Tuesday, January 5, 2016

What Is 'That' Meat Loaf Sings Of?

Despite being a massive hit, and enduring as part of popular culture for twenty years, there is still a mystery that has yet to be resolved to a satisfactory degree.

What won't Meat Loaf do for love?

People have been speculating ever since the song came out what the titular 'that' is, and to this day there is no consensus as to exactly what it refers to. There are the theories that it's all nonsense made up because Jim Steinman thought it sounded good, and there is the explanation Meat Loaf gives that the song clearly explains the four things he won't do, but I have a different thought.

Meat Loaf is not altogether incorrect in his assessment, but it is incomplete. The song absolutely does mention four specific things his character won't do for love. They are, in order:

"I'll never forget the way you feel right now"

"I'll never forgive myself if we don't go all the way, tonight"

"I'll never do it better than I do it with you"

"I'll never stop dreaming of you every night of my life"

On their own, each could be a possible answer, but the clearer picture comes when they are added to the context of the duet section that ends the song. When the female character tells Meat Loaf that "you'll see that it's time to move on", one implication becomes apparent to me.

The 'that' Meat Loaf is singing about is loving someone else. Throughout the song, Meat Loaf proclaims all the things he will do for love, from running into hell to colorizing the world. But he is promising that to one specific woman, and when she tells him that he might feel that for someone else in the future, he denies that it could ever happen. In his character's mind, that love can only exist for her. There is no possibility of feeling that way for anyone else.

So when Meat Loaf is singing that he won't do 'that' for love, keeping in mind the context, he is telling her that he can't leave and find someone else to shower with his terrifyingly intense affection. You could read into the song that she thinks he's a bit crazy, and is trying to point him in a different direction, but he is having none of it.

While it might be more fun to have the song remain a mystery, or even to consider it nonsense to promulgate a pun, I don't believe either of those is correct. In my mind, the answer has been staring us in the face the whole time, but we didn't want to see 'that'.

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