Welcome to Who Moved My Cheese Metal!
So — what exactly do we mean by “cheese metal”?
First, by our terms, it’s not at all a bad thing. Basically, we’re talking about big, loud, often kind of silly songs, most of which fall into one of two categories: the cheerfully dimwitted or the goofily grandiose. If it is quiet or contemplative, it is not cheese metal (though it can still be be cheesy). Largely, these are guitar-driven, and a good jet-engine vocal also helps make a good c-metal tune.
For example, in the cheerfully dimwitted school, there is Foghat’s “Slow Ride,” which is an exemplary — even a definitive — cheese metal record as we use the term. It’s happy and sexy and dumb, and it seems to have been created expressly to delight the hearts of bar bands and garage guitarists. “Slow Ride” was one of the great AOR records and will be a classic rock radio staple evermore. Here’s a pretty nice live version. No date given — guessing mid-’90s.
Then there’s Golden Earring’s “Radar Love,” which is, first, a pretty decent Deep Purple impression. The relationship described in the lyrics is perhaps a bit eccentric, but it’s all thoroughly good-natured and sung (very well) with exactly the combination of conviction and good cheer that it demands. And it rocks.
Then, in the goofy-and-grand school, there is Rainbow’s “Man on the Silver Mountain.” Yes, it has the kind of prog-rock lyrics that can easily sound really stupid (he’s a wheel, he’s a wheel, he can roll, he can feel!), but Ronnie Dio just blows the roof off. And listen to the guitars, driving it and defining the song without overwhelming that masterful rock vocal. And the solo… man, I LOVE this song.
And finally, on those rare occasions when the noisy-dumb approach and the goofy-grand approach can be combined, good cheese metal can defy gravity. At precisely 1:30 on Def Leppard’s “Rock of Ages” (1:33 on the video below): liftoff.