A subset of Heavy Metal
popular mainly during The Eighties
, so called because of the tendencies of the musicians to sport '80s Hair
. Some bands accentuated this by wearing gender-neutral (at best) clothing and sometimes makeup as well. While none of this was actually originated by Hair Metal itself, the decade's emphasis on visual presentation has made the style synonymous with the term (which, today, is commonly used in a decidedly derisive tone). To the ire of fans of other metal sub-genres, hair metal codified the general public's image of metal; when a layperson refers to 'heavy metal' they most likely mean this genre.
(At least when they don't think of some weird Frankenstein of Death Metal
, Black Metal
, and Slipknot
This is something of a hard genre to peg down musically, considering its name really refers to fashion more than anything else. Naturally, more bands than just the ones of this designation had '80s Hair
at the time, and naturally, bands vary heavily. However, a few generalized
aspects common across many bands are comparatively high-pitched vocals (compared to other metal, some of which has a noticeable bias for low
voices), and a sound that seems to echo. Hair Metal also tends to be less "raw"-sounding, making full use of studio engineering equipment and audio modification devices such as reverb and other electronica. Some music critics differentiate between "hair metal" (which usually refers to heavily made-up bands like Mötley Crüe
) and the much broader category of "pop metal" (which takes metal or hard rock and adds pop sensibilities to it, such as Def Leppard
or even Guns N' Roses
). The terms are more or less interchangable outside of critics who like to peg things down.
Hair Metal bands often became as famous, if not more so, for their hard-partying lifestyles as for their music (as befitting the 'decade of excess').
Note: "Hair Metal" as defined here can run the gamut from Glam Metal (Mötley Crüe
) to 80s Hard Rock (Van Halen
, Guns N' Roses
etc.) and Traditional Metal/Hard Rock (Scorpions W.A.S.P.
, Spinal Tap
It should also be mentioned that while some of these bands are still around, practically none of them these days stick to the Hair Metal sound and image of its glory days. So their newer music may not fall under this label.
Note: It may have fallen out of fashion for many people, but it still has a dedicated fanbase. If you meet any of them today, you might not want to risk mentioning grunge
Also see Visual Kei
, which is what happened when Hair Metal was allowed to mature
to its best extent rather than die.
Often associated with Glam Rock
Notable Hair Metal acts include:
- Alice N' Chainz (Yep, that Alice in Chains). Facelift is SLIGHTLY less dark and has some traces of their original sound. The box set has a few demos from before they found their own sound.
- Andy Taylor (having grown dissatisfied with Duran Duran's New Wave style, the guitarist tried a kind of hair metal sound during his solo career in the late 1980s).
- Michael Bolton, yes, THAT Michael Bolton, before he went adult contemporary.
- Bon Jovi (until the mid-1990's when they converted quite successfully into an Adult Contemporary band.)
- Britney Fox
- Celtic Frost (''Cold Lake'' album)
- Cinderella (Night Songs mostly, though Long Cold Winter is halfway between their hair metal and the bluesy/hard rock sound used on later albums. Even then, however, Night Songs was a lot rawer and edgier than other glam albums.)
- Crashdiet (A fusion of Hair Metal and punk, currently active as of 2013, having replaced vocalists due to Dave Leppard's Author Existence Failure)
- Crucified Barbara (Active band as of 2013, part of The New Tens Hair Metal revival)
- Alice Cooper (Trash and Hey Stoopid)
- Danger Danger (until the mid-90s when Ted Poley left and the band went for a more alternative sound with "Dawn" then they re-united with Ted and returned to their roots with "Revolve")
- The Darkness (notably not an 80s band; this English band is pretty much the possible love child of T. Rex and Judas Priest, hence hair metal as per formula. The music video for their 2003 breakthrough hit "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" helps hammer it home)
- Def Leppard
- Enuff Z'nuff (these guys were actually a slightly hard sounding, Cheap Trick-influenced, Power Pop band who were marketed as a Hair Metal band by their record label despite not actually being, you know, a metal band, whatsoever)
- Faster Pussycat
- Femme Fatale
- Lita Ford
- Great White
- Guns N' Roses
- According to Slash, the band went through a "glam period" that was short-lived because the band got tired of borrowing stuff from a carousel of girlfriends. By the time Appetite for Destruction came out, only trace elements remained. The group actually made themselves staunch opponents of the Hollywood glam scene, particularly Poison.
- Hanoi Rocks
- Hardline (First album was their only straight example. Their second album had traces of this, but by their third album, they had successfully transitioned away from that)
- Heart (starting with their self-titled album in 1985 and continuing until "Desire Walks On" in 1993)
- KISS (during their 1983-1996 unmasked phase)
- Limozeen (Fake Band)
- Loudness (from around 1985 until 1992, see Minoru Niihara below. In 1992 they dropped Hair Metal for a heavily thrash inspired sound...)
