I’ll write for you: Bryan Adams

Tom has a go at Bryan Adams’ laboriously titled (Everything I Do) I Do It For You,” which spent sixteen weeks at Number One in England — an unsurpassed record. Adducing his good sportsmanship and dedication, he listens to it sixteen times and posts his reactions. His conclusions? “I still find it quite hard to get a grip on,” he confesses before awarding it a “4.”

I had the same reaction in 1991; so did my friends. Although its reign wasn’t as imperial in the States, it still managed to hold the Top 40 hostage for most of the summer after Paula Abdul’s slushy “Rush Rush” oozed away on its own trail of slime. The singing, playing, Michael Kamen arrangement, lyrics — none of it offends me. None of it moves me. I had lots of girl friends in the summer before my senior year of high school, most of whom pined for men as sexy as the ones whose chests and hair are luminously shown on the cassingle cover of Extreme’s “More Than Words,” or identified with Marie Fredriksson’s plight in “Fading Like a Flower (Every Time You Leave),” Roxette’s last big hit in America and their best ballad, albeit a forgotten one; but no one, to use the vulgar, ambiguity-fraught word I was just learning, “related” to the Adams ballad. It created its own momentum: it was on a soundtrack to a monstrous blockbuster Kevin Costner movie, a ballad, and sung by Bryan Adams. The last fact struck me as odd then and now, for after the tepid sales for 1987’s Into The Fire the pop audience regarded him as a faded star whose admittedly massive streak (five top fifteen singles from 1985’s Reckless!) persisted as nostalgia; despite the ubiquity of “Run to You” and “Summer of ’69,” Adams as superstar cutie was as vacuous as Corey Hart.

As T.S. Eliot wrote, after such knowledge, what forgiveness? The pairing of Adams and Robert “Mutt” Lange, a producer who is to sonic heft what Albert Speer was to architecture, produced a couple of decent chugalug rockers on Wake Up The Neighbors: the Number Two followup “Can’t Stop This Thing We Started” and a far better ballad called “Do I Have to Say the Words?” which, besides serving as the soundtrack to my first summer job in 1992,* boasts a guitar solo searching for a compelling song. And this is Adams’ problem. A hack by nature can’t surprise himself, much less his audience, which is why he’s incapable of the novelty sufficient to woo back the audience after its attention starts to wander, as it did after 1995’s “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman.” Its title, by the way, offers yet more evidence of Adams’ knack for them. Imagine Erasure claiming it. Imagine Adams covering “Star.”

* Miami Subs. The second and most played: Genesis’ “Hold On My Heart” and Kathy Troccoli’s “Everything Changes,” the latter proudly boasting the best Taylor Dayne vocal I’ve ever heard.