Hair metal, also known as glam metal or pop metal, has its own unique sound. Known for its take on heavy metal blended with pop music, you can expect several power ballads and rock anthems when you venture into this musical genre.
Even if you have never heard of the term, we promise you will know a number of the names that pop up in this list of the 31 best hair metal bands of all time.
With over 100 million records sold, KISS is one of the biggest rock bands of all time. So far, they have released more than 25 albums and have been rocking since 1973.
Of course, much of their sound was more hard rock, yet their distinctive glam/hair metal phase in the 80s, combined with their sheer superstar status, fits them squarely on this list.
They started off with the shock factor with their rock concerts and are known as the group fronted by Gene Simmons. Known for songs such as I Was Made For Lovin’ You and Crazy Crazy Nights, they were one of the top hair metal bands ever. Their over-the-top concerts and huge stage personas inject so much energy into their music that you cannot stop getting out your air guitar and playing along.
2. Alice Cooper
Known for his stage shows and raspy voice, Alice Cooper knows how to rock. He was one of the first to use pyrotechnics and sought to push the boundaries of what is possible with shows.
Active for decades, he showed you don’t need to be part of a band to make it in the hair metal genre. There is a roughness to his voice that you cannot replicate.
Formed in 1985, Whitecross has won several awards, and when you listen to some of their songs, then that’s no real surprise. Their best albums include Triumphant Return in 1990 and In The Kingdom in 1992.
This band may have produced some serious rock anthems, but they are different from what you expect. That’s because they always put a Christian message in their music.
This group has sold more than 16 million albums in the United States. The real heyday of their career ran from the mid-80s through to the mid-90s, thanks to the power vocals of lead singer Bret Michaels, and boy, did he make a difference.
Seen as one of the best-ever heavy metal singers, his voice led Poison to critical acclaim, with three consecutive platinum-selling albums in the mid-80s. Famous for songs such as Unskinny Bop and Every Rose Has Its Thorn, you will find yourself singing along in no time at all.
5. Def Leppard
This British glam metal band was formed in 1976, achieving significant success on both sides of the pond. They were the head of a new move in British heavy metal music and produced more than their fair share of major hits.
Songs including the likes of Rock Of Ages and Photograph are a must-listen. We love that they bring way more of a melodic feel to their music, and they offer something unexpected from a hair metal band in their approach.
6. Bon Jovi
Is there anyone in the world that doesn’t love Bon Jovi? As a band, they have sold countless albums and have a string of classic hits such as Livin’ On A Prayer and You Give Love A Bad Name, which are both great rock anthems.
But then, they also produce some of those power ballads, as you can see with their biggest-selling song, Always, which hit the top of the charts in the United States and worldwide. The vibe and energy they produce with their music are both outstanding and infectious.
7. Twisted Sister
This hair metal band from New Jersey was a big deal in the 70s and 80s. However, they were not your usual band, thanks to introducing some real comedy into their music.
That was why songs like I Wanna Rock and We’re Not Gonna Take It became so popular, as people saw that fun side to a hard rock band. Yet, they could appeal to people across the rock spectrum. You had thrash metal fans love their stuff, along with real hair metal fans, and that was a unique thing to do. That alone is a good enough reason for them to appear on this list.
8. House of Lords
This glam metal band was formed in 1987 but lasted only over five years. However, they came back together in 2000 and produced some fantastic hair metal songs and albums. Initially known for their heavier sound. They were quickly snapped up by Gene Simmons’s record label, which helped push them to stardom. But even though they had this backing, their first album never had any real hits.
They were known as one of those hair metal bands that verged on heavy metal or thrash metal with a bit less pop music thrown in there than other groups. Yet, we feel they offer more than enough rocking-out opportunities to make it onto our list.
9. White Lion
Formed in 1983, White Lion was one of the top hair metal bands through the 80s, and for good reason. Led by the Danish vocalist Mike Tramp, they were the epitome of glam metal at the time.