- Mötley Crüe
- Minoru Niihara
- Nitro, a Stealth Parody band which took all of Hair Metal's aspects to their logical extreme.
- Pantera, though they'd rather you forgot they were.
- Precious Metal
- Pretty Boy Floyd
- Princess Pang
- Quiet Riot
- Saigon Kick
- SEIKIMA-II, at least early on, being much like KISS. (They became Visual Kei pretty fast.)
- Skid Row
- Spinal Tap (a parody from the titular film)
- Steel Dragon (a fictional example)
- Steel Panther (a modern-day example. Thanks, The Advertisement Server!)
- Stryper (Christian Hair Metal, no less...)
- The Sweet (Trope Maker and Trope Codifier - they were a British band who started out as a bubblegum group in the early seventies, then became heavier without abandoning their pop melodies).
- Tesla, though they were another more bluesy band
- Twisted Sister (They personally define themselves as Hid-Metal)
- Van Halen (They arguably made this genre, or at least were very influential in its creation); ditto solo David Lee Roth
- Vixen, a rare example of an all-female Hair Band
- Whitesnake One of the very few hair bands in which its lead singer (David Coverdale) had a baritone voice. (Jumped on the hair bandwagon in the later stages of their career, but had existed for years as a bluesy, Bad Company-style band, and were actually the remnants of a broken-up Deep Purple).
- White Lion (unlike most - if not all - other bands of the genre, these guys relied a lot on Green Aesop as a lyrical theme)
- X Japan at the very beginning as "X." (Combining thrash metal and a heavy punk sensibility and far darker lyrics - it became one of the founding bands of Visual Kei at the same time as a truly Genre Busting act encompassing everything, eventually, from thrash metal and speed metal and power metal to Goth Rock to classical-inspired piano ballads and more.)
- XYZ-A, Minoru Niihara's solo band, was a recursive combination of this and Visual Kei. The guitarist was actually Visual Kei and the band was formed way after Hair Metal had crashed and burned, but the singer was Hair Metal trying to be Visual Kei, until the end of the 1990s and the reformation of his old band, Loudness, when he dropped the vestiges of the style.
- The Beautiful Elite: The most popular bands were these.
- Dude Looks Like a Lady: Apparently the trope namer was written about the guys in Motley Crue (specifically, Vince Neil), and Poison pulled out an issue of Cosmo on their first photoshoot and told the makeup artist to "Make us look like this".
- Groupie Brigade: Because hair metal was a genre of music with a lot of female fans, groupies were often found backstage at shows. In Motley Crue's autobiography, Vince Neil mentions that when they were on tour he would frequently have sex with several different women in a single night.
- Ho Yay: Not as much as in Glam Rock but you know in Poison's Talk Dirty To Me when Brett yells to C.C. "C.C. pick up that guitar and talk to me" yeah, that happened.
- A few of the artists from Michael Monroe to Minoru Niihara have been rumored to be gay or bisexual. This has led to an actual slash fandom subset in Hair Metal (or pairing up Hair Metal artists with early Visual Kei artists in crossover Fan Fic.)
- And of course, pretty much any of the early Visual Kei bands that began as Hair Metal. X and SEIKIMA-II, for example, once had thriving slash fandoms that only died out with time, newer visual kei bands becoming more popular for Yaoi Fangirl attention leading to attrition, and Flame War over whether it was "okay" to write slash or not.
- Intercourse with You: Unskinny Bop by Poison, Slice of Your Pie by Motley Crue, Hell On High Heels by Crue, Lick Summer Love by Hanoi Rocks, Tragedy by Hanoi Rocks, Rattlesnake Shake by Skid Row... basically the favorite theme of this genre.
- Improbable Hairstyle: Young C.C. Deville's physics defying do' for one. Toshi when he wore the "french fries" hairdo - a common joke being his hair was half his height.
- Long-Haired Pretty Boy: How the genre got its name.
- Power Ballad: A staple of the genre. During the hair metal era it was common for an album to contain at least one power ballad, the reason being that ballads often became mainstream radio hits and sold a lot of singles.
- Pretty Boy: Young Poison, young Motley Crue, young Hanoi Rocks.
- Outlaw: Bon Jovi's Wanted Dead Or Alive plays with this archetype and even Skid Row's 18 and Life references it.
- Sex Drugs And Rock And Roll: The musicians who played in hair metal bands were often infamous for the debauchery of their personal lives.
- Stage Names: Rikki Rocket, Nikki Sixx, Michael Monroe
- Stripperiffic: The costumes for both the bands and their groupies.
- Word Salad Lyrics: Ride the Wind by Poison features the unforgettable "Taste the fire, lick the wind" and keeps bringing up "The Midnight Sun" (which is something that's usually tied to references to Alaska) in a song that seems to be about riding motorcycles.