Producers and songwriters have a major impact on how a finished pop song sounds, and feels. But it’s possible no hitmaking mastermind—not even Phil Spector—has had a more specific pop sound than Jim Steinman. His songs have an unmistakable signature: pounding pianos, revving motorcycles, sometimes literal thunder. And power-vocalists singing passionate lyrics that don’t always make sense but always sound like the fate of the world depends on this song.
Chris Molanphy tells the story of a fervent, headstrong songwriter who fused with a singer who called himself Meat Loaf, creating a blockbuster song cycle called Bat Out of Hell. Steinman then went on to spread his pomp-rock to other artists: Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Air Supply’s “Making Love Out of Nothing at All.” Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now.” Every song sounded like a hallelujah chorus and a Broadway show—even though Steinman’s actual Broadway show was a notorious flop. But nothing keeps Jim Steinman down. Forever’s gonna start tonight.
Podcast production by Benjamin Frisch.