Fans were prompted to give Van Halen a new nickname when Sammy Hagar replaced David Lee Roth as lead singer in 1985: Van Hagar.

For some, it was a term of endearment and for others, derision. Regardless of intent, this was a pointless (albeit catchy) pursuit: Van Halen was always the brainchild of its namesake guitarist, Eddie Van Halen, and his brother and drummer, Alex.

Still, the Hagar era marked a seismic shift in Van Halen’s sound. The irreverent party-metal of their early days remained, but the band increasingly supplemented their albums with earnest power ballads and AOR fare.

The result was four consecutive chart-topping LPs — 5150, OU812, For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge and Balance — and a slew of Top 40 hits. With Hagar at the helm, Van Halen wrote some of the best songs of their career, along with plenty of clunkers. We’ve compiled the good, the bad and the ugly in this below list of All 48 Sammy Hagar-Era Van Halen Songs Ranked Worst to Best.

48. "Respect the Wind"
From: Twister Soundtrack (1996)

Credited officially to Edward and Alex Van Halen, “Respect the Wind” features some of Eddie’s most expressive playing. Overall, it’s pleasant, but unremarkable compared to the rest of the songs from this era. (Matt Wardlaw)

47. "Strung Out"
From: Balance (1995)

Eddie Van Halen’s musical genius has never been up for debate, but “Strung Out” wrongly presupposes that fans would enjoy the sound of him throwing a piano down the stairs. (Bryan Rolli)

46. "Doin' Time"
From: Balance (1995)

If you ever wondered how Alex might play the intro to Billy Joel’s “River of Dreams” after a four-day bender, then boy, did Van Halen have some great news for you. (Rolli)

45. "Learning to See"
From: The Best of Both Worlds (2004)

One of three new tracks recorded for Van Halen's 2004 reunion with Hagar, “Learning to See” went a bit unnoticed because of its placement on the anthology. It has a grungy tone which wouldn’t have felt out of place on Balance. (Wardlaw)

 

44. "316"
From: For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991)

It’s no “Spanish Fly,” but at least this brief acoustic instrumental has some semblance of melody — plus, it was sweetly named after Wolfgang Van Halen’s birthday. (Rolli)

43. "Baluchitherium"
From: Balance (1995)

Named after the largest prehistoric mammal, the first full-length instrumental of Van Halen's Sammy Hagar era begins with an appropriately stomping rhythm track. Then Eddie Van Halen effectively trades the flurry of notes he's best known for a more lyrical approach. (Matthew Wilkening)

42. "Crossing Over"
From: "Can't Stop Lovin' You" B-side (1995)

“Crossing Over” never really rises above filler, so it makes sense that it didn’t make Balance. Still, it showcases an intriguing mix with ‘70s-esque Eddie in the intro followed by a murkily psychedelic, yet still very ‘90s-era Van Halen feel for the rest of the song. (Wardlaw)

41. "It's About Time"
From: The Best of Both Worlds (2004)

Out of the new songs on The Best of Both Worlds, “It’s About Time” feels a bit cobbled together. But the solid melodic hook and Hagar’s vocals give the song a good throwback party vibe. (Wardlaw)

40. "Aftershock"
From: Balance (1995)

If you described "Aftershock" to somebody, it would sound perfectly cool. After all, the song has lots of creative guitar playing and Hagar passionately venting about his recent divorce. But something got lost in the execution, and "Aftershock" ends up feeling a bit paint-by-numbers. (Wilkening)

 

39. "Can't Stop Lovin' You"
From: Balance (1995)

“Can’t Stop Lovin’ You” draws on past strengths and trademark elements including the buoyant feeling of Alex Van Halen’s drum parts. There are also plenty of those classic Van Halen harmonies and breezy guitars, both acoustic and electric. (Wardlaw)

38. "Amsterdam"
From: Balance (1995)

A major gripe for some Van Halen fans and Eddie himself was the corny nature of some of Sammy Hagar’s lyrics. “Amsterdam,” with lyrics like “Oh, wham bam/ oh, Amsterdam,” certainly helped feed that criticism. (Wardlaw)

