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Why Def Leppard Is a Great Rock Band
One of the last streaming holdouts has finally joined the party. The full catalog of British rock legends Def Leppard is available across all platforms as of today.
And here’s what you learn about British rock legends Def Leppard when you stream their full catalog in 2018: they’re a really great pop band. And with so much good current pop music—Haim, Bleachers, CHVRCHES—borrowing from the sound of the ’80s, now is the perfect time to make like the guy on the cover of High N’ Dry and dive right in.
Sure, when they broke out in America with 1983’s Pyromania, they seemed very metal: all ripped denim and long hair, all those sharp angles in their logo, all those songs about drinkin’ and lovin’ and runnin’. But it was all drag, a cover for some very mass-appeal music that would not have sounded out of place at a One Direction show in the 2010s. Producer Mutt Lange’s fingerprints are all over Pyromania, by which I mean “impeccably clean production” and “a bunch of guys shouting the hook.” Listen to their breakthrough U.S. single “Photograph,” which might as well be a Cars song,
And its follow-up “Rock of Ages,” with its German-gibberish intro (spoken by Lange himself) and cable-access Game of Thrones imagery.
It took them five years to follow up Pyromania, by which time they were almost as famous for drummer Rick Allen losing an arm in a car crash and keeping his job, which… Okay, you have to admit that’s pretty metal. But follow it up they did, with 1987’s Hysteria, an album that might as well have been made in a laboratory with the purpose of world domination. Hysteria took a while to click in the United States; it wasn’t until the fourth single, “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” that the album hit Number 1. (Imagine an album so loaded with hits that you save “Pour Some Sugar on Me” for your fourth single.)
Hysteria put seven singles in the U.S. Top 40, charted for two solid years, and was absolutely inescapable. It also contained Def Lep’s first big slow song “Love Bites,” and forced every mainstream metal band to include one power ballad on each album for about the next eight years.
Def Leppard was everywhere, but it cost them; at the end of the ’80s, they had gone from vaguely-menacing lite-metal to completely unthreatening mainstream rock. They became almost cuddly. By the time they released Adrenalize in 1992, the world had moved on to Nirvana, and the band was beginning to sound like a parody of itself. But the album still went triple-platinum in the States, and Lange was beginning to refine the sound that he and Shania Twain would sell to a gazillion record buyers around the globe.
Their last appearance on the U.S. singles charts came from a song on the soundtrack to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Last Action Hero,” the acoustic ballad “Two Steps Behind.”
Later in the 1990s, Def Leppard broke with Lange and, as the culture of the time dictated, tried to be a mixture of Stone Temple Pilots and the Chemical Brothers. It…was not successful.
They released a couple of forgettable records in the aughts, and came back with a perfectly respectable self-titled album in 2015.
But they weren’t available on streaming until just now, and maybe that’s a good thing. The decision to stay off was no doubt motivated by money, but it might have been an accidental genius marketing move. Perhaps we needed a break from them, so that we could hear their catalog with fresh ears. Maybe now is the time for their Journey moment, the time when we finally admit to ourselves and our loved ones that Def Leppard are actually, objectively good.
Report immediately to the streaming service of your choice and get an earful. You’ll love it. No foolin’.