Characteristics, fashion, and terminology
Musically, glam metal combines a traditional heavy metal sound with elements of hard rock and punk rock, adding pop-influenced catchy hooks and guitar riffs. Like other heavy metal songs of the 1980s (most notably thrash metal songs), they often feature shred guitar solos. They also include extensive use of harmonies, particularly in the characteristic power ballads – slow, emotional songs that gradually build to a strong finale. These were among the most commercially successful singles in the genre and opened it up to a wider audience that would not have been attracted to traditional heavy metal. Lyrical themes often deal with love and lust, with songs often directed at a particular woman.
Aesthetically glam metal draws heavily on the glam rock or glitter rock of the 1970s, often with very long backcombed hair, use of hair spray, use of make-up, gaudy clothing and accessories (chiefly consisting of tight denim or leather jeans, spandex, and headbands). The visual aspects of glam metal appealed to music television producers, particularly MTV, whose establishment coincided with the rise of the genre. Glam metal performers became infamous for their debauched lifestyles of drugs, strippers and late-night parties, which were widely covered in the tabloid press.
Sociologist Deena Weinstein points to the large number of terms used to describe more commercial forms of heavy metal, which she groups together as lite metal. These include, beside glam metal: melodic metal, false metal, poodle bands, nerf metal, pop metal or metal pop, the last of which was coined by critic Philip Bashe in 1983 to describe bands such as Van Halen and Def Leppard. AllMusic distinguishes pop metal, which refers to the whole pop-tinted hard rock and heavy metal scene of the 1980s (including Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Europe), from hair metal, the characteristics of which are flashy clothing and heavy makeup (as embodied by Poison, and Mötley Crüe). Use of the derogatory term hair metal started in the early 1990s, as grunge gained popularity at the expense of 1980s metal. In the "definitive metal family tree" of his documentary Metal: A Headbanger's Journey, anthropologist Sam Dunn differentiates pop metal, which includes bands like Def Leppard, Europe, and Whitesnake, from glam metal bands that include Mötley Crüe and Poison.