Occasionally (and ironically), a band’s best-known song turns out to be the song that was the greatest departure from that band’s style. “More Than Words,” the acoustic ballad by funk-metal band Extreme, is a perfect example.
Extreme first emerged as a “supergroup” in 1985, with all four members coming together out of previous bands playing in Boston’s rock scene. As they built a solid local following, they eventually landed a record deal with A&M, finding modest success with their debut, self-titled album—enough, in fact, to warrant a sophomore release, Extreme II: Pornograffiti, in 1990.
The album’s first two singles fell flat in the U.S., and Pornograffiti even fell off the charts—that is, until the release of “More Than Words.” A simple, emotional ballad with vocal harmonies sung over an acoustic guitar, the song was a complete left turn from their usual brash, loud style—but it caught fire on the charts and became the band’s first (and only) worldwide smash hit, propelling Pornograffiti back onto the charts and into double-Platinum sales territory.
As it turned out, that would be the band’s peak. Extreme ended up being barely shy of “one-hit-wonder” status (their follow-up single “Hole Hearted” peaked at Number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100), and several albums later, they never matched the success of “More Than Words.” Extreme disbanded in 1996, reunited in 2004 and have played sporadically since then.
“More Than Words,” then, remains the best-loved, signature song of a metal band. Go figure.