The Best Ever Heavy Rock Songs by Pop Artists (with videos)


The Best Ever Heavy Rock Songs by Pop Artists (with videos)

Here are some of the best tunes from pop stars who have ventured through that door labelled heavy rock.

Some have sampled it just once never to return others have liked what they see and let their hair down.

Others have always been part of the rock n' roll brother and sisterhood without being generally known for the harder edge of popular music.

But whatever their motivations and however much success they had here are some of the best power riffs from the pop world.


Diana Ross :

'Fool For Your Love'

The Queen of the Supremes and the Mother Superior of Soul.

But one day in 1983 she tried something a little different.

It will come as no surprise that Kiss legend Gene Simmons had a hand in proceedings.

The result was a fantastic rock song which sadly was relegated to a B-side. But memorable even if it was Diana's only foray into the harder side of music. One of those songs that the uninitiated would probably never guess who was singing.


Frankie Goes to Hollywood :

'Warriors of the Wasteland'

An electro-pop phenomenon that epitomised the 1980s in the UK.

Best remembered for phenomenal hits such as 'Relax' and 'Two Tribes'.

They also enjoyed the expert production of Trevor Horn on the 'Welcome to the Pleasure Dome' album.

This song come from their second album called 'Liverpool' in 1986 and was a real highlight of an albeit less successful follow-up. A pounding electric guitar sound allied with their more typical synthesiser accompaniment forged their elements together.


Anastacia :

'Left outside Alone'

A sure-fire hit with all the right ingredients.

Her voice comes straight from the Tina Turner school of rock.

Add that melodic soft-rock guitar sound to her passionate singing and you have a classic.

Even die-hard rock fans would agree that this 2004 song hits the mark with all the right boxes ticked. But it's not a formulaic parody of rock music as this is a well-structured and exciting tune imbued with a fantastic groove and topped off by a passionate chorus.


Billy Joel :

'We Didn't Start the Fire'

A cantatore of the highest quality.

Billy Joel the 'Piano Man' produced many top tunes in the 1970s and 80's.

Normally therefore more associated with the ivories than the guitar.

Many tuneful pop songs have been penned by Joel and soulful ballads as well.

But in 1980 he released the album 'Glass Houses' which introduced a more rockier style of music. However his best rock song is possibly this run-through of post World War 2 history in 'We Didn't Start the Fire' which was a hit in 1989.


Electric Light Orchestra :

'Ma Ma Ma Belle'

A difficult band to categorise.

Therefore perhaps unfair to label them simply as a Pop group.

In their early days they played experimental rock with classical overtones and progressive tunes.

Certainly, although they were influenced by rock n' roll they eventually moved in the direction of pop-rock under the master craftsmanship of Jeff Lynne.

But they always produced the occasional heavier rock tracks like 'Showdown', 'Do Ya', 'Rockaria', 'Don't Bring Me Down' and 'Secret Messages' . Incidentally in the studio on 'Ma Ma Ma Belle', way back then in 1973, Marc Bolan of T-Rex played guitar.


Michael Jackson :

'Beat It'

The self-styled King of Pop.

But always willing to diversify into alternative sounds.

None better than this dance-metal hit which was a chart-buster in 1983.

It came from his monumental 'Thriller' album released the previous year.

With Eddie Van Halen on electric guitar providing that distinctive solo sound, Jackson and legendary producer Quincy Jones deftly combined the pop disco of the 80's with modern heavy rock. The result was an upbeat dance classic with a metal edge.


Prince :

'Purple Rain'

For several years the direct competitor to Michael Jackson.

Both for his music and his eccentric pop persona as well, it has to be said.

Prince was usually noted for his dance-style soft rock and pop songs.

But from the soundtrack of the same name 'Purple Rain' in 1984 was a truly wonderful heavy rock power ballad.

Full of the obligatory lyrical angst derived from the blues and an inspiring guitar solo to bring proceedings to an end. Possibly one of the best rock ballads ever to be written and something that AOR bands like Journey would have been proud to have recorded.


Paul McCartney & Wings :


A man and a band who need no introduction to rock music.

The Beatles may have started life as a mop-top pop group adored by teenage girls.

But they developed into the phenomenon that changed rock music forever.

The landmark 'Helter Skelter' laid the foundation stone and was written by Paul McCartney.

His next band Wings were much softer-edged but he could still crank up the heavy rock sound to great effect. One of the best examples came from 1974 with 'Jet', a guitar-fuelled rocker boosted by a horn section. Other top rock tunes were 'Getting Closer' and of course the orchestral 'Live and Let Die'.


The Osmonds :

'Crazy Horses'

One of the original boybands from the glam rock heyday of the 1970s.

Flashing white teeth and flares trousers were their hallmarks.

But when they plugged in the guitar they became something different.

These clean-cut good guys from Salt Lake City could let loose from the teenage ballad to get down and dirty.

Songs like the astonishing 'Crazy Horses' in 1972 and 'Goin' Home' were the perfect antidote to 'One Bad Apple', 'Love me for a Reason' and Donny Osmond's solo hit 'Puppy Love'. The riff in this video is superb and Merrill Osmond gives full-throated gusto to the chorus.


