I said that it was going to be considered blasphemy by other Steinman fans that I don’t think “Heaven Can Wait” is among his best work. This one I have to go a step further: I absolutely do not like it. I have an odd opinion in that I like Bat out of Hell II: Back into Hell more than its predecessor, and much of the reason is that “Heaven Can Wait” is nowhere near as good as most of either album and then it’s followed by the legitimately weak “All Revved up with No Place to Go.”
The song opens with a saxophone lead over a simple piano-led rhythm. It plods along as Meat Loaf’s voice comes in and his typically forceful, emotive delivery interplays with the saxophone throughout. For most of the song’s run time, nothing changes. Then, it sort of comes to life as Rundgren adds in crunchy guitars and Meat Loaf spit-shouts his way through the lyrics again at breakneck speed.
Lyrically, the song is simple. “I was a nothing but a lonely boy/Looking for something new/And you were nothing but a lonely girl/But you were something/Something like a dream come true” is the entire song in a nutshell. It’s horny teenagers again, but it doesn’t seem to have the winking, impish intellectual perspective Steinman usually has. Indeed, it even later adds the phrase “all-American” before “boy” and “girl,” which is the kind of real-world element that Steinman usually avoided. He specifically talked about his songs being fantastical as opposed to the reality-based Bruce Springsteen because of Springsteen’s regular references to real-life locations in his music. True, it’s not a very specific place and the idea of “all-American” is a cultural touchstone that’s definitely present in much of Steinman’s work even without being referenced, but it feels jarringly out of place.
I don’t like this song. It feels like Steinman trying to write standard ’70s rock and roll and it’s not at all his place. It feels uninspired and dull. It feels like going through the motions, which is something I would never accuse Steinman (or indeed Meat Loaf) of doing.
For the purposes of this blog, the most difficult part is that I have a difficult time articulating why that’s how it feels to me, and that leaves me with little to say. But I also want this project to be a celebration of Jim Steinman, not a burial, so I’m just going to move on from what is, for me, a misstep.