I Wanna Rock: The '80s Metal Dream

I Wanna Rock: The '80s Metal Dream

A run-of-the-mill music doc series full of fun anecdotes, but ultimately too short to make a real statement


TV Show

United States of America
Documentary, Music
Dave 'The Snake' Sabo, Dee Snider, Janet Gardner

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Disappointingly fails to answer the question on all our minds: how much money did these people spend on hairspray every year?

What it's about

A word of mouth account of the rise and fall of the hair metal scene from the 1980s to the 1990s, as told by relatively lesser-known musicians and executives.

The take

To give credit to this three-episode documentary series, it succeeds in presenting a dynamic, three-dimensional portrait of '80s hair metal beyond the scene's glamour, guitar solos, and yes, all that hair. And it's certainly interesting to think about such lively, over-the-top music and visual aesthetics from the perspective of musicians and executives who struggled in the sidelines for so long, or who were only ever seen as replacement artists or female versions of more popular bands. But aside from a number of enlightening stories (mostly from Vixen vocalist Janet Gardner and record exec Vicky Hamilton), the series is just too simplistic and conventional an oral history that also never establishes the foundation of what hair metal is in the first place, and how the genre is unique from other styles of metal. It feels like the story of any other genre of music, which it absolutely shouldn't be.

What stands out

Before the third episode, the series feels like a standard (and somewhat choppily edited) collection of clips from a wide range of bands, without ever really focusing up or giving us a better idea of how these musical acts helped shape the genre. Only in the third episode—when the show arrives at hair metal's inevitable fall from popularity—does it take on a personality of its own: all the talking heads and musicians sharing their stories remain incredibly gracious despite their decline in success. They refuse to blame other bands or genres (in particular, Nirvana and the Seattle grunge scene), instead looking back fondly at their turn in the spotlight and continuing on not as divas but as lovers of music.

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