This article was last modified on October 22, 2007.


What Won’t Meat Loaf Do?

If you listened to the radio in the early 1990s — and I spent a fair part of my evenings winding down to the pop stations — you no doubt heard Meat Loaf’s ballad “I’d Do Anything for Love (but I Won’t Do That)” in 1993. This hit single from the Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell album was quite popular, and even won a Grammy Award.

The song was written by Jim Steinman, and recorded by Meat Loaf. And almost everyone who heard it asked the same question: what exactly is it that Meat Loaf won’t do? They understood he would do allegedly anything for love, but that anything was diminished by one thing he simply wouldn’t do. And try as you might in listening to the song, many people couldn’t discern that one thing.

The confusion became so intense that even an episode of VH1’s Pop Up Video had a blurb declaring “Exactly what Meat Loaf won’t do for love remains a mystery to this day.” Also, a reviewer for the All Music Guide wrote: “The lyrics build suspense by portraying a romance-consumed lover who pledges to do anything in the name of love except ‘that,’ a mysterious thing that he will not specify.” Well, does it really remain a mystery?

To determine the answer, we should explore the lyrics of the song more thoroughly.

Things Meat Loaf Will Do

In order to understand what Meat Loaf won’t do, it’s probably important to first find what he will do. He says he’ll do “anything”, but he might only be speaking figuratively. The following are the things he claims he would do for love:

  • Run Right Into Hell (and Back)
  • Be There Until The Final Act
  • Take a Vow and Seal a Pact
  • Anything You’ve Been Dreaming Of
  • Raise You Up
  • Help You Down
  • Get You Right Out of This God-Forsaken Town
  • Make It All a Little Less Cold
  • Hold You Sacred
  • Hold You Tight
  • Make You Some Magic With His Own Two Hands
  • Build an Emerald City Out of Grains of Sand
  • Give You Something That You Can Take Home
  • Cater to Every Fantasy You Have
  • Hose You Down With Holy Water (If You Get Too Hot)
  • Take You Places You’ve Never Known

Now, that is a pretty long and impressive list of things Meat Loaf will do for love. He claims he can do things that are probably not even physically possible (building an Emerald City) and doesn’t restrain himself from going into the realm of sacrilege (“hosing” someone with holy water, presumably during sexual activity, is probably a sin).

So, Meat Loaf, we can give you the benefit of the doubt that you’re willing to do pretty much anything, just as you claim — within reason. Certainly if your lover asked you to commit genocide on a small African nation you would decline, or if she asked you to indulge in some strange German act you may run away. But presuming she’s a reasonable woman, you’re probably capable of fulfilling her needs.

The Defense of the Songwriters

The songwriters (Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf) contend the things he won’t do are made evident in the lyrics. Steinman says:

It’s sort of is a little puzzle and I guess it goes by — but they’re all great things. ‘I won’t stop doing beautiful things and I won’t do bad things.’ It’s very noble. I’m very proud of that song because it’s very much like out of the world of Excalibur. To me, it’s like Sir Lancelot or something — very noble and chivalrous. That’s my favorite song on the record — it’s very ambitious.

The “that” referenced in the title are a list of things in the song that Meat Loaf says, either explicitly or implicitly, that he simply won’t do. As Steinman suggests, the things he will do are good and the things he won’t do are bad. In fact, you could just invert the bad things to make a list of more good things. Let’s see the list of things in the song Meat Loaf won’t do.

Things Meat Loaf Says He Won’t Do

  • Forget The Way You Feel Right Now
  • Lie To You (And That’s a Fact)
  • Do It Better Than He’ll Do It With You
  • Stop Dreaming Of You Every Night Of His Life
  • Forget Everything
  • See That It’s Time to Move On
  • Screw Around

The Problem With This Explanation

The problem with Steinman’s explanation is that his words go directly contrary to the title. The song title reads “I Will Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)”. If you break that into two separate sentences but eliminating the conjunction, you are left with two different declarations:

  1. I’ll Do Anything For Love
  2. I Won’t Do That For Love

This is logically impossible. You cannot simultaneously do “anything” and also exclude one thing. (To use logic terms, “anything” would be a set of all possible things, a set wherein nothing could be outside of said set, leaving no instance of a thing not being for love.) So, either he is lying on the first declaration or the second, because both could not be absolutely true.

