S-Tier Songs, Vol. 6

It’s time for a new entry onto the list of S-Tier Songs. Here’s the page with the list of the others and an explanation of what I’m doing.

I’m going back to 1991 and the tail end of popularity for hair metal. While much of that scene began to sputter out in the summer before grunge put the final nail in the coffin that fall, one band released a genre-defying masterpiece that transcended the scene and is often remarked on as a master class in rock and metal. Skid Row’s Slave To The Grind would hit number 1 on the US Billboard charts and would see the band ride a wave of success for a few years while many peers fell by the wayside.

Skid Row – Wasted Time

Wasted Time was the third single released from Slave To The Grind. The song did not break the US Top 40 but did perform respectably well in international markets and would be their final “hit” in terms of charting in multiple countries.

The song transcends its middling single status by being an oft-cited highlight from the record and often mentioned among the best ballads ever recorded. The album as a whole has been revisited by many as a landmark moment in hard rock and metal, and much of that revisiting holds Wasted Time as the chief exhibit.

The song musically is a well-written and played power ballad that ditches the well-worn “hair metal ballad” formula. It isn’t just a slow song – its melodies and hooks are well-crafted and in abundant supply. The guitar solo is perfectly done, in keeping with the song rather than being a showcase of how fast a guitar can be played.

Skid Row really were on another level from their peers, both on their debut and this second effort. Much of what they did, both in sentimental songs like this or in blazing hard rockers, stands head and shoulders above the other offerings of the day. When they were on, very few acts could hope to touch what they were doing.

While the song’s instruments are very well done, it’s of special note to discuss the star of the song – the vocal performance of Sebastian Bach. His work on Wasted Time is the stuff of legend. There are very, very few singers walking the planet, from any genre, who could touch what he did on this song. His high notes are just beyond the reach of most humanity, and he uses his considerable range effectively to communicate the dark, swinging moods of the song.

Lyrically the song is about losing a friend to the throes of drug addiction. The lyrics had a specific muse – former Guns N Roses drummer Steven Adler, who had been fired from GnR a year prior and who would go on to have a well-chronicled series of problems with addiction. Wasted Time depicts that harrowing experience in grand form. It’s a song that cuts through a thorny issue that many have sadly had to deal with.

Why is this an S-Tier song?

Wasted Time is a magnificent showcase of the strengths of hard rock at the turn of the decade into the 90’s. It is songwriting on a level not many can touch and Sebastian Bach’s singing is something in a league all his own. The song is a fitting conclusion to perhaps an entire era of music and was a powerful final statement on an album that defied categorization and exceeded many’s expectations.

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