Meat Loaf

Life Is a Lemon and I Want My Money Back

Composed by Jim Steinman

Song Review by

One of Meat Loaf’s great skills as a performer is his ability to take Jim Steinman’s sardonically witty tunes, songs that might sound like goofball jokes in the hands of the wrong singer, and give them the kind of conviction that makes them sound like high drama. A great example of this skill is "Life Is A Lemon And I Want My Money Back," a stomping rocker that wraps serious feelings in a cryptically witty metaphor. The lyrics use the title phrase as the backbone of a funny yet impassioned rant that compares a less than satisfactory life to a faulty car: "It’s always something/There’s always something going wrong/That’s the only guarantee/That’s what this is all about." The heart of the lyrics lies in an extended call-and-response bit where each element of the narrator’s defective life is picked apart with a hearty shout of "It’s defective!" (Example: "What about hope?/it’s defective/It’s corroded and decayed/What about faith?/It’s defective/It’s tattered and its frayed."). The music backing up these sentiments is suitably forceful, combining swaggering verses full of angrily swinging notes to a neo-operatic chorus that builds that pumps things up to a cathartic height. This lengthy tune could have come off as a bloated joke but Meat Loaf makes it work on his recording of "Life Is A Lemon And I Want My Money Back" by giving it all his heart: he whips himself into an earth-shattering frenzy, building from a clenched-teeth murmur to a defiant wail over a combination of thudding drums, ominous synths, and fierce guitar riffs. It’s thrilling stuff, especially during the call-and-response parts where he ratchets up the drama with each stanza as he lays out his complaints about each "defective" element of life. It all added up to a one-of-a-kind bombastic rocker that became a top-20 hit as a single and remains a highlight of Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell 1993 MCA 6:03
No Image 1996 MCA
Live Around the World 1996 Tommy Boy
The Very Best of Meatloaf 1998 Epic 7:59
VH1 Storytellers 1999 Beyond 6:05
The Best of Meat Loaf 2003 Virgin EMI
Icon 2014 Geffen 7:59
No Image
Various Artists
Mixed Repertoire 7:59
blue highlight denotes editor's pick