Their second album was the reason they became so big since it spawned hits such as When The Children Cry and Wait, which made it to the Top 10 in the charts. This is classic hair metal with rocking guitars, riffs, superb vocals, and more thrown together into one solitary package.
This German rock band was formed in 1965 and has rocked the world for decades. They can produce rock anthems and power ballads and do so with such enthusiasm.
But if you have never heard their stuff before, then begin with songs such as Wind Of Change or Still Loving You to get an accurate idea of how amazing they were as performers. Also, they influenced so many metal bands, including Def Leppard and Metallica, giving an indication of what to expect from Scorpions.
11. Great White
This rock band was formed in 1977, and its popularity peaked in the late 80s thanks to two different records, Once Bitten and Twice Shy, which launched them to stardom.
What we love about them is how they blend music that sounds like Led Zeppelin with pop or even blues music. That’s unique and results in some pretty interesting songs. Expect some amazing guitar and for their rock music to not be as hard as you get with other groups.
12. Mötley Crüe
Formed in 1981, Mötley Crüe was huge in the 80s and 90s, selling millions of albums worldwide. With seven different platinum albums, they were known for some hectic partying, but it certainly didn’t take anything away from their music.
What we love is their hard rock with thrashing drums, heavy guitars, and out-of-this-world vocals from Vince Neil. Anticipate explosions when you throw on one of their albums.
13. Roxy Blue
Initially formed in 1990 but only lasting for three years the first time around, Roxy Blue then reformed in 2017. They may have only existed for a short period, but they still managed to impact the music industry.
You should check out the one album they produced in the 90s called Want Some? and you will probably wonder why they didn’t continue for longer in that decade. This is your usual hair metal music with enough catchy riffs to pull you in and force you to listen to their music.
Formed in 1985, Extreme was famous in the late 80s and early 90s before seeing that popularity wane. Selling millions of albums, it is perhaps best known for the stunning acoustic song More Than Words, a perfect example of how hair metal bands can pull off excellent ballads when they want to.
We love them as they include some pop and funk in their music, resulting in one seriously cool sound.
15. Mr. Big
Starting off in 1988, it wasn’t until their hit To Be With You in 1992 that they hit the big time. We love how they produce some seriously soft tunes mixed in with colossal rock anthems, and it’s amazing how they include this blend across different albums.
Yet, we know you can guarantee some huge vocals from Eric Martin that will blow you off your feet in true hair metal style.
16. Damn Yankees
This glam metal rock supergroup had to make it onto this list thanks to the talent in the band. Formed in 1989, they had several top hits in the early 90s, even though this was nothing more than a side project. With heavy guitars and cool riffs to draw you into the picture, it wasn’t just their name that was cool with them.
17. L.A. Guns
This glam metal band was formed in the 80s and then reformed in 2016. Known for their dynamic and electric performances, L.A. Guns could lower their tempo without dropping the energy and vibe in their music. Their melodies were intoxicating and had a magical twist. This is one to check out if you are looking for a more nostalgic hair metal band.
18. Van Halen
Van Halen was the King of Hair Metal in the 80s and 90s, rocking out at concert venues worldwide. Known for pushing against boundaries in their music, they would produce dizzying performances containing so much energy you couldn’t stop them from pulling you along for the ride.
Their harmonies were out of this world, and with Eddie Van Halen at the front of the band, you are about to experience a masterpiece of shred guitar resulting in a tone that is undoubtedly Van Halen.
19. T. Rex
With Marc Bolan at the helm, they moved from psychedelic rock to hair metal and glam rock in the 70s thanks to the release of White Swan. Sadly, with his early death, we lost out on more of their hair metal music known for its riveting sound and vibe. They were big but should have been even bigger, thanks to their melodic approach to music. Lyrically speaking, they were the best, and their tunes remain catchy to this day.
20. The Runaways
The Runaways were an all-female band known for their funky metal music in the 70s. It also led to Lita Ford breaking out on her own after they split in the latter part of that decade. Intoxicating with their approach to the metal scene, Ford is now a rock goddess thanks to her outstanding guitar skills that will get you up and rocking.