37. "Pleasure Dome"
From: For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991)

“Pleasure Dome” is one of the wilder and more expansive progressive rock-influenced tracks in the Van Halen catalog. For those who wished the band would be more adventurous in the Hagar era, they got their wish for nearly seven minutes. (Wardlaw)

36. "Up for Breakfast"
From: The Best of Both Worlds (2004)

Right down to its burbling keyboard intro, "Up for Breakfast" is a shameless and overly horny re-write of 5150's synth-rock gem "Why Can't This Be Love." But it's also by far the best and catchiest of the three songs Van Halen released during their ultimately disastrous 2004 reunion with Hagar. (Wilkening)

35. "Not Enough"
From: Balance (1995)

Even before the rest of the band joins in, the opening combination of Eddie Van Halen's stately piano part and Sammy Hagar's soulful vocals shows they could still make sparks – even when they're not entirely on the same page personally. (Wardlaw)

 

34. "Take Me Back (Deja Vu)"

From: Balance (1995)

Sammy Hagar and Eddie Van Halen take a bittersweet look back on their younger days on one of Balance's better deep tracks, alternating between warm acoustic guitar and crunchy palm-muted electric riffs. (Wardlaw)

33. "Feelin'"
From: Balance (1995)

On the dour and stormy "Feelin,'" Hagar opens up about the turmoil he and his bandmates were going through during the creation of what would turn out to be their last album together. It's a mile from the party music Van Halen was best known for, but serves as an effective closer for the uneven Balance. (Wilkening)

32. "Big Fat Money"
From: Balance (1995)

Twelve-bar blues was never Van Halen’s forte, but damned if they don’t sound like they’re having a blast on this high-speed Balance throwaway – particularly, Hagar with his motor-mouthed, hernia-inducing vocals. (Rolli)

31. "A Apolitical Blues"
From: OU812 (1988)

Never pass on the opportunity to hear Eddie Van Halen play slide guitar. Van Halen’s take on this Little Feat chestnut appeared as compact-disc bonus track on OU812, serving as a fun and comforting end to the band's most eclectic album. (Wardlaw)

30. "Man on a Mission"
From: For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991)

After the genre-hopping OU812, Van Halen cut their palette down to the hard-rock basics on this third album with Hagar. A certain sameness creeps in toward the middle of side two, which is right where you'll find the randy "Man on a Mission." (Wilkening)

 

29. "In 'N' Out" 
From: For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991)

Despite some spirited guitar-and-drum work from the Van Halen brothers, this ode to the beloved California fast food chain amounts to little more than repetitive cock-rock. (Rolli)

28. "A.F.U. (Naturally Wired)"
From: OU812 (1988)

OU812 might feature more boundary-pushing than any other Van Halen album, but the group also carved out space for straight-up rockers like "A.F.U. (Naturally Wired)," which finds Eddie running wild while Hagar sings about how great it is to be a rock star. (Wilkening)

27. "The Dream is Over"
From: For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991)

The stomping drums of "The Dream is Over" set the tone for one of Van Halen’s most engaging album tracks of the ‘90s. Michael Anthony and Alex Van Halen dig in hard as a rhythm section, and the hooky melody of Sammy Hagar's chorus is inescapable. (Wardlaw)

26. "Spanked"
From: For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991)

With Eddie Van Halen employing both a six-string bass and an Ebow, the deeply grooved "Spanked" is one of For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge's more unique and underrated songs. (Wilkening)

25. "Humans Being"
From: Twister Soundtrack (1996)

“Humans Being,” the final song of Van Halen's first run with Hagar, is more proof that band friction sometimes births some of the finest work. The track offers a tantalizing look at what could have been had the band continued. (Wardlaw)

 

24. "Right Now"
From: For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991)

The lone exception to For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge's "no keyboards" aesthetic was released as the album's fourth single. "Right Now" ended up as a massive hit thanks largely to its innovative video. You may have heard it way too many times by now, but it's hard not to admire Van Halen's songcraft and uplifting message. (Wilkening)

23. "Source of Infection"
From: OU812 (1988)

