LeBlog’s Cheesetastic Classics: Melissa Manchester vs. Meatloaf
Welcome to the next matchup in our continuing search for the most satisfyingly cheesy pop songs of all time! A LeBlog Cheestastic Classic should be both undeniably corny or over-the-top while also possessing some quality that makes some of us grin and pump our fists in gleeful irony. Some people might also use the term “guilty pleasure.” But I’m not going to. For our purposes here, these are “LeBlog’s Cheesetastic Classics.” The skill and talent involved in producing some of these songs may, in fact, be quite impressive and at their core these songs might actually be rather superior to some which are considered cool. But somewhere along the way the songwriter or performer took that wrong turn at Albuquerque and landed themselves in the land of cheese.
Today’s pairing features an over-the-top ballad from the 1970s and a comeback hit by a fellow ’70s artist who specialized in dramatic pop. Come help us decide which of these songs belongs on our list!
First, let me cover a little bit of business and announce that our last pairing resulted in one induction into the land of cheestastic and one rejection. Foreigner’s “Juke Box Hero” claimed a spot on our list with more than 70% of the vote, while Rebecca Black’s “Friday” failed to impress enough to match that achievement, garnering just 38% approval. If you’re one of those people who thinks we’ve underestimated the cheesy pleasures of “Friday,” you will eventually get another chance to make your argument, but that’s a topic for another day down the road. As our list builds, it will help us understand what we as a group believe about the “Cheesetastic Classic” identification.
First up today is a very corny ballad by a former Bette Midler backup singer and friend of Barry Manilow.
Ummmmm…wow. The ’70s were a really strange time, weren’t they? I was a kid throughout the decade, so there was a lot of it that I took for granted as just being business as usual, but even as an elementary aged person I identified “Don’t Cry Out Loud” as having something in it both amazing and ridiculous. I’m not going to try to intellectualize the content of the lyrics too much, because you can make very valid arguments that they might be more valid and meaningful to some people than others. I will, however, argue that both the lyrics and the song’s arrangement are pretty darn overwrought, which is what makes the song such a strong contender for cheesetastic status.
Melissa Manchester was born in New York City in 1951 to a family with musical roots, including a father who played basoon for the New York Metropolitan Opera. She focused on learning and performing music intensely at an early age, attending both the Manhattan School of Music and High School of Performing Arts, becoming a proficient harpsichordist and taking on professional singing jobs when she was a teenager. She was just twenty-two years old when her first album was released, and she hit the top 10 just two years later with her recording of “Midnight Blue” going up to #6 on the singles charts in the summer of 1975. Manchester’s recording career stayed pretty strong for most of a decade, scoring six more top40 hits, including “Don’t Cry Out Loud,” which hit #10 in January of 1979 and her final hit “”You Should Hear How She Talks About You,” which became her highest-charting song in 1982 by reaching #5. This last song actually won Manchester a Grammy for Best Pop Female Vocal Performance at the 1983 awards ceremony.
Ah, what the heck, here she is lip-synching the song on Solid Gold –
Now remember- we’re voting on “Don’t Cry Out Loud” as a Cheesetastic Classic, so don’t factor in this performance when you’re deliberating.
Our other nominee today had just as many top40 hits as Manchester, but had the good fortune of going all the way to #1 on the singles charts with his iconic song…the huge comeback hit that we will be considering for Cheesetastic status today!
Where do we start with this one? Well, the first thing to point out is that the over-the-top and slightly operatic tone of “I’d Do Anything For Love” is in no way inconsistent with the rest of Meat Loaf’s output. Although I was a little put off by how slick the whole thing sounded when it was first released in 1993, I couldn’t claim that Mr. Loaf had really strayed that far outside of his previous territory. But there is plenty here to help the song qualify for our list of Cheesetastic Classics. The early transition of his tremulous vibrato to a “rockin'” accompaniment and delivery suggests that Meat Loaf is positioning the song as an epic multi-part piece of music. Adding to this impression is the addition of a chorus of background singers to further emulate some classical compositions. This connects to some of what we discussed in the Razzies articles in that hubris enters the equation. Artists really have to be careful on this count. If you’re going to sell your work as important, it had better live up to that promise. And I really don’t feel like “I’d Do Anything For Love” quite measures up. The inclusion of a line in which Meat claims that he sometimes prays to the “gods of sex and drugs and rock and roll” helps to indicate how important he seems to think “rockin'” is. It has its own god. This is the sort of thing Tenacious D have parodied so effectively. Meanwhile, he has cast himself in a high dollar production of Beauty and the Beast, complete with a shadowy manor, crashing lightning, and more candles than any one person could possibly manage on a daily basis. And…cue the lesbian vampires!
Meat Loaf Aday’s early entertainment career focused primarily on appearing in musical plays on stage, including showing up in the Los Angeles production of Hair and the original production of The Rocky Horror Show. This latter show became so popular that it was a cool destination for celebrities for a while, resulting in Meat Loaf meeting Elvis Presley and he would later appear in the film version which went on to become one of the biggest cult films of all time. It was during his theatre work that Aday met Jim Steinman, who would become his songwriting partner when he decided to focus his efforts on his musical career. After trying to sell the resulting recording, Bat Out of Hell, for a few years it finally got a full release in 1977 by Cleveland International Records. Tireless touring and an appearance on Saturday Night Live helped to gradually make Bat Out of Hell a success, garnering three top40 hits, including the #11 hit “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.” Unfortunately, Aday was suffering from continued anxiety, depression, and a mysterious loss of his singing voice that doctors declared as completely psychological. Following arguments with Steinman and his record company resulted in more difficulties, including the loss of the songs “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and “Making love Out of Nothing at All” to other artists (I think it’s a pretty good bet that both of these songs will show up as Cheesetastic nominees eventually).
Despite some continued popularity in Britain, the U.S. market remained slow for him throughout the 1980s and he didn’t see his comeback there until the Bat Out of Hell sequel “Back Into Hell” appeared with the video for “I’d Do Anything for Love” and paid off with multiple hits. This musical success only lasted another couple of years, but Aday continues to make concert appearances and show up in movies. One of his more memorable film roles was as Bob. Bob had bitch tits.
Okay, so there’s a lot more to say about Meat Loaf than there is about Melissa Manchester (seriously, I didn’t even come close to covering his whole career), but that really shouldn’t influence how you vote below. What we’re concerned with here is whether the two songs in question belong in the Hall of Fame of great cheesy songs. Let us know what you think!