The third song on Bat out of Hell is its softest and sweetest moment, a gently sung ballad backed by piano and strings. The bombast that so defines Steinman’s work is all gone, not just sonically but (at least on the surface) lyrically as well.
The melody is a relatively simple, flowing movement almost entirely down the scale, sort of like a river winding its way down at some varying paces. That constant downward motion of the melody helps give the song a sense of constant momentum, rolling ever-forward even though there isn’t much of a sonic build-up. Meat Loaf even keeps himself restrained throughout, his power and even his vibrato and arguably over-emotive musical theater stylings are all kept in check. He even manages to hit a sustained high note without shouting at the end. (It’s admittedly not the most impressive high note of his career–wait for Bat out of Hell II for that–but it’s still impressive.)
The lyrics to “Heaven Can Wait” are somewhat confounding. In singing the first recorded demo, Bette Midler allegedly asked Steinman, “What the fuck is this song about?” Nearly every line is religious imagery, with the singer claiming that he has enough paradise to want both to stay alive and to stay in his home. He feels the calls of angels, gods, and prayers, but is able to resist because of the happiness he has achieved and the love he is getting.
Jim Steinman’s voice opens the second track of Bat out of Hell with his legendary question: “On a hot summer night, would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses?”
It’s a question with clear innuendo that includes one of the most common fantastical sexual tropes: The Big Bad Wolf who is here to devour an “innocent” female. It plays on Little Red Riding Hood‘s usual recitation of the wolf’s oversized body parts compared to the girl’s grandmother with the girl instead asking for union with the wolf’s teeth, jaws, and hunger. Then, she verbally turns the tables on this power dynamic by asking, “Will he starve without me?” and “Does he love me?” Once she agrees, he replies, “I bet you say that to all the boys.”
This introduction, while quite lyrically disconnected from the song that follows, is another example of Steinman’s satire of typical rock music tropes and their results: the “boy (Which is the name given in the liner notes–probably meant to tell us that these are decidedly not adults but again Steinman’s eternal teenagers.) is after sex while the “girl” wants it to be for love. However, what’s interesting about this bi-play is Steinman’s conclusion: “I bet you say that to all the boys.” He is seeking to end her innocence, but when faced with the actual prospect, especially after agreeing to love her, he no longer knows whether she truly is innocent.