21. Kik Tracee
Formed at the end of the hair metal scene, Kik Tracee still knew how to rock like the best glam metal groups, but they also allowed other elements of rock to influence their sound. Known for being quite dark and morbid in their music, this set them out as different from their peers.
Their distinct dark sound allowed them to cross over when hair metal came to an end. Don’t expect this to be happy music, but it’s still catchy in its own way.
Formed in 1980, their popularity ran through the late 80s and into the early 90s. Seen as the female Bon Jovi, they were known for their piercing but mesmerizing vocals blended with rip-roaring guitar playing and lyrics that left you thinking.
This Danish rock band from the 80s started off known as Disneyland After Dark, which was not as good as D-A-D. Their hard rock glam metal approach led to a breakthrough in 1989. Achieving international fame thanks to No Fuel Left For The Pilgrims, their music is extremely hair metal. Surprisingly, their soaring and uplifting tunes will leave you feeling relaxed and cool, which is not what you expect from a glam metal band.
24. Bang Tango
Formed in LA, they have taken several breaks since their formation in 1988. Their first release was in 1989, which led to some success, reaching number 58 on the charts. Touring with L.A. Guns, they saw their popularity grow thanks to their music being a blend of funk and hair metal with a bit of soul thrown in for good measure. Bang Tango is your band if you want more ambient glam metal music. Also, they infuse hypnotic beats.
Founded by former Black Sabbath members, Badlands’ glam metal music became highly popular while they were heavily inspired by Led Zeppelin. Expect some serious vocal acrobatics in their songs that will blow your mind. Also, their classic rock tracks could instantly turn into acoustic masterpieces, which is impressive. We love how they switch from slow and melodic to full-on rock.
26. Hanoi Rocks
This Finnish rock band was formed back in 1979. They were huge in the United Kingdom and Japan thanks to their hair metal rock songs. Their hooks could trap you immediately. With aspects of Billy Idol in their music, it’s a surprise they did not make it bigger in the industry. If you check out their music, we are sure you will wonder how it didn’t quite happen for them.
Formed in Las Vegas by Mark Slaughter, they have brought hip hop into the glam metal scene. Often underrated, they spent a vast amount of time touring to promote their studio albums. As a band, they would move from hair metal to more psychedelic, developing their own unique sound.
Formed in 1978, this glam rock band managed to have several chart hits throughout the first decade of its existence. Known for heavy vibrato vocals, Dokken is best known for songs such as In My Dreams and Burning Like A Flame. We suggest checking them out to see what we mean about the stunning vocals from this hair rock band.
29. Dangerous Toys
Aside from having a cool name, what stands out is their use of humorous lyrics in their songs showing they love having a fun time. This laid-back hair metal is more about putting a smile on your face rather than focusing on rocking out. Also classed as a hard rock band, we feel this represents the more relaxed area of glam metal, which is why we have included them.
Formed in 1983, they had several platinum-selling albums, making them one of the best-selling hair metal bands of the 80s. But after that decade, they created a mix of blues and rock, making different music in the process. If you want to rock on, we suggest their earlier music, or you will miss out on their heady vocals and gigantic riffs that drag you deep into the song’s heart.
This English band was formed in 1978 and was a massive part of the United Kingdom hair metal scene. Starting off with a rough rock sound, they smoothed out their vocals and evolved into a glam metal sound. Expect the usual guitar blasts and screeching vocals to erupt out of the speakers casting you back to those heady days of hair metal.
Barry has worked as a freelance writer for over a decade and has developed an eye for detail when it comes to unearthing cool and interesting facts.
His love of music stems from his student days checking out up and coming bands playing in the darkest corners of bars and clubs in Edinburgh.
The love of uncovering something new also remains with him. With an appreciation for music that’s best described as eclectic, his musical tastes range from Eric Clapton to Eminem through to Snow Patrol and Incubus. The memories that music can bring back to the fore is something he tries to portray in his writing.
For him, the voyage of discovery and unearthing something new is what makes this task of writing for MusicGrotto.com so interesting.