During the early '80s it was difficult for pop listeners to escape the soft rock ballads of the Australian duo Air Supply, as the pair of Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock racked up seven straight Top 5 pop hits and added one more before petering out by the mid-'80s. Critics, hipsters and rock music fans never gave the duo much attention that wasn't negative, but there was clearly an audience for Air Supply's theatrical love songs. Here's a look at some of the best of these ballads, presented in chronological order.
As a lifelong fan of hard rock (and, most recently, a full-tilt punk rock convert), I know I'm not supposed to love this song with fierce devotion, but dammit, I just can't help it. Actually, the reasons why this is Air Supply's best song and one of the best of the '80s are many, but the main thing, I think, is the balance provided by the shared lead vocals between Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock. Russell's acoustic guitar and folk-inflected vocal style serve as the perfect foil for Hitchcock's squeaky-clean, cloying tenor, and as a result the song itself is able to shine through as the pop masterpiece it is.
I suppose it can never be said with a straight face that Air Supply ever possessed much of an edge musically or lyrically, but if the duo ever did, any semblance of it was long gone by 1982. Of course, it didn't help that at this point the pair began to rely upon outside songwriters, despite Russell's proven pedigree for pumping out hits. It's no surprise that as Air Supply's sound became ever more teeth-gratingly easy listening that Hitchcock would be the focal point vocally. Even so, the duo's heavy orchestration reached a new level here, making some music fans reach for the snooze button.
Outside professional songwriting again fuels this 1983 hit, but at least it's difficult for over-the-top love songs to fail when they come from the pen of former Meat Loaf collaborator Jim Steinman. The composer of the sublime classic "Total Eclipse of the Heart," Steinman here offers a product that certainly resembles that smash hit from the same year, mostly through the undeniable style of the songwriter's flashy balladry. Hitchcock's vocals are appropriate enough, I suppose, but it is hard to take him seriously when he claims an ability to "make all the stadiums rock." Nonetheless, a solid ballad.