Guilty Pleasures, Round One: Meat Loaf (5) vs. Garth Brooks (12)
EW’s Music Mix is searching for the Greatest Guilty Pleasure Musical Act of All Time. With 32 seeded contestants (see all the matchups), this tournament is sure to change hearts, minds, and lives for weeks to come. Read/listen to the following, and then cast your vote in the poll after the jump; reader comments will be used in subsequent rounds, so we encourage you to also post a comment explaining why you chose the way you did. Note: In case of a tie, please select the artist you feel more ashamed to adore. Thank you.
Meat Loaf. Meat Loaf! The argument should end there.
The man, the Meat, is less rock singer than Broadway diva. He looks like a cross between Chris Farley and Tom Arnold, which isn’t an easy sell in the recording business, and he sounds like an Andrew Lloyd Webber protegee. His trilogy of best-selling albums — Bat Out of Hell I, II, III — are more rock operas than classic rock. The man was born to wear a cape. His fans were born to lip synch his hits and writhe like mentally ill Solid Gold dancers.
You want a taste of Meat Loaf? Drag a guy up on stage with you and rip into the epic wailer “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.” You’re not at karaoke, you’re telling a three-part story that runs nearly 10 minutes long. And you’re not doing it for the audience — because they’re bored and just waiting for the bridge. Get comfortable up there. Start praying for the end of time.
You want to gorge on Meat Loaf? Put “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” on repeat and remind yourself of the moody girl whose favorite record in high school was Phantom of the Opera. (Guilty!) The song starts with motorcycle engines. Piano clashing! Meat Loaf is mournful. He would do anything for love. So much he would do. When his back-up singer Mrs. Loud asks towards the end of the song if he would hose her down in holy water if she gets too hot-hottt!, he agrees. But, she wonders, sooner or later will he be screwing around? He won’t do that! He is such a great boyfriend. Meat Loaf likes to think the song is straight out of a Camelot tale, and he is our Sir Lancelot. Michael Bay directed the video, of course. Meat Loaf has scars on his face and long nails like the monster in Beauty and the Beast. There’s a bespectacled detective after him and a scared pretty lady in a satin gown and lots of shots of yellow police tape and antique jewelry.
But the best way to listen to “I’d Do Anything for Love” is at home with a captive audience. I scared my baby the other day when I danced to Meat Loaf in front of her. I clawed at the air, I pumped my fists in the air, I crawled on the ground and got in the face of a little girl with quivering lip. Poor thing wanted her Mommy back. I feel guilty about that. By the end of the song though she was laughing at me and wanted me to go again. That’s the power of Meat Loaf, man. — Karen Valby
Garth Brooks’ favorite band in elementary school was KISS. He’s a country singer hardcore country fans won’t claim. He looks bad in jeans. His head is too fat for his cowboy hat. He swings from ropes and shoots off pyrotechnics at his concerts. God I love Garth Brooks.
It’s cool to like KISS. Good taste, Garth! It’s not cool to love Garth. Which is why for a shameful 10-year period after college I didn’t keep my copies of No Fences, Ropin’ the Wind (oh Garth, you goofball), or even his eponymous first album on the CD rack. It was a vulnerable age, where people become snobby and judgmental about their music collections, and I didn’t need my new New York friends thinking that I was into a doughy man who wore a headset and a satin lightning bolt on his pearl-button shirt.
Was it ever cool to like Garth Brooks? When I moved to Texas for college in 1992 I was first introduced to the piano trillings of “The Dance.” It’s a perfect song, really — for sorority girls who love their besties to death and are worried that they won’t survive their semesters abroad without each other. Or for me, a girl new to Texas, new to country music, primed for sentimentality and messages of carpe diem. I listened to the song, reveling in his comforting voice and bad poetry, on repeat for that first month away from home.
It seemed sorority girls liked to listen to “The Dance” and hug. Frat guys gravitated more towards “Friends in Low Places,” the dopiest, catchiest song that seemed to signal last call at every cheap bar in town. Garth snarls, he dips his voice down low, he rallies the uncouth and underdressed to smash a beer can on their heads and barf out on the sidewalk. He gave every drunken idiot an even louder, more obnoxious voice. But dammit I guarantee you that if you got a couple shots of Jäger in you, you’d sling your arm around your buddy’s neck and holler the chorus in her ear too. The song is like a dumb dog — slobbery, loyal, fun, kinda ugly. But you love that dog.
I don’t understand why more people don’t love Garth Brooks. Is it because of his ridiculous shirts? Is it because of his ill-advised experimentation with his moody rock alter ego Chris Gaines? Have they never wandered into a bar and played Shameless on the jukebox? God, I love Garth Brooks. — KV
Photo Credit: Meat Loaf: Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis; Garth Brooks: Bureau L.A. Collection/Corbis