MOMENTOUS MONDAYS: INFLUENTIAL ARTISTS OF ALL TIME – WEEK 32: BRYAN ADAMS

Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I feel that artists can be too good for the period of the time in which they were impactful and prevalent in. Hear me out though. Take this new artist Bryan Adams for example, of which I am going to be discussing. Amongst the sea of countless other music artists, one could assume and think that this person Bryan hardly stands tall amongst the rest at all- besides, I’m sure everyone has heard of artists like Rascal Flatts, Owl City, Carrie Underwood, Shania Twain, Phil Collins and Ed Sheeran, to name a few. But Bryan Adams? Ok, maybe the people who indeed grew up with music from the 1980s have heard his presence on the radio, but for the average commonfolk who has just been listening to the radio all these years and nothing else, can an artist like Bryan cut through all the supposition and assumptions, and make his own music known in a world where image and how you project yourself can in many ways be more important on a fan-based level than the actual songs and meanings of them in the first place? Let me say from the outset- Bryan Adams is a legend in his own right. He is a influencer, a musician, a singer-songwriter, and a passionate guy who wants to connect feeling and emotion through the way he knows how- through music. But had it not been for this blog series, and me taking a gamble on hearing a few popular songs from the 1980s as influence for this series in general, I would not have heard Bryan and his music at all- except for his crossover hits ‘Summer of ‘69’ and ‘Everything I Do (I Do It For You)’, which is a tremendous shame. I would’ve carried on my life listening to what I’ve been listening to- nothing wrong with that; but looking at my own life and the musical tastes I have now compared to even at the beginning of 2019, I’ve taken more risks, which is a good thing. Bryan Adams is one such risk, and a well-received one. For Bryan’s knack for creating 1980s songs that still have that aura and connection about them now as I’m sure the songs had back then is nothing short of genius and maybe, God-given. Bryan’s songs have influenced a generation far and wide, and though he may even be reaching a demographic group on a generation level higher than myself, the songs nevertheless have profound meaning, asserting my view that he is one of my top 5 most surprising (in a good way) artists I’ve come across in my blog series of 32 artists (out of 100, and then a further 20 world-class artists) thus far.

I don’t know if there’s any basis upon my assertion and claim that Canadian musicians have a much more down-to-earth appeal to them and their craft than their American counterparts, but what I have clearly seen to be true is that many Canadian musicians have had great things to say through their music- meaning that seems to be a little lacking when it comes to people hailing from the U S of A. Shania Twain, Celine Dion, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendes, Matt Maher, Relient K, Hawk Nelson and Amanda Cook, all hail from the country to the north, and all have made significant contributions to music in general, a reminder that music in its purest and realist form doesn’t always have to be from the United States for it to be good. Bryan Adams and his music as a whole is also further testament and a reminder of this fact. For me, I’ve spend the greater part of a week and a half listening to Bryan’s music, and while even a year ago, I probably wouldn’t have touched any music outside of CCM, I’m much more open to music in a variety of forms now, and Bryan’s distinct arena rock and 1980s/1990s flavour is much more accessible, honest, real and emotive compared to the styles that music in general is chasing at the moment. Bryan’s songs are certainly transcend the artist in a good way; as we realise that songs, if they’re great, are just great- regardless who’s singing it. Our preconceived ideas of artists and what the music should sound like is all thrown out the window when we see Bryan’s music for what it is- songs that impart a discourse and a narrative, reminding us of the human condition and the strive and struggle for each of us in this crazy highway of life.

For Bryan Adams to have more of an influence than I initially thought he did, would be a grave understatement. For me, I’m always constantly altering my 100 list. I know I shouldn’t but as I come across artists here and there that I hear about, I ponder- I re-evaluate, and shift artists around accordingly. But for Bryan Adams and his music, let’s just say that he crept up on me in the most encouraging way possible- a reminder that an artist so impactful and empowering can still exist and I couldn’t really understand or even know about it- and in essence, I’ve been taught a lot about humbleness and humility from these last couple of weeks. Because I don’t really know that much in terms of music. I mean, music has all these different genres and styles, and for me to arrogantly say that these 100 artists are definitively part of this list that is quite indeed subjective (but many can certainly argue the contrary) is indeed folly. Bryan Adams and his music came along last week in the most unique way- and since then, I’m much more receptive to what God is trying to speak to me through artists like Bryan and others that I may not have heard…yet.

