Thursday, August 19, 2010

Songs that Changed the Landscape of Human Thought and Understanding: Meat Loaf's "I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)"

Love makes the world go 'round, literally. Every time a person utters the word, draws a heart, or puts "XOXOXO" at the end of a text message, it powers the rotation of our planet. It's science. It's true. It's been that way forever! Because of this, people have done some strange things for love. Wars have been fought for "love of country." People will occasionally murder somebody in "a fit of passion." But, thanks to Meat Loaf and his Wagnerian #1 hit "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)," we now know that there exists THE POSSIBILITY of things that people would not ever be willing to do for love. Here is just a brief list of some of the things Meat Loaf wouldn't do if we totally run on the assumption that his love-interest has some rather EXORBITANT demands:

--He wouldn't stick his left leg in a wood-chipper.
--He wouldn't get a large tattoo of a swastika on his forehead and walk around Jerusalem.
--He wouldn't eat human flesh marinated in Box-of-Wine puke.
--He wouldn't call his significant other 'Mommy Dearest' during sex.
--He wouldn't get a job as a telemarketer.

For nearly two decades now, people have wondered what Meat Loaf WOULDN'T do for love as they ponder the miracle of this song. During the chorus, when Meat Loaf initially admits, "I would do anything for love," we as listeners assume this is unconditional. However, mindblowingly, he immediately disqualifies the claim, adding, "But I won't do that." This is all just a part of the web that makes "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)" so genius. The listener is forever left to speculate what "that" really is. Perhaps the most radical achievement of the track, though, is that it undid years of damage caused by the powerful jingle "What would you do for a Klondike Bar?" I'm pretty sure that if somebody did a mash-up of the two songs, a black hole would immediately form.

Marvin Lee Aday, nee Meat Loaf, rose to superstardom in 1977 with the release of his album Bat out of Hell. With its campy lyrics, over-the-top production, and Meat Loaf's dramatic vocals, it went on to sell over 14 million copies in the U.S. Success, though, eluded the Loaf in the years following Bat out of Hell. And by the early 1990s, he was more known, to the kids at least, for his part in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) than for "Paradise by the Dashboard Light." After patching things up with Bat out of Hell composer Jim Steinman, the two got back together at an unlikely time in music history. The year was 1993. Grunge had dethroned the likes of Michael Jackson and M.C. Hammer from the top of the charts. Bill Clinton was pissing off Republicans. The Clapper was in bedrooms all across the United States. What the world needed was a song that fused that old Meat Loafiness with one of the eight-minute songs from Guns N' Roses' Use Your Illusion II that made us, as human beings, rethink the power of love and its limitations.

The seven-minute song (the album version is twelve minutes long!) is passionately sung by the Loaf as he easily convinces the listener just how HARD he loves. I mean, shucks, he is willing to "run right into hell and back" for it. (Of course, this only seems extreme if one believes there is a hell. Literally running into "an abstract concept" and back suggests he is barely willing to do the minimum amount possible for love.) After making his case, he reaches the conclusion that there are some instances where indulging in outrageous actions for love are just not warranted. He just doesn't provide any specifics, though. The moral of the song is that people are prone to making bad decisions when they are in love (like the inability to recognize they have fallen in love with an utterly horrible person). Clearly, Meat Loaf's love-interest is using him because of his apparent gullibility, but he has been, up until now, unable to realize this dynamic. His love-interest (voiced by the otherwise obscure singer Mrs. Loud) gives Meat Loaf some rather esoteric exercises to prove his love to her near the end of the song, including "build[ing] an emerald city with these grains of sand," "colorizing" her "black and white" life, "tak[ing her] to places [she's] never known," and, weirdest of all, "hos[ing her] down with holy water." Meat Loaf is perfectly willing to do these things, which suggest that the guy is a total freak! However, after her un-named, specifically dubious demand, he now realizes how far he has gone and how much farther it will take for him to get back. I don't know what this means, but neither does anybody else.

The point is this: With "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)," Meat Loaf created the most ambitiously ambiguous song in the history of animal-, plant- and man-kind. I still maintain, to this day, she has asked him to punt a football made of broken glass barefooted to prove his love to her. It's totally in the lyrics ... somewhere ... I guess. What do you think?


  1. let's see..."I would do anything for love/but I won't not get an abortion..."

    that could work.

  2. I've always thought it referred to his unwillingness to succumb to "ass-fisting." Maybe that's just me.