Here it is: The song that killed the power ballad.
There were bands who had hits with power ballads after Steelheart killed the genre to death with “I’ll Never Let You Go (Angel Eyes)” (download), but not many, and in the months A.S. (After Steelheart), this type of song was increasingly regarded as a novelty. (Firehouse’s noxious “Love of a Lifetime,” for instance. Feh.)
Look, every genre, sub-genre, and sub-sub-genre has a lifespan, and they all follow pretty much the same arc:
1. Some genius reinvents the wheel
2. A few more geniuses perfect said reinvention
3. The lemming stampede begins
4. Whatever anybody loved about the new genre is lost to endless, crass repitition
“I’ll Never Let You Go (Angel Eyes)” is Step Four in a nutshell. Technically, there’s really nothing wrong with it, as far as power ballads go, but in the context of the ten years of rock & roll that came before it, it’s nothing more than a craftily engineered tracing of a ditto of a mimeograph of a Xerox. Where was anybody supposed to go from here?
(The answer, in case you really wanted to know, is “To the store to buy a copy of Nevermind.”)
I mean, shit, check out this video. You can almost picture a young Scott Stapp wearing out his VHS dub:
Steelheart’s lead singer, Mike Matijevic, would pay dearly for his crimes against rock music, as outlined in the below paragraph, which I swear to God I cut and pasted directly from the band’s Wikipedia entry:
The show took place on Halloween night, a night which will forever be remembered by Steelheart fans. While performing, “Dancing in the Fire,” a hit from the “Tangled in Reins” album, Matijevic decided to climb a lighting truss, which was inproperly secured. Matijevic tried to dodge the massive rig, but without success. The 1000 pound truss hit Matijevic on the back of the head, driving one of the greatest vocalists of all time, face first into the stage, breaking his nose, cheekbone, jaw and twisting his spine. Matijevic miraculously found the strength to walk off the stage and he was immediately taken to a hospital. “Steelheart” ended that night, after a very impressive career.
But wait! Don’t cry for Matijevic, tender readers! Like any other singer with half a hit under his belt, he ended up reforming “the band” a few years later, and is presumably still big in Monaco and/or Japan. I have no idea whether he can still hit those terrifying notes at the end of this song — I searched in vain for recent live performances on YouTube — but hey, either way, he’ll always have the summer of 1991, and he’ll always be the guy who murdered the power ballad.