‘I would do anything for love (but I won’t) is a timeless hymn. It was written by Jim Steinman and sung and performed by lyrical rock messiah Meat Loaf. The song also includes guest vocals from Lorraine Crosby. Here is a song that fuses the best of all worlds. The powerful writing, the memorable hooks, the epic musicality. A ballad in the true spirit of the greatness of progressive rock. The clip is one of the biggest ever. It shows a modern narration of Beauty and the Beast.
The legacy of the song
The progressive power ballad was a commercial success, reaching number one in 28 countries. The single was certified platinum in the United States and became Meat Loaf’s first and only number one single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and UK Singles Chart, and was the UK’s top-selling single of 1993. The song earned Meat Loaf a “Grammy Award for Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance: Solo”.
“I would do anything for love (but I won’t) ”Lyrics review
But what is it all about? Rock fans and music enthusiasts have long debated the meaning of the song.
The lyrics begin with a frank statement; “And I would do anything for love.” It comes from the heart. To touch the most naked soul.
Powerfully romantic and living in its promise. The protagonist says there is nothing he wouldn’t do for love. He would run to hell and come back and lie even for his one true love.
He then told her that he would never forget how she was feeling right now. He professes that he would do anything for love. Next comes the lyrical punch.
“But I won’t do that”
Perhaps one of the greatest controversially written lines in the history of music lyrics. A line that confused people and led them to hell and back debating what this could be.
The protagonist then returns to the lyric wax, singing that some days don’t come easy and some days don’t come hard. He sings that some days don’t come at all and it is they who never seems to end. Then the evocative images and metaphorical lyrics that follow speak of its dual nature and its incomprehensibility. By making it very clear that the woman he is talking about is one of a kind and truly unique.
He then says he knows he’s crazy. And that only she can save him from his madness.
Watch the video “I would do anything for love” by Meat Loaf
He promises to what ends he would go, to gain her affection. He then continues to say that he would do anything for love. But that he won’t do this, again.
And here’s another twist. Everything she dreamed of the protagonist would do for her. It’s lyrical foreplay where he tells her once again how much she means to him.
Then come some of the hymn’s most poignant and powerful lyrics; his constant prayers for “Silence”, “soul”, and “god of sex, drums and rock’n’roll.”
He epically ties up musical references punctuated with expressions of silence and soul. It culminates with the divine personification lyrics citing the god of rock ‘n roll. This is beautifully written because the traditional phrase is “sex, drugs and rock and roll”. Here it says sex, drums and rock’n roll. But always pays homage to the same deity. Let it be the way of life. Let this be the attitude and the essence of it all. In a way, he comes full circle when he confesses to having prayed to a higher power. Indicate how much he lacks self-control and the willingness to cope with what he is feeling.
It breaks down with him by admitting that he is losing control. Let his feelings go crazy. How he loses all determination when he watches her dance as the thunder rumbles.
So there is a change here, where he says he’s alone. It shows he’s not with her. That perhaps she still ignores his affection. From what he feels. But he says that as long as the wheels are turning, as long as the fires are burning, as long as her prayers are answered, that she better believe it, that he would do anything for love. He says it’s a fact. That there is no going back.
And then comes another change of scenery.
“But I’ll never do it better than with you”
It shows a physicality to the lyrics. It changes the whole scenario. Here, he confesses that he will never make love to anyone like he did with her. Even by marking the duration by saying “so long”. So this changes the previous sequence where he deduces that he is not with her. So, could it be that they are passionate lovers? Two soul mates attracted by lust and attraction? Yet despite the physical nature of their relationship, they lack something deeper beyond the physical. Maybe he wants something more. For something more stable and less primitive. For a little solidarity and substance.
Once again, he professes that he would do anything for love. And the lyrical slap on the back!
“But I won’t do that …”
His statement continues with absolute consistency for many bars here. He keeps saying he would do anything for love. He says once again that he would do whatever she dreams of. I believe that implies that no matter how wild, exotic, extreme, or subtle he is, he’s willing to go the extra mile for her. The repetition of the words emphasizes the point.
What’s very interesting here is the construction up to this point. The story arc so far sees the protagonist expressing the depths and lengths of his love, his infatuation with this woman where he follows certain statements with “I won’t do that”. So what this exactly?
If we take a close look at the lyrics, we can see that each verse mentions what the singer would do for love, followed by something he wouldn’t do. So repeating the phrase is a reaffirmation of what he won’t do for her.
For example, he said he would do anything for love, even anything she dreamed of… followed by saying “but I won’t do that”.
I take this to believe that the ‘won’t do that’ varies depending on the context. This means that it will not ONLY do that, but much more. But he also professes in areas that there are things he wouldn’t do that would shame or demoralize her, as he loves her far beyond those things that may seem important at first glance.
I feel he is confused in his love to the point of conflicting insanity. The emotional conundrum forces him to make promises that he immediately contradicts by wondering if it would offend him.
Let’s go back to the climax of the song.
This is when the act changes, as does the whole scene.
This is where she breaks her silence. The woman he is singing about finally answers him. There is a back and forth here. The duo announces the elements of opera. A very interesting exchange of diatribes musically and thematically. In a way, it comes full circle when she opens up, recognizes him and tells him what she really wants.
Then comes a dialogue between the two; the girl asks several things that she expects from him to which he responds positively.
Its final expression is powerful. This is a statement on his part. And for the first time, it indicates a sense of vulnerability and uncertainty on her part to get hurt and heartbroken. She sings: “Sooner or later you’ll be messing around”
And in the climax of the song Meat Loaf answers him:
” I will not do that
No, I won’t do that “
A climax and a lyrical counterpoint where he told her that he wouldn’t do anything to her or betray her love. And ends up pouring out his soul to him once more that he would do anything for love.
But, everything she wouldn’t want, need or desire…. These things he would never do.
“No, I won’t do that.”
Let us know what you think of this song in the comments below. Check out the full lyrics on Genius.
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