’90s No. 1s Revisited: “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)”
The seventy-third No. 1 song of the 1990s was “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” by Meat Loaf. The success of this over-the-top rock ballad was nothing short of shocking in 1993, as Meat Loaf was an overweight 46-year-old who hadn’t had a Top 40 hit since 1977, and whose theatrical style was seismically out-of-step with the rising popularity of Grunge and Hip-Hop. Prior to this comeback, Meat Loaf had put four singles on the Billboard Hot 100, from 1971 to 1981, including “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” and “Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad.” Mr. Loaf, a native Texan, released four albums in the 1980s that didn’t do much in the U.S. but did produce some minor hits in the U.K. “I’d Do Anything For Love” was the first single off Bat out of Hell II: Back Into Hell, named as a sequel to his most popular album to date.
“Anything” was a worldwide smash. It was, in fact, the year-end No. 1 song of 1993 in the U.K. and Australia. After “Anything” was so popular, two follow-ups from the album also charted: “Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through” (peak: No. 13) and “Objects In The Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are” (No. 38). Both are in a similar style to “Anything,” and very good songs. Meat Loaf capitalized on this new wave of fame with a follow-up album in late 1995 that spawned two more hits, including the very good “I’d Lie For You (And That’s The Truth)” (peak: No. 13), and he hasn’t charted since 1996, although he’s released a few albums, including a third installment of Bat out of Hell.
“I’d Do Anything For Love” is a very long heavy rock ballad with a full-blown vocal performance and rich instrumental track. The album version of the song is 12 minutes, while the video (embedded below) clocks in at about 7 and a half, and the radio single was trimmed to 5 and a half — which still is long for a pop song. The lyrics talk about one’s desire for love being boxed in by principles and his devotion to the person to whom he is singing.
Clear your calendar and give “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” a fresh listen:
Music preferences are obviously a matter of personal taste, but we’d hope that anyone would at least appreciate the work that went into this recording. A common point of observational humor about this track goes: “He never says what he wouldn’t do for love!” But, in fact, he lists several specific things he wouldn’t do, i.e., “forget the way you feel right now,” “forgive myself if we don’t go all the way, tonight,” “do it better than I do it with you,” “stop dreaming of you every night of my life,” “forget everything,” “screw around” and “see that it’s time to move on.” Maybe people were too distracted by the flashy instrumental to listen carefully to the words. Anyway, the bottom line about this song is that it’s big, epic, loud and long. And it’s very beautiful, exciting and dramatic. The video, of course, boldly honors the recording.
There always was an element of “Huh? What is this?” surrounding the popularity of “I’d Do Anything For Love,” but we remember people getting a kick out of something so showy being in the mix on the radio and music video channels alongside, say, Ace of Base, Salt-N-Pepa, Blind Melon and 2Pac. It goes without saying that nothing sounded like this at the time. (Perhaps also noteworthy, though, is that Celine Dion would have a giant hit three years later with “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now,” a song also written by Jim Steinman with a very similar sound, and video, originally intended for Meat Loaf and the Bat out of Hell II album.)
Does it hold up? Even in 1993, the appeal of this song was that it was old-fashioned. So although we don’t think it would be popular today, absolutely anything is possible. The use of classic-rock instrumentals here does give it a timeless quality. Kids hearing this for the first time today, we suspect, would have no idea what decade to place it in.
Dopeness: 4 out of 5 Birkenstocks
’90s No. 1s Revisited is a regular feature on “Was It Dope?” where we walk through every No. 1 song of the 1990s on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in order, give it another listen, and answer two critical questions: Was it dope? And does it hold up?