The singer Meat Loaf, a charismatic, larger than life character, jokes that he agreed to be a critic on Popstar to Operastar because, “my demise has been greatly exaggerated. I want to show people that I haven’t ‘demised’. I could have said ‘died,’ but I wanted to stick with the old ‘rock’n’roll idiot’ image!”
A livewire presence, Meat Loaf goes on to outline what sort of critic he will be. “I’ll be looking for someone just like me,” laughs the singer, real name Michael Lee Aday. “What I mean is, I’ll be looking for is a performer who gets up on stage and says, ‘yes, I’m going to own this song’.
“I once performed a George Gershwin song in a very traditional way for an album George Martin was putting together, and it became my own. Don’t give me a hip-hop version of an aria. Just walk on there and make it your own. If you don’t, it’s not worth a dime.”
The Grammy Award-winning Meat Loaf knows all there is to know about “owning” a song. His opera-inspired 1977 album, ‘Bat Out of Hell’, has shifted in excess of 40 million units. It remained in the charts for a staggering nine years. And more than three decades after it was first released, an astonishing 200,000 copies are still sold every year.
Meat Loaf, who hails from Dallas, Texas but now lives in California, says he will be a frank and fearless critic of the contestants’ efforts on Popstar to Operastar. “If someone gets up there and obviously doesn’t take it seriously, I’ll be pretty opinionated about it.
“If they’re just doing it to be on TV, then I’ll nail them for it. And if they’re lazy and won’t rehearse, I’ll tell them, ‘you shouldn’t be here anymore because you clearly don’t care’. They better come out all guns blazing!
This hugely entertaining performer confesses that he has, “a rebellious nature that has cost me a lot over the years. I’ll flat tell people what I think. I’ll tell them to their face, ‘you suck!’” Consequently, he fears that, “I may cause friction with the other critics. I may say to them, ‘are you crazy?’ I’m sure I’ll be creating conflict on the panel!”
Meat Loaf has certainly done his research for this job. “I’ve just downloaded 100 Greatest Opera Songs, so I’ll have all those arias nailed. If I believe the singers, I won’t care if they sing the wrong words! It’s all about the emotion.”
The singer, who boasts a marvellously powerful heldentenor voice, has a strong background in opera. Recruited as a schoolboy to appear in a New York production of Carmen, he instantly fell in love with the world. “Opera people so rocked. They were unbelievably wild. I’ve never been to parties like that since – my eyes are still hanging out! Opera people might say, ‘we don’t do that sort of thing’. But they should not try to deny it – they do!”
After singing a ditty in a Central Park production of As You Like It, he was spotted and invited to train as an opera singer and appear at The Met, in New York. Meat Loaf takes up the story. “I talked to a lot of people in classical music, and I found out that unless you’re a Pavarotti or a Domingo, the conductor is in total control. I thought, ‘if I do that, I’ll wind up in prison. I may not kill the conductor, but I’ll certainly put him in hospital!’ I’ve always had that attitude – ‘don’t screw with me!’ So I turned them down.” Instead, he went into acting and pop singing – and the rest is rock history.
His love of music should make Meat Loaf a compelling critic. “I’m very passionate about this project. I get a buzz from all music – except jazz! Opera is so important in our lives – anything that moves us is important in our lives. Anything that gives us access to such high emotions has got to be massively significant.
“I’ve got a painting in my house which I love. It’s a picture of a dirt road in the California hills. Every time I look at it, I think, ‘I wonder where that goes?’ Music has the same effect – if you don’t wonder where it’s going, then it’s no good. In opera, there is always another side. Some people might think opera is over the top, but if you don’t go over the top, how are you going to know what’s on the other side?”
Meat Loaf concludes by underlining his passion for the art-from. “I love opera. It’s so exciting. If you put opera on when you drive, you can all too easily get a speeding ticket!”