon Jovi – Always 

Best line: "l'll be there, till the stars don't shine / 'Til the heavens burst and the words don't rhyme"

Source: CNA/gl