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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.
Chris Molanphy, a pop-chart analyst and author of Slate’s “Why Is This Song No. 1?” series, tells tales from a half-century of chart history. Through storytelling, trivia, and song snippets, Chris dissects how that song you love—or hate—dominated the airwaves, made its way to the top of the charts, and shaped your memories forever.