Ooooooh … a Jim Steinman song. Light a fire, pour a glass of cheap brandy, and get ready. Just as Max Martin rules the pop roost now, Steinman was the undisputed king of soft rock — nay, power ballads — in the ’80s and early ’90s. No assembly of instruments was too dramatic. No lyric was over the top. Less was NEVER more, with this guy.
Here’s a picture that appears without irony on the front page of his CURRENT website. It looks like Wham! went to a House of Mirrors.
Here’s a sampling of some time-honored hits he penned:
- “Making Love Out of Nothing at All,” Air Supply
- “Holding Out for a Hero,” Bonnie Tyler
- “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That),” Meat Loaf
- “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now,” Celine Dion
But perhaps his pièce de résistance is “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” a song so welded in the public’s consciousness that it’s now being used to advertise processed diet food. Like many of Steinman’s efforts, the original recording is a bit on the bloated side — more than seven minutes — while the radio cut is closer to 4:30, thanks to the elimination of extraneous verses.
In between is the video version (5:33), which we have below. And why Ms. Tyler, 32 when this song hit the charts, seems to be having nocturnal fantasies about school-aged boys, is a discussion best held elsewhere.
Best part? Well, there certainly is a lot to choose from, isn’t there? Dramatic key changes, thundering timpani, teen boy choirs, the beautiful melodrama of the lyric “forever’s gonna start tonight…” but I like a little modulation hidden right at 4:00 (in the video cut, anyway). All along, the steadily tempoed vocal progression in the pre-chorus: “Together we can take it to the end of the line,” includes a one-note step higher between “the” and “end.” (Let’s say an A to a B.) But at this point, Bonnie takes it up THREE notes (to a D!): “Together we can take it to the END of the line…” It’s subtle, but effective in signaling the impending conclusion to this opus.
I once saw a paunchy bearded fellow take this one on in karaoke. He was far from naturally gifted, and the thing nearly broke him. A sweater vest may have been involved as well. But he remembered this little nuance as the final glorious chorus approached, and for that we all gave him mad respect.