It’s Time to Salute the Sappy Rock Ballad

Hinder is a hard rock band, one whose biggest hit is not a hard rock song.EXPAND
Hinder is a hard rock band, one whose biggest hit is not a hard rock song.
Courtesy of gyoudal via Flickr Commons.
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Hinder, in many ways, was the ideal '80s outfit. After all, here was a band that produced cheesy, over-the-top, catchy pop-rock that was absolutely tailor-made for rock radio. The Oklahoma rock outfit certainly had the hair and fashion sense to thrive in the '80s. And God knows their debaucherous backstage tales would have fit right in alongside Mötley Crüe, Ozzy Osbourne and Guns N’ Roses.

Point being, Hinder – which headlines a gig at Scout Bar on Tuesday night – was pretty damn successful as the mid-2000s went. However, one can only wonder if the band came along two decades too late. And that’s because Hinder is a hard rock band whose most popular song happens not to be a hard rock song at all.

Hinder produced a number of hits during its commercial heyday a little more than a decade ago. Tracks like “Get Stoned” were so over the top and straightforward, the band gained a rightful rep as a sort of heir apparent to Buckcherry, well, inasmuch as Buckcherry really warrants an heir apparent.

But the band’s commercial bread and butter – one that catapulted its debut, Extreme Behavior, to triple-platinum status – was not tales of coke-fueled one-night stands and drunken orgies. Rather, Hinder – like many a band before it – found far more success showcasing its sensitive side. This was particularly true in the case of “Lips of an Angel” and, to a lesser extent, “Better than Me.”

“Lips of an Angel” is pretty perfect as saccharine radio pop-rock goes. It’s got a catchy chorus and tells a straightforward tale. Our guy from Hinder has broken up with his lady and moved on to another. Only issue is he hasn’t really “moved on,” and admits as much during a late-night phone conversation, one that takes place while his new lady chills IN THE NEXT ROOM! If anything, our mid-2000s rock idols were brazen in their infidelity.

“Lips of an Angel” was a bona fide hit, one that reached No. 3 on the Billboard radio charts (not the rock charts; the pop charts) and even charted well on the adult radio airwaves. Country crooner Jack Ingram even covered the tune in 2006, and that version hit the top 20 of the Country radio charts! So yeah, “Lips of an Angel” isn’t exactly “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

Hinder followed up its biggest hit with a return to more of a hard rock sound, at least as pop-rock radio was concerned, when it released “How Long” in September 2006. The track received a lukewarm reception, so Hinder went back to the ballad well with “Better than Me.” There’s really not much to the track. Dude realizes his woman is better than him, falls into substance abuse, basically becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as his demons drive away his lady. Seriously, check out this video – it’s the very definition of awesomely bad.

Hinder pretty much faded away a decade ago. The band kept producing new music and even changed front men, but their commercial relevance appears to have ended as their rock ballads left rock radio.

Not that they’re alone in this regard. The '80s, in particular, were littered with bands who released a rock ballad or two, then quickly faded away. Winger. Stryper. Kix. List goes on. Even a band like Foreigner, which put together a far better career than many remember, will always be known as the band that sang, “I Want to Know What Love Is,” which is fine, since “I Want to Know What Love Is” can single-handedly carry a drunken karaoke night.

Not that one-hit wonders and relics of their respective eras are the only ones to find fame via the rock ballad. Bands that ruled their respective primes – many of which can still sell out arenas and stadiums to this day – are perhaps known more for their ballads than their more up-tempo output.

A textbook case of this is Guns N’ Roses. Unquestionably one of the biggest and most influential bands in the annals of hard rock, GNR – in a relatively short period of time – cranked out some of the biggest hard rock hits of all time, namely “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Paradise City.” However, while those tracks certainly hold up to this day, the song held in highest regard by many of the band’s biggest fans is “November Rain,” a slow-building power ballad if ever there was one.

Axl and crew aren’t alone. Mötley Crüe has “Home Sweet Home.” Ozzy has “Mama, I’m Coming Home.” Metallica has “Nothing Else Matters.” Each an all-time song from an all-time band.

Now, one shouldn’t confuse Hinder with an all-time band, nor “Lips of an Angel” or “Better than Me” with all-time songs. Rather, they are simply serviceable tracks from a band that had the business savvy to use them as a catalyst to success, but neither the talent nor the temperament to sustain it.

But that doesn’t lessen the impact nor the entertainment that rock ballads provide. Some are great. Some are the opposite of great. But each means something to someone for any number of reasons. Hard rock songs make people feel, even those that aren’t hard rock songs at all.

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