I have a pet hypothesis about “Dance in My Pants.” There are some reviews and such that talk about Meat Loaf returning to the studio to record Dead Ringer while this album was also still in the works and there being some swapping of songs. The reports vary some but nearly universally say that Steinman brought “Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through” over, explaining its presence on a separate EP and Dead Ringer producer Jimmy Iovine’s co-producing credit. Both albums have clear attempts to mimic the “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” formula in “Dance in My Pants” and “Dead Ringer for Love.” A number of places also credit Steinman with piecing together Meat Loaf’s vocals on “Dead Ringer for Love,” for which he does not have any credit on that album. Karla DeVito, after spending years on tour and appearing in the video for “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” doesn’t get a moment on Meat Loaf’s follow-up (Instead, it’s celebrity guest Cher.) but instead is the vocal partner for Steinman here. There isn’t really anything in evidence for it, but I can’t help but wonder if somehow, maybe because of Cher being interested, the duets got swapped, and having “Dance in My Pants” on this album instead of “Dead Ringer for Love” is what led to Steinman taking “Rock and Roll Dreams Come Though” even though he clearly did not believe he could sing it.
And the reason I can’t shake the idea that “Dance in My Pants” is on the wrong album is pretty simple: it’s terrible. No, neither duet comes anywhere near “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” but “Dead Ringer for Love” feels so much less like a paint-by-the-numbers kit version of a Steinman song that it’s difficult to believe that the former is really the one Steinman had written. “Dance in My Pants” is a simplistic, dunderheaded sex rocker masquerading as a Bat out of Hell track by being a male-female duet in a vaguely similar style to “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.”
Lyrically, “Dance in My Pants” tries to mimic the verbal gender battle of “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” but this time it really lacks depth. She wants to dance and then have sex. He just wants to have sex. Everything reaches a fever pitch with the amazing exchange:
“Ain’t nothing going to get me out on that floor!”
“Oh baby, you know there may be some moves that you haven’t even seen yet!”
“No way, Jose!”
“I got a new step for you–made it up all by myself. I bet you never tried this before!”
“Now that you know how it’s done, it’s only a matter of practice!”
“Well, I could sure use some of that practice!”
As stilted as that reads, Steinman’s delivery is even worse. Karla DeVito is fine even with that script, but Steinman sounds like he is being intentionally stiff. Hulk Hogan would be embarrassed by that delivery of, “No way, Jose!” The eternal teenagers idea is definitely present, with the song ending with a joint delivery of “I don’t ever want to be rescued/I don’t ever want to be saved/I got a feeling that I’m gonna be alive forever/Dancing on the edge of a grave,” but the teenaged exuberance is treated seriously here. “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” is an older person reflecting on the feelings of a teenager–this is someone just celebrating the idea of being a teenager forever because he’s too dumb to see the weaknesses thereof.
Things aren’t as dire musically–it’s a repetitive and relatively simple tune based on sort of stripped-down Little Richard piano-and-guitar sound with some extraordinarily ’80s synthesizer bits (the “new step” mentioned above) that actually feel like an attempt to move into the next decade and are interesting for their small moments and the prescient message about the direction of music in the near future. It’s not anything special, but ignoring the lyrics makes the song much better.
While the lyrics are the biggest problem, Steinman’s vocals here are weak as well. Karla DeVito has a strong voice and it’s easy to hear why she was the touring replacement for Ellen Foley, as she has the lung power and emotion needed to stand up to Meat Loaf on one of Steinman’s mini-operas. Steinman, though, sounds weak, and the fact that she sings about 2/3 of the song strikes me as a concession to his vocal weakness. Having Ellen Foley sing on the album and then Karla DeVito sing live and appear in the video kept either from really getting the attention Meat Loaf’s duet partner from “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” probably should have gotten, and then when Foley only appears on a couple of backing vocals and DeVito’s featured moment is on the worst song on the album, it cements them into that position–neither got the career push she should have, and that’s just a historical shame.
The bottom line is that “Dance in My Pants” is just not good, and I suspect its presence here is another example of forcing Bad for Good to be chapter two of Bat out of Hell–replace this one with “Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through” and it’s a better album, but it’s like someone told Steinman, “You have to replicate ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light.’” As it turns out, that’s easier a generation after the original.
- The Jim Steinman Wiki has a good summary of, basically, Jim Steinman’s version of the story of this album’s production. It doesn’t mention any switching of songs between this album and Dead Ringer. In fact, it says that Meat Loaf felt psychologically unable to handle the songs he had been working on without his voice a couple of years earlier, including “Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through.” Meat Loaf has a different version of events that omits any decision-making on his own part. Neither are exactly the most reliable of narrators. Various reviews from the albums’ releases and since have claimed all kinds of different things about what happened during production with these two nearly-simultaneous releases. I’m not going to try to put together what really happened–I think that would take someone with real insider knowledge or at least a good connection to some of the people who appeared on both–and that’s part of why it is, at best, a hypothesis that “Dance in My Pants” and “Dead Ringer for Love” could have switched. The fact that I’ve never heard it anywhere else probably says plenty about how much of stretch it really is.
- Ellen Foley definitely has had some resentments over the years about how Karla DeVito was treated more as the “real” voice of “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” by fans but she continued to work with Steinman after this while I believe this is the last time DeVito and Steinman appear together. That makes it a surprise that DeVito is the lead here instead of Foley. It’s another point making me wonder if she got this vocal as a consolation prize for giving “Dead Ringer for Love” to Cher. (As an aside, if anything like what I propose here happened, that really was a contest with no winners. Neither song got anywhere, even with Cher and Meat Loaf both bringing star power to “Dead Ringer for Love.”)
- I still just cannot believe how bad the lyrics and Steinman’s spoken delivery are on this song.
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