It’s not always easy deciding on a Top 10 list especially in music, and especially for a band with so many hits and other overlooked songs.
Def Leppard began its tenure with their 1980 debut On Through The Night, found mainstream success three years later with Pyromania and hit the stratosphere in 1987 with Hysteria somehow bucking the seemingly usual band trend of releasing a minor flop after hitting success. Pyromania was BIG, Hysteria a smash. In fact, any Top 10 Best Def Leppard songs could include half of Hysteria without much argument.
And those ballads. Go ahead make fun of the hair metal bands and their slow songs but Def Leppard turns this genre into an art form. They nail it every time. Chiefly, Def Leppard manages to incorporate a number of hooks and melodies that not only make many of their songs timeless but such a fun and often easy listen without feeling worn out after so many turns. Pour some sugar on me? More like pour some sugar in my ears because so much of their stuff is ear candy.
That’s the struggle when consolidating Def Leppard’s body of work into just 10 songs. Their usual 17 song concert setlist contains all hits without any chance for those needing a bathroom break to leave. The band continues to record and tour with their latest album from 2015 a self-titled release that got big props here. Don’t be put-off if you see it well represented.
This list surprised me a little as I went through their catalog. It’s by far the toughest of the four I’ve done. A few were easy choices, others suffered from familiarity and many battled it out with strong picks like “Last Dance” vs. “Tonight” vs. “Miss You in a Heartbeat.” But similar to the other Top 10 lists remember the asterisk:
*If I had to choose what songs would accompany me on a deserted island. I only get 10!
It’s no easy task choosing Def Leppard’s 10 best songs and time always boasts a way to change all things. Revisit this list in a year and don’t be surprised if a handful get yanked for others. I omitted some obvious picks so don’t flame if I left yours off and please add your favorites. I didn’t put these in any particular order but you know darn well what song deserves #1.
1. Pour Some Sugar On Me – Hysteria
Where else does the band’s most popular song, one of the biggest songs of the 80s and one that remains a radio staple today fit but #1. “Pour Some Sugar On Me” combines pop, hard rock, and hair metal all into one fantastically arranged, melodic song with a fist-pumping beat. It’s a song that never really feels old and always turns the volume up. Hysteria was destined for gold but adding this song turned it into a platinum smash success.
2. Photograph – Pyromania
“Photograph” sort of pulled back the curtains a bit on where Def Leppard was headed. It’s a great guitar-centric song with solid drum work and an easily digestible melody. It comfortably fits on Hysteria but is one of several gems off the previous album Pyromania recorded four years earlier. “Photograph” remains a fan favorite and makes up one of four off the album Def Leppard routinely plays live.
3. Paper Sun – Euphoria
Paper Sun is as haunting as it is driving. Off 1999’s Euphoria Def Leppard deviates a bit from their usual lyrical fare and adds their two cents to the political realm, and pull it off splendidly. The song, about the August 1998 Omagh car bombing in Ireland, works through and through – musically, lyrically and production wise. Besides, how many songs give you two replete guitar solos? The band included it on their tour setlist a while back but removed it the last few years.
4. Last Dance – Def Leppard
I enjoy the ballads as much as anyone but certainly not like the women. However, “Last Dance” written by bassist Rick Savage and on the band’s self-titled release from 2015 somehow went unheard by the masses but this tear-jerker powers past all the others. It’s emotional, vulnerable and quite simple with a generic acoustic guitar strum but dang is it rich. It belongs on the tour setlist and if this song were released in the 80s the band gets another #1 single.
5. Undefeated – Mirror Ball – Live & More
Another exceptionally catchy song, “Undefeated” rocks and is completely overlooked by everybody. OK, ok, superficially it comes across a bit hokey like the theme song for Rocky VII or a coming of age football movie but it’s much more than that – like the band’s mission statement to help wrap their first live album. It was released as part of three new songs on the Mirror Ball – Live & More package in 2011 and continues a long line of rock anthems recorded by this band. It’s classic Def Leppard but sounds fresh and points towards the band’s future as their self-titled a few years later picked up right where “Undefeated” and a second new song “It’s All About Believin’” left off.
6. Foolin’ – Pyromania
“Foolin’” brought Def Leppard to the forefront of 80s arena rock along with the rest of Pyromania – a straight up hard-rock release that pushed the band forward from the raw sounds of their first two records. “Foolin’” sounds like nothing else released from that period which explains its popularity and the guitar work is exceptional. The slow start with the acoustic guitar that crescendos into those heavy chords then into the crisp solo fully propels this song into a solid Top 10 career hit for the band.
7. Armageddon It – Hysteria
So many songs to choose off Hysteria but “Armageddon It” rises above again thanks to the opening guitar sequence. Singer Joe Elliott’s snarky sounding lower vocal range to start adds some welcome texture and so many hooks in this song. If you want to know what a “fun” song is, listen to “Armageddon It.” It’s seriously fun.
8. Dangerous – Def Leppard
“Dangerous” is dangerously catchy (I know, how banal) but this second track off their latest release fits right into the Def Leppard mold. (I told you that self-titled album rules!) I’m surprised it didn’t get pushed as the single over “Let’s Go.” It’s another addictive Def Leppard song that mixes rocking guitar chords and solid drumming. (You know Rick Allen has one arm?)
9. Wings of an Angel – Def Leppard
Wait a sec, seriously three songs off Def Leppard make the Top 10? Absolutely. “Wings of an Angel” shows a band hardly mailing in an 11th album 30 years after their popularity peak. Hysteria is the flagship album but the eponymous album proves these guys still hold the goods and “Wings of an Angel” boasts some awesome guitar work with Vivian Campbell taking the lead for the solo. Check out everything going on with the chorus.
10. Animal – Hysteria
I was soooo on the fence between “Rocket” and “Animal” both off Hysteria and both deserve the nod on this list however, I lean towards “Animal” thanks to that beautiful melody pulled along by, again, so much excellent guitars. It’s a ballad yet it’s a bit more rock and not as soft as “Love Bites” or “Bringing on the Heartbreak.”
Def Leppard plans a new tour for 2018 including playing Hysteria in its entirety so look out for that and maybe with the success of their last album perhaps the future includes another release or two.