As they transformed into master balladeers, Van Halen were hellbent on reminding listeners they hadn’t forgotten how to deliver a proper thrashing. They unfortunately forgot to write a catchy hook on "Source of Infection," but the song still succeeds through sheer force of will and dizzying virtuosity. (Rolli)

22. "Don't Tell Me (What Love Can Do)"
From: Balance (1995)

"Don't Tell Me (What Love Can Do)" has all the ingredients of a successful late-period Van Halen track: dark, grinding riffs, piss-and-vinegar vocals, skyscraping harmonies and a pocket so deep you could lose 100 guitar picks in it. (Rolli)

21. "Top of the World"
From: For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991)

Closing out For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge with a riff recycled from the fade-out of 1984's "Jump," the upbeat "Top of the World" finds Hagar wrapping the Van Halen universe in a warm, encouraging hug. (Wardlaw)

20. "Sucker in a 3 Piece"
From: OU812 (1988)

Even a decade after pioneering it, Van Halen could still blaze through this brand of groovy party-metal in their sleep. On an otherwise dark, big-brained album, “Sucker in a 3 Piece” indulges in some mindless fun, full of delicious whammy bar acrobatics and Hagar’s libidinous, gut-busting shrieks. (Rolli)

 

19. "Feels So Good"
From: OU812 (1988)

Hot take: Van Halen Mach 2 should have leaned further into pop music. Instead of his usual wildly experimental methods, Eddie Van Halen seems to be using the "Murph and the Magic Tones" keyboard preset on this admittedly lighter-than-air confection. But damn if it doesn't sound just right alongside Hagar's vocals. (Wilkening)

18. "Mine All Mine"
From: OU812 (1988)

Van Halen kicks off OU812 in blistering fashion with "Mine All Mine," a sophisticated rocker powered by Alex's jackhammer drumming and Eddie's pulsating keyboards and squealing guitars. Hagar gets uncharacteristically existential with lyrics that are both admirable and, more importantly, unobtrusive. (Rolli)

17. "Love Walks In"
From: 5150 (1986)

If you need proof that songwriting sometimes works in strange ways, Sammy Hagar claims an encounter with aliens inspired him to write the lyrics for “Love Walks In.” Whatever the source of inspiration, the band's first-ever straight up ballad is a melodic gem. (Wardlaw)

16. "Inside"
From: 5150 (1986)

The final song on Van Halen's first Sammy Hagar-fronted album starts off with the band members trading a series of in-jokes over a nasty synth-bass groove. Then Hagar takes over with a soaring vocal performance addressing the real-life restlessness that convinced him to paint a big target on his back as David Lee Roth's successor. (Wilkening)

15. "The Seventh Seal"
From: Balance (1995)

Van Halen's ambitious "The Seventh Seal" gets Balance off to a strong start, even if the album ultimately becomes highly uneven. Hagar muses about the end of the world, while Eddie churns out exotic progressive-rock riffs over the harmonic chanting of Buddhist monks. (Wilkening)

 

14. "Runaround"
From: For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991)

For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge found Ted Templeman back in the producer’s chair for the first time since 1984, and the album is consequently chock-full of thunderous grooves. “Runaround” is a great example, powered by Alex and Anthony's low-end lockstep, while Hagar yelps with abandon over Eddie’s tasty, radio-friendly licks. (Rolli)

13. "Finish What Ya Started"
From: OU812 (1988)

This languid track showcases Hagar’s bum-in-the-sun persona, which he would continue to develop over the next several decades. Eddie’s guitar work remains captivating even when he’s dining out on country-fried acoustic licks. Anthony carries the chorus with his expert backing vocals, as Hagar delivers nonsensical ad-libs. (Rolli)

12. "When It's Love"
From: OU812 (1988)

If there’s a track which spoke to how Van Halen’s collaboration with Sammy Hagar had matured, it’s the harmonious “When It’s Love.” It gave the band another Top 5 hit and was the highest charting single from OU812. (Wardlaw)

11. "Get Up"
From: 5150 (1986)

