Glam metal (also known as Hair metal and often used synonymously with Pop metal) is a subgenre of hard rock and heavy metal that arose in the late 1970s and early 1980s in the United States, particularly on the Los Angeles Sunset Strip music scene. It was popular throughout the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, combining the flamboyant look of glam rock and playing a power-chord-based heavy metal musical style.
The genre rapidly lost mainstream interest from 1991 to 1993 with the rise of grunge and the release of albums such as Nirvana's Nevermind. It experienced a partial resurgence around the turn of the century, due in part to increased interest on the internet, with the successful 'Glam Slam Metal Jam' music festival taking place in summer 2000.
Musically, glam metal uses traditional hard rock and heavy metal songs, incorporating elements of punk rock, while adding pop-influenced catchy hooks and guitar riffs. Like other heavy metal songs of the 1980s, they often feature shred guitar solos. Aesthetically glam metal draws heavily on the glam rock or glitter rock of the 1970s, often with very long backcombed hair, 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 late-night parties, which were widely covered in the tabloid press.
The term "pop metal" is routinely used as a synonym to "glam metal" but sometimes refers to a related but separate movement, especially according to Canadian anthropologist Sam Dunn and website Allmusic. Allmusic refers to glam metal as "hair metal", whose characteristics are flashy clothing and heavy makeup (as embodied by Poison, Twisted Sister and Mötley Crüe), whereas pop metal refers to the whole pop-tinted hard rock and heavy metal scene of the 1980s (including Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Europe). In the "definitive metal family tree" of his documentary Metal: A Headbanger's Journey, anthropologist Sam Dunn also differentiates glam and pop metal, with glam metal bands including Mötley Crüe, Poison, Twisted Sister and Hanoi Rocks, while pop metal bands include Def Leppard, Europe, Lita Ford and Whitesnake.
Hair metal is a derogatory, derisive umbrella term encompassing the whole 1980s glam metal scene; use of the term started in the early 1990s, as grunge took over the popularity at the expense of 1980s metal. However, the term is used in a non- or semi-derogatory sense by Allmusic to refer to glam metal.
Stephen Davis claims the influences of the style can be traced back to acts like Aerosmith, Kiss, Boston, Cheap Trick, and The New York Dolls. Particularly Kiss, but also the shock rock style of such acts as Alice Cooper, served as a major influence on the genre. Finnish band Hanoi Rocks have been credited with setting a blueprint for the look of hair metal.
Van Halen has been seen as highly influential on the movement, emerging in 1978 from the Los Angeles music scene on Sunset Strip, with a sound based around the lead guitar skills of Eddie Van Halen. He popularized a playing technique of two‐handed hammer‐ons and pull‐offs called tapping, showcased on the song "Eruption" from the album Van Halen. This sound, and lead singer David Lee Roth's stage antics, would be highly influential on glam metal, although Van Halen would never fully adopt a glam aesthetic.
Often categorised with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, in 1981 Def Leppard released their second album High 'n' Dry, mixing glam-rock with heavy metal, and helping to define the sound of hard rock for the decade. The follow up Pyromania (1983), reached #2 on the American charts and the singles "Foolin'", "Photograph", and "Rock of Ages", helped by the emergence of MTV, reached the Top 40. It was widely emulated, particularly by the emerging Californian scene.