With Bryan in the industry for 29 years (and 14 albums across that time period as well!), I am not going to bore you with information as I have done in previous blog posts. There is Wikipedia, songfacts, google for all your information needs on this Canadian who is ironically one of the most impactful musicians in America in modern music history and physical song and album sales. But Bryan’s music has and will continue to have relevance in a society today, now more than ever. If I can speak honestly, I’m not that entirely well-versed on Bryan’s music as a whole, as I was on previous artists discographies…and that’s ok. I don’t always have to come across as a scholar on musical matters of a certain artist in question, for me to appreciate that particular artist’s music, full stop. Bryan’s music is such as this to me- I’ve heard the chart-topping songs. Yes, you know them- ‘Heaven’, ‘Summer of 69’, ‘Here I Am’, ‘Run to You’, ‘Can’t Stop This Thing We’ve Started’, ‘There Will Never Be Another Tonight’, ‘Please Forgive Me’, ‘All For Love’ , ‘When You’re Gone’, ‘Have You Really Loved a Woman’, ‘Cloud Number 9’ and ’18 Til I Die’, to name a few, and I’m sure there are much, much more hits I’ve missed. And for me to write an expose about each of these songs can seem a little pointless. Sort of how I wrote in my U2 post and my Switchfoot post before then, I’ll say this again, this time about Bryan’s music- a lot can happen in about 30 years- you can grow up from a kid to now, you can experience all these life events. Wars can happen. You can be married, have kids, change jobs and careers multiple times. Or you can witness and marvel at the fact that Bryan Adams is one of the many artists that have placed their own stamp on music in general. Just like how U2 and their ministry, if you will, has placed Irish music a whole on the map for people to take notice (and Irish styled and Celtic genre music, but that’s another blog entirely!); Bryan’s music has indeed given Canada and music in Canada a great name. Bryan’s raspy voice and its similarity to that of UK icon Rod Stewart has only worked in Bryan’s favour. His songs have a sense of honesty and familiarity to them, even if you’ve only heard them for a few times over.

Songs like ‘Heaven’, speaks of a love so great and pure between lovers and significant others, that they feel like they’re in heaven in each other’s arms, while ’18 Til I Die’ longs for the youthfulness of yesterday to always be the case both now into the future, and ‘There Will Never Be Another Tonight’ speaks of the prevalence and the necessity of living in the now, because as this song suggests- there may never be another ‘tonight’, and thus, we ought to live like the opportunities to undertake certain things may never happen for a long time. Our lives matter, and Bryan’s music has given myself a reminder never to assume anything about anyone- because from first glance, you’d assume Bryan’s only impactful songs are ‘Everything I Do’ and ‘Summer Of 69’, because that’s all that I knew, before going into this. That cannot be further from the truth- Bryan’s music is so much more than the singles that chart the radio, as with any artist. I’ve mentioned this before in many of my other blog posts, and I will reiterate this here too- the key to an artist’s impact is not the realness and the catalyst that their chart-topping songs can have on society, but rather, the songs that seemingly go under the radar, that when no one’s looking, a song that may not be as well known, can touch someone’s life in a radical and profound way, altering their life for the better. Bryan’s music, especially for me, songs like ‘Open Road’, ‘Shine A Light’, ‘There Will Never Be Another Tonight’, ‘All I Want is You’, even ‘Cloud Number 9’, have all reminded me that a lesser known song isn’t a lesser known song because of its quality- maybe in another universe, these songs that were in fact under the radar may have been the chart-toppers and vice versa. Therefore, all songs have the same potential of impacting someone’s life, not just the ‘singles’. Even the artist in general, and the lives they lead, can also give inspiration to the listener of said songs too, and Bryan’s lifestyle outside of music is one of activism, hope, and passion, things that are seemingly undercut in today’s society as a whole. Nevertheless, Bryan’s songs have revolutionised Canadian music, and are still continuing to have a great impact to society today- there’s a video floating around (hand-held of course!) of a duet between Bryan Adams and Taylor Swift, singing Bryan’s song ‘Summer of 69’. It is a reminder than songs certainly cross generational boundaries, and even stylistic and genre boundaries- Bryan is a much more arena rock artist, while Taylor is country/pop. And ‘Summer of 69’ is…well that song is in a class of its own. A classic from the 1980s, regardless if you know of Bryan’s music or you don’t.

