01 August 2006

The Third Level of Hell

Okay, everyone. Take a deep breath, count to ten, let it out. Now you're ready to read this.

There are obvious horrors about Meat Loaf returning with a third installment of "Bat Out of Hell." One is that we will probably be subjected to more flop-sweat and comas as he succumbs to the stage fright that almost felled him when he performed with Katherine McPhee on "American Idol."

Look at that photo. He isn't healthy. Can we handle watching him crash and burn?

The next horror is that we must endure even more songs--with 87-word titles and 4 hour running times--by Jim Steinman.

Whoa! Hold up.

Before you get all crazy on me, let me say that I do like quite a few of Mr. Steinman's baroque ditties. How can you not love "Total Eclipse of the Heart," both Bonnie Tyler original flavor and Nikki French with extra remixes? The first "Bat Out of Hell" has grandeur. And I was a freshman in high school when "I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)" was always on the radio, so that one gets bonus points for nostalgia.

But come on. A little Steinman goes a long way, and I think we've got enough to last. You can only hear so many of his hysterically overblown creations before the ironic glee turns into a need for silence. Especially later Steinman, when he gets even more self-indulgent. Perfect case in point? "Dance of the Vampires." On Broadway for five seconds. (Go cry with Elton, Jim. Vampires don't work in musicals)

One of the worst things about "Dance of the Vampires" was that it desecrated the legacy of a great single by turning "Total Eclipse of the Heart" into a production number. FOUL BALL!

And if you look closely at the info about "Bat III," you'll see that Steinman's doing it again. With Meat Loaf's help. The Billboard writer buries it in his story, but the sheer wickedness of the fact leaps out.

I quote: "A video for the Jim Steinman-penned 'It's All Coming Back to Me Now,' which features up-and-coming vocalist Marion Raven, will premiere Aug. 12 on VH1."

Yes, that's right. Meat Loaf is covering a song originally recorded by Celine Dion. Is my head exploding? Did self-seriousness take over the room? Because the only people I can think of who exist with more bombastic melodrama than Celine Dion are Jim Steinman, Meat Loaf, and Elizabeth Taylor. If Liz shows up in this video, I'm moving to Iceland for good.

Worse yet, I actually like the Celine version. It's one of the good Steinmans, written like the Act I closer of a great musical (you know, a musical that isn't "Dance of the Vampires.") Celine's over-the-top singing and utter lack of irony are a perfect fit for the material, which features lines like "When you kiss me like this/And I kiss you like that/It's so hard to resist/And it's all coming back to me now."

I can remember my friend Cheryl and I driving to high school in our senior year and just singing the crap out of that song. And my roommate in grad school and I wrote this entire stage show based on it. The show involved a Celine impostor in a torn wedding dress, rising out of a trap door as a single white lily fell from the ceiling to warn her beau that this lady was a fake. It was awesome, campy fun.

And really, camp is what makes Steinman work. It's what made Meat Loaf work a few decades ago. It's why Celine Dion, with her Vegas stage show, is a miracle I would love to behold.

But Meat Loaf is no longer campy. Like "Dance of the Vampires," he's crested over into desperation. Watching someone fall apart is only fun when the person seems in control of his madness. Look at that picture up there. Meat Loaf is not in control.

Yet this is what he's doing with himself. Potentially staining the legacy of a good song.

Of course, I haven't heard the "Coming Back" cover. Maybe it's great. But I feel like this "Marion Raven" person had better get ready to catch some fainting Meat.



At 9:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steinman has always seemed to be a one-trick pony to me, which is probably why his stuff only gets popular a couple of time a decade. Still, you can't deny Bonnie Tyler. As awesome as it is when she loses it towards the end of Total Eclipse, nothing triumphs over the Eighties Tabernacle Choir singing "Doo doo doo DOOO!" in Holding out for a Hero. Where IS our white knight, anyway?

Also, if anyone can explain to me WTF is going on in this video for Total Eclipse, please do so. Ninjas, man. Ninjas.



At 9:31 AM, Blogger Mark Blankenship said...

Oh my god! Choir boys with creepy, gleaming eyes. Men in furry underwear, dancing. A castle.

(All videos for Jim Steinman songs must be set in castles. See: "It's All Coming Back..." and "I Would Do Anything...")

And then, wait. She's a prep school teacher? "Turn around bright eyes" becomes a literal lyric?

What IS going on here?

At 11:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now now, not all Steinman videos take place in a castle...


Although, I suppose the grand canyon is epic enough to count. Also, check out the aformentioned Eighties tabernacle Choir. So awesome. Their siren's song forces me to scream the "Ahhhh!" part every time I listen to it.



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