Hair Metal

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A subset of Heavy Metal popular mainly during The Eighties, so called because of the tendencies of the musicians to sport Eighties 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).

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 Eighties 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 Motley Crue and Poison) 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 (Motley Crue, Ratt, Poison) 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:

  • Accept
  • Alice Cooper (Trash and Hey Stoopid)
  • 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).
  • Britny Fox
  • Bon Jovi (until the mid-1990's when they converted quite successfully into an Adult Contemporary band.)
  • 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.)
  • 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
  • Dokken
  • 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)
  • Europe (band)
  • Faster Pussycat
  • 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)
  • Kiss (during their 1983-1996 unmasked phase)
  • Limozeen (Fake Band)
  • Lita Ford
  • Michael Bolton, yes, THAT Michael Bolton, before he went adult contemporary.
  • Motley Crue
  • Nelson
  • 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.
  • Poison
  • Quiet Riot
  • Ratt
  • Skid Row
  • Slaughter
  • Spinal Tap (a parody from the titular film)
  • Steel Panther (a modern-day example.
  • Stryper (Christian Hair Metal, no less...)
  • Tesla, though they were another more bluesy band
  • 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).
  • TNT
  • 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
  • Warrant
  • WASP
  • Whitesnake (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
  • Winger

Tropes[edit | hide | hide all]

  • 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, and Poison pulled out an issue of Cosmo on their first photoshoot and told the makeup artist to "Make us look like this".
  • Hair of Gold: It seems like the most popular bands had to have at least one blonde member, Motley Crue had Vince, Poison had... almost all of them, Hanoi Rocks had Michael Monroe, Skid Row had Sebastian Bach, even Twisted Sister had Dee Snyder.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Long-Haired Pretty Boy: How the genre got its name.
  • 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.
  • 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.