The title is no misnomer: "Get Up" is a boogie-woogie thrasher full of larynx-shredding vocals and atom-splitting guitar histrionics. Alex Van Halen's electric drums give the song a choppy, hyperactive feel, which suits the rest of the band's sugar-rush shredding. (Rolli)

10. "Good Enough"
From: 5150 (1986)

Van Halen faced enormous pressure on 5150, their first album with Hagar at the helm. They promptly shut down the haters with two simple words: “Hello baaaaaaaby!” From there, album-opener “Good Enough” is a tour de force of greasy riffs, thumping rhythms and Hagar’s irreverent howling, which you can either interpret as an awful pickup line or a love letter to baby-back ribs. (Rolli)

 

9. "Cabo Wabo"
From: OU812 (1988)

Even on the rare occasions when they stick to straight-up guitar rock on OU812 Van Halen can't help but challenge themselves. Here, they turn Hagar's love letter to the Mexican beach town of Cabo St. Lucas into a Led Zeppelin-styled seven-minute epic complete with a gorgeous instrumental section. (Wilkening)

 

8. "Black and Blue"
From: OU812 (1988)

It's difficult to choose the raunchiest Van Hagar track, but “Black and Blue” deserves to be in the running. That's thanks in large part to the swagger of Eddie's guitar. The rest of the band answers his call, resulting in a great down-and-dirty rocker. (Wardlaw)

 

7. "Judgement Day"
From: For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991)

The incorrectly spelled "Judgement Day" was reportedly the first song Van Halen recorded during sessions for For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. The breakneck riffing suggests Eddie Van Halen spent some time watching Metallica from the side of the stage when the two bands shared the bill on the Monsters of Rock tour. (Wilkening)

 

6. "Why Can't This Be Love"
From: 5150 (1986)

Only time will tell if we stand the test of time” is the arena-rock equivalent of Noam Chomsky’s “colorless green ideas sleep furiously.” Tautological lyric aside, “Why Can’t This Be Love” is a classic Van Halen power ballad on which Eddie finally surrenders to the keyboards that had been calling his name for years. Damn right it’s cheesy, but the band’s willingness to embrace the cheese makes it timeless. (Rolli)

 

5. "Dreams"
From: 5150 (1986)

When Hagar wails "higher and higher" in the chorus to "Dreams," it's both an ode to boundary-transcending love and an exhortation to push his vocal cords to 150% capacity. "Dreams" marked one of Van Halen's first and greatest forays into unabashed power balladry, and it tops the list of Songs Roth Could Never Pull Off in a Billion Years. (Rolli)

 

4. "Summer Nights"
From: 5150 (1986)

"Summer Nights" is the first thing Sammy Hagar and Van Halen played together when he visited the band's recording studio to test their compatibility. According to Hagar, the song's infectious "summer nights and my radio" chorus popped into his head immediately, proving the potential of this new pairing to everybody in the room. (Wilkening)

 

3. "5150"
From: 5150 (1986)

God, that riff. In a catalog full of six-string masterclasses, the title track to 5150 remains a high-water mark for Eddie Van Halen. The band's effortless tempo shifts keep things movin' and groovin', and Alex's double-bass fills lend some muscle to an otherwise breezy pop-metal gem. When the whole band chimes in behind Hagar on the final chorus, the results are positively sublime. (Rolli)

2. "Poundcake"
From: For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991)

Logic dictates that the early-'90s alt-rock revolution should have rendered Van Halen passe, but they took a power drill to that presumption on "Poundcake." It's a bone-crunching hard rocker that's heavy on hooks and riffs and light on coherent thought. (Seriously, what's up with Hagar's obsession with food-related double entendres?) (Rolli)

 

1. "Best of Both Worlds"
From: 5150 (1986)

With its effective loud-quiet-loud dynamic, "Best of Both Worlds" is by far the best showcase of everything that the Hagar-fronted Van Halen could achieve. Together, they reach new levels of sophistication and maturity without sacrificing the immediacy of their previous career high points. They'd accomplish much together in the next decade, but never quite reached this peak again. Then again, few bands ever do. (Wilkening)

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