With a running time of 4:38, it’s a fairly energetic e positive song with a BPM of 128. “The way life’s meant to be” is track 5 on the 1981 album Time and was the last track to be released as a single from the album in the UK. It starts with gentle violins, and continues with flamenco-like guitar playing, and castanets. The south Mediterranean sound continues throughout the vocal and choiring on the refrain. Continuing the theme of time travel, the lyrics deal with the protagonist’s Future Shock at seeing his town over a 100 years later, and his disappointment at how the future is not nearly as utopian as the people of 1981, himself included, had predicted.
It was the 1st single since “Nightrider” in 1976 that failed to chart in the UK. The B-side was “Wishing” taken from the Discovery album. The song was recorded at the Polar Studios in Stockholm, Sweden, unlike the majority of the songs of the album that were recorded at Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany.
It seemed to be a pessimistic view on that song.
Yeah, well, in that particular song he’s like walking down the same street that it was before, like say a 100 years before. But uh, even though he’s on the same bit of ground, everything that he knew is like, buried under this new shit, y’know, that’s growing up on top of it, all these plastic ivory towers and stuff.
Ah, the castanets. It was a bit Russian but we put castanets on it and it became Spanish.
— Jeff Lynne (1981 – Interview with Jim Ladd)