Heart – Alone

First Hit #1: July 11, 1987

Power ballads are probably one of the big guilty pleasure genres of music, because they can always go a bit cheesy and over the top, and they never tend to age that well. So it’s with great pleasure and surprise that I can say Heart’s Alone actually holds up all these years later. In this case, and in the case of all songs that age really well, it’s because it’s not very beholden to its era. Yeah, the chorus has the exploding piano and typical big guitars, but the song itself is piano and voice for the most part. It provides a bit of the quiet-loud-quiet effect, but it also keeps the song kind of current. Yeah, it remains an ’80s touchstone, but it holds up because it’s not trying so hard to be cool, in spite of Heart’s spectacularly terrible haircuts. Instead, it’s a relatively stripped back rendition of a power ballad, and as such is probably the best example of the form you can find.

As an aside, Alone has the weirdest recording history I’ve ever seen. It started as a song for I-ten, the group of songwriters Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly – their rendition isn’t quite as strong as Heart’s, because neither of them are Ann Wilson who just dominates the chorus. Then it somehow was picked up by John Stamons of all people (in a duet with Valerie Stevenson, which is terrible), before Heart got it. Later, Celine Dion did a cover and it became the most unexpected of reality show singing competition staples.

The original:

And the John Stamos version, which has the worst drums, and a particularly cringe-worthy vocal from a certain sitcom star.

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One Response to Heart – Alone

  1. RBerman says:

    The American Idol connection doesn’t surprise me; this song showcases both dynamic variety (the hoary “quiet verse, loud chorus” that virtually defines rock ballads from Boston’s “More Than a Feeling” to Nickelback’s “How You Remind Me”) and note range (the chorus is about an octave above the verse, and the high note before the second chorus goes higher than that). Really it’s a perfect Celine Dion song, and those shows would love to discover the next Celine Dion, but instead they keep discovering the next Kenny Chesney. Still, it’s got a great piano riff (not just block chords) to counterpoint the melody, and an interesting key change from verse to melody and back again. As Eternal Flame (also by Billy Steinberg) did for The Bangles, “Alone” definitively established Heart as an uber-reliable, if highly aerosoled, female cover band for the 80s.

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