Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bryan's Song

Back to You (live acoustic) - Bryan Adams (mp3)
Summer of '69 (live acoustic) - Bryan Adams (mp3)

Bryan Adams was that slut in your high school no one admitted to bedding.

Words I’ve never heard uttered:
“Bryan Adams is my favorite all-time musician ever ever ever.”

Not once. I checked Snopes.com, and there's no record of anyone ever making this claim. Not male, female, or even a transgendered person in transition.

Recently, I heard a talking head point out that Mitt Romney had only won one single solitary popular election in his entire political career. That one-time victory to lead Massachusetts was the only time he ever won an election.

Bryan Adams is the Mitt Romney of pop rock.

Billboard named him #38 on their “Hot 100 50th Anniversary Charts.” That’s, like, #38 over 50 years of pop and rock and stuff. And you just know there were staffers in that room who saw Bryan Adams landing at #38 and threatened to burn down the building. “Fuck this. This is a joke. Bryan Adams shouldn’t be #338, much less #38 on this stupid list,” they surely said. "Hell will freeze over before we sign off on this." And then, predictably, like the wuss music nerds they were, they threw a Nerf ball at the glass meeting windows with righteous vitriol and accepted that hell would just have to freeze over.

Meanwhile, no one in that room would actually defend him. Everyone would just sit quietly in their Billboard meeting room chairs, shrugging their shoulders and sharing those higher-than-thou looks of disgust. But, in their heads, quietly to themselves, they’d be humming the tune to “This Time" or "Summer of '69."

BA had 5 different albums go Platinum in the U.S. For roughly a decade, Canadians used BA songs instead of their national anthem when TV service was announcing the end of air time*.

If you know your cheesy pop music history, then you’ve already formed a theory on when the BA Train went off the rails, and it’s eight cute little words. You know it’s true. He did it for you. Somehow Morgan Freeman and Alan Rickman get away with participating in this farce, but BA gets forever damned to the fires of sellout hell.

Here’s the real problem with this theory: it assumes that at some point people loved them some Bryan Adams, and to the best of my memory and understanding, this simply isn’t true. He was never loved. People never sat around water coolers asking each other:
“Hey, you pick up that new Bryan Adams album yet?”
“Shit, he’s got a new one?? When’d it come out?”
“Tuesday. There was a hundred of us camped out down at Record Bar Monday night waitin’ for the doors to open. We was so damn pumped.”
“It’s good, huh?”
“Oh man, everything you loved about Cuts Like a Knife and Reckless gets ramped up on this one. It’s just awesome.”
No, that conversation never happened anywhere in the USA. We didn’t brag about it. We didn’t show him off. We carefully and sparsely placed him on mixtapes, more than prepared to act like it was a mock-ironic decision if someone dared question it.

In fairness, this is probably the fate he deserved: popularity sans conviction.

Hell, I was one of his fans, and it’s taken me almost 500 words to even admit it. I buried it down here in the hopes that only a few people will mock me for it later.

It’s not like he was Debbie frappin’ Gibson or Tiffany or some shit. Yet how many rock stars of any stripe would inspire, by the mere mention of his name, another rock star to consistently lose his shit? You woulda thought Ryan Adams was being mocked for being Andy Gibb. BA never aided the Nazis. He never remade “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” as some horrifying ‘70s movie. He just sang poppy rock songs and sold out a few dozen times.

I like Bryan because he made it OK to shout out "Me and my baby in a 69!" at the top of your lungs, and adults didn't seem to mind. I like him because he seemed almost semi-normal in a business (especially in the '80s) when some kind of costumed get-up or big hair or wild makeup or funky fashion statements or massive and obvious drug addictions seemed mandatory to even get your foot in the door. I like him because he crafted a mean damn hook that sold 10 million albums no one will proudly claim.

Like. Not love. Because nobody wants to own up to that level of devotion when it comes to BA.

* -- Yes, kids, there was a time in our world when most television stations signed off the air for a majority of the early morning hours. And yes, I totally made up the part about Canadian TV sign-off song, but it wouldn't surprise me. Canada is funny like that.


troutking said...

Excellent post, Billy. Bryan Adams was very good at a mediocre art form--non-threatening arena rock. When that style faded away, so did he. No big deal. Despite being very popular, he wasn't beloved because that format was kind of superficial. It never really, well, "cut like a knife." I don't think he'd be hated if he hadn't cut "that song". Same reason Kevin Costner is hated in some circles (the circle that is me, anyway). He wimped out.

Billy said...

Thanks for the observations, trout. One of the jokes I removed was trying to riff off the Tootsie Roll Pop commercial: "How many sellouts does it take to get to the center of a musician's soul?"

The harsh truth about my music loving is that I like having stuff that's non-threatening and arena-friendly in my mix of music. It keeps the musical coffee from getting to thick and viscous.

Daisy said...

I went to wedding that played a recoding of "Everything I do" during the exchanging of the rings. Same wedding played stairway to heaven during the lighting of the unity candle.

troutking said...

I agree with you, Billy. I never turn the radio or iPod dial when Summer of 69 or Cuts Like A Knife or This Time or Run To You pop up. Might not make it through Heaven, though.

Billy said...

Heaven. Ick.
One Night Love Affair? Absolutely. He put that song in a cheesy teen flick w/Val Kilmer. Vastly more awesome than Costner vehicles.