Taken more loosely, we could translate this to mean “I’ll Do Anything For Love With One Exception”, which is what most people take the title to mean, I presume. Certainly that is the way I interpret it. But if this is correct, then the thing he won’t do is not revealed, because the list of things he won’t do are not “for love”. He is not suggesting he wouldn’t screw around “for love” or “forget everything” for love. To even think these things are somehow a way to achieve love is just baffling and clearly not what was meant. So the list is just a distraction and should be inverted to go back into the first list (such as “screw around” being inverted to “stay faithful”).

Conclusion

Obviously, I’m being too literal and I should just let Steinman and Meat Loaf slide with their explanation. But they are the ones who set themselves up for criticism. By using “but” rather than “and”, they constructed a sentence that causes the listener to ascertain a reason to think one thing for love is to be excluded. By using “and”, this confusion could have been avoided. “I will do anything for love” and (rather than but) “I won’t do that” are non-contradictory, and allows the list to make sense.

So, in short: as stated, there is actually NOTHING Meat Loaf won’t do for love, making the song title either greatly misleading, a lie, or something to be left open for speculation. If we recognize that Steinman and Meat Loaf suffer from poor grammar, then we realize there is nothing he won’t do for love, just things he won’t do in general.

Conclusion: Meat Loaf will do anything for love. Anything. (Within reason.) Period.

Also try another article under Miscellaneous
or another one of the writings of Gavin.

12 Responses to “What Won’t Meat Loaf Do?”

  1. nicola Says:

    me and my freind think you are amazing. we were wondering what they wouldnt do so i searched it and found you to be the only person who fully explains to me what is going on. thank you i absolutly love what you wrote it is so funny yet so true. you are amazing please keep writing.

  2. Hoshi Says:

    Nice interpretation. I always thought the line: But I’ll never forgive myself if we don’t go all the way tonight – was significant; I thought he wasn’t willing to wait or stay celibate for love. Basically I thought the song was saying he would do anything for love and doesn’t want to be stopped from expressing the love physically by making love.

  3. Thomas Says:

    Ok….. this is what meatloaf wont do… listen to the song if you dont allready know… he’ll never forget the way you feel right now oh no…. no he wont do that.

    its a song dumbass… way to look too far into something thats spelled out for you kids.

  4. Hoshi Says:

    The POINT, if you read the article is that grammatically, the song isn’t right. WHY would anyone FORGET the way you feel … FOR LOVE. Would you cheat because you love someone? NO, you WON’T cheat because of love. The point is because of a BUT (I would do anything for love BUT I won’t do that) it it causes people to question the song and caused this whole mess.

    I mean, I’ll do anything for love BUT I won’t cheat…. This makes NO sense in the English language.
    Either AND or LIKE are more appropriate.

    SEE the point now?

  5. Micheal Says:

    any chance you’re in law school? this sounds eerily like an analysis on a law school exam…

  6. Paul strettoni Says:

    I find this astounding that all of this writing has a conclusion of Meat Loaf will do anything for love. Anything. (Within reason.)

    Hoshi get a grip my friend Chuck Norris would kick meat’s ar$e now there is a conclusion for you.

    Gooodnite keep it fresh… not start a page on what is to be kept fresh.
    (i’ve saved u some time) Conclusion: nothing its an expression.

  7. Shawn Says:

    To say that somebody wouldn’t cheat to prove love isn’t correct 100% of the time. Say you fall in love with a woman who reveals she’s swinger who wants you to participate in a three way with her brother to prove your love for her. I certainly wouldn’t do that and I dare so Meatloaf wouldn’t either!

  8. Justin Says:

    Guess he wouldn’t support Wolverhampton Wanderers either……….Meatload is an Albion fan!! Boing, Boing!!

  9. Anything for love « De Ruiter Blog Says:

    […] Hier een tikje wijsneuzerig artikel, maar wel verhelderend. En met een conclusie. […]

  10. ron mccheese Says:

    Basically i had the GREAT pleasure of meeting the mighty meatloaf and i asked him what wont he do…………………………..nothing………….i know because we did EVERYTHING. great article and you were spot on.

  11. brodie bruce Says:

    anal. the “that” that he is referring to is anal… that or ATM (ass to mouth)

  12. edt Says:

    i think it’s pretty clear.

    “I will do anything for love with one exception”

    And that one exception is “doing things because I love someone ELSE”

    So you see it is still doing something “for love” but it’s for loving someone else. Make perfect sense this way.

    “Stop dreaming of you” why stop dreaming of you, because he loves someone else more.

    “Lie to you” why lie? Because he’s in love, with a woman he likes better.

    But my feeling is that when meatloaf sang it, he was thinking that “that” mean he would do anything but let his wife put on a strap on go to work. So the song writer’s and the singer’s feelings of the song I’m sure are different.

Leave a Reply