Cher :

'If I Could Turn Back Time'

A marvellous slice of soft rock.

Cher had a long-established reputation in the music business.

Her early years in the 1960s were dominated by 'I Got You Babe' and 'Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves'.

But in the late 1980s she ventured into a heavier rock sound with great success.

Straight from the quality department of the Dianne Warren production line of hits this is a wonderful sing-a-long tune from 1989. It was a temporary adventure however, as Cher reverted to dance music with the massive No.1 hit 'Believe' in 1998. The sailors in the US Navy will surely have their own favourite, especially the costume.


Elton John :

'Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting'

An English legend over 40 years in the business.

Elton John has had his up and downs during that time.

But he has always bounced back with more hits.

His peak years were the early 1970s underpinned by the poetic words of lyricist Bernie Taupin.

However he did enjoy almost comparable success in the 1980s and 1990s after a brief lull and is still as strong a force as ever. More distinguished by his keyboard-laden ballads and catchy pop tunes he let the guitar take over on 'Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting' in 1973. Little surprise then that the likes of WASP and Nickelback have covered this rocker.


These are the songs that spring to mind when I think of heavy rock songs sung by pop artists. Maybe there are more out there that could be added. But a splendid taster then of things to come.


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Comments 15 comments

MarshFish profile image

MarshFish 3 years ago

Great choices (Purple Rain and Beat It especially)and the videos to go with them. The Who also covered Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting, too. An excellent hub!

Shinkicker profile image

Shinkicker 4 years ago from Scotland Author

Thanks for commenting epigramman

If you can let me know of any Heavy Rock songs by The La's or The Proclaimers then I'll happily consider them on this list.

But I think you might struggle with that one. But keep playing Led Zep and Iggy Pop, any time of the day.

All the best my friend

epigramman profile image

epigramman 4 years ago

...awesome musical hub tribute my friend - you certainly know and love your music and it shows in this world class hub presentation - but where are The Las - and - The Proclaimers - lol

sending you warm wishes from lake erie time ontario canada 10:28am

and currently listening to classical baroque music with my adage that I never play Led Zep before 12 noon - lol - and yes the 80's were my 'clubbing' decade - remember that song by Iggy Pop called


Shinkicker profile image

Shinkicker 4 years ago from Scotland Author

Hi Mr Archer

Thanks for returning but the Hub is about Pop bands playing Heavy Rock music.

Jethro Tull are indeed legends though and of course led by a great Scotsman too :-)


Mr Archer profile image

Mr Archer 4 years ago from Missouri

After re-reading your hub, I see you forgot one of the truly awesome heavy metal bands (well, they won the FIRST ever heavy metal Grammy over Mettalica anyway): Jethro Tull. I mean, that wicked cool hard rockin' flute playing really got me into heavy metal!!! Come to think of it, Ann Wilson of Heart also featured a flute. Was that what heavy metal was in the 70's and 80's?

Shinkicker profile image

Shinkicker 4 years ago from Scotland Author

Hi Deborah

I think the Osmonds may have got me into Heavy Metal. LOL

Certainly 'Beat It' and 'Purple Rain' are classics. Cheers :-)

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa

The Osmonds, huh? Who would've thunk it. Beat It and Purple Rain are two of my all time favorite songs.

Shinkicker profile image

Shinkicker 4 years ago from Scotland Author

Thanks for commenting Alecia

Unfortunately the rock song by Diana Ross was hidden away on a b-side but I think it's fantastic. The late Mr Jackson certainly mixed the 2 styles really well.

All the best

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

What a great and creative idea for a hub! I knew Diana Ross and Gene Simmons briefly dated but I didn't know they actually yielded a hit together. My favorite on the list has to be Beat It. Not only does it rock, it's danceable. Only Michael Jackson can do something like that and still be seen as himself.

Shinkicker profile image

Shinkicker 4 years ago from Scotland Author

Hi Glimmer Twin Fan

The Irons would do me for a while but I'd need something heavier eventually like Metallica, Slayer or Slipknot or maybe even the Partridge Family. I wonder if they ever sang Heavy Metal :-)

Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

I have to give it to Elton John on this list. Good hub. When I want to listen to Heavy rock songs I have to pull out something a little (or a lot) heavier like Iron Maiden.

Shinkicker profile image

Shinkicker 4 years ago from Scotland Author

Hello Mr Archer

Surprise! Surprise! :-) The Osmonds could belt out a rock tune now and then. Talented guys.

Shinkicker profile image

Shinkicker 4 years ago from Scotland Author

Hi Paraglider

I guess it helps the record stores with their inventory too :-) But it is exciting when bands crossover and try something different

Mr Archer profile image

Mr Archer 4 years ago from Missouri

Some I've heard, some not. The Osmonds rockers? Never knew that one, for sure. Now I've gotta hear it!

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 4 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

That's a great collection. Fans tend to pigeon-hole artists far more than the artists themselves do.

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