‘…You always hope a song will be good enough. But, yeah, it’s quite difficult to edge a new song into the set, because something has to go. The song quality has to be pretty high for an old favourite to go. You can’t be conscious of it when you’re writing, though. You just have to do the best job you can on a song… If a song is in the set, then you have to play it as good as it can be. I’m not going to down-gear just because I’ve played a song a lot. I can’t even think that small. The record is the template, and anything below that is sub-par. It’s why the musicianship is so high in my band, because those guys deliver on a big level. They’re never going to play a lesser version of the song just because it’s older. Who does that? If you make music, make it as great as you can…’ It is in these interviews where Bryan gets candid and real that I can relate to his music all the more. Bryan, though a private person (I don’t think he’s married, and his presence on the internet isn’t as much as other artists), has nevertheless created songs for the public space, and songs that can transform a public space if we can see past the 1980s and 1990s sheen that most of Bryan’s material has…which isn’t a bad thing, not at all. Much of the 1980s and 1990s music has a certain quality about it, that is favourable and real in a sense that people are drawn to it. I know I have been over the last few months, hearing songs and albums from artists who haven’t had their peak time now, but back then. And that’s ok. Music from different time periods strike a chord with different people, and it is in these differences in opinion about which genre and decade connects with us the most, that we can find a way to at least see the merit in certain artists and songs over the course of music as history. And to tell you the truth- I didn’t realise Bryan was as big popularity-wise, as he indeed was. And maybe that means I’ve lived more of a sheltered life than I would care to imagine, but all in all- Bryan’s songs, especially his singles, define the culture and time period in which they were in. As U2 is to rock, and Michael Jackson is to pop, and The Beatles is to music period, so to is Bryan Adams to arena rock, and music from the 1980s that has changed the course of where music is today.

Upon reading his Wikipedia, I was amazed and maybe even kicking myself that I hadn’t heard of Bryan Adams (except for the songs ‘Everything I Do’ and ‘Summer of 69’) any sooner. A Canadian singer-songwriter, Bryan is also a record producer, philanthropist, guitarist, activist, and even a photographer. His songs ‘All For Love’ and ‘Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman’ were in the movies The Three Musketeers and Don Juan DeMarco respectively, and his 20 Juno Award wins amongst his 56 nominations, alongside his 15 Grammy Award nominations, his 5 Golden Globe Award nominations and his 3 Oscar nominations, really speak for the influential and heartfelt man of music that he is. He has been using his platform as a recording artist in his philanthropy for quite some time- in 2006, Bryan was the first ‘Western’ artist to perform in a primarily Muslim nation- Pakistan, after 9/11, while in 2007, Bryan also performed in both Tel Aviv and Jericho as part of a movement to raise awareness of the futility and the anguish that comes along with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Bryan has also been advocating for animals for most of his life, since becoming a vegan in 1989. Personally myself, I don’t think that I can give up my eggs, dairy and fish, let alone meat, for the rest of my life- and so I commend him for taking such a stand. Bryan’s veganism according to him has improved his health quite profoundly, and while for me I don’t think I can last a day without meat, I am amazed at the commitment Bryan has given this lifestyle change. It is his steadfast firm grounding in his beliefs outside of music (his philanthropy and veganism) that has made me respect his music all the more, and a reminder that what you do outside of music matters, not just to yourself, but matter to every fan of your music.

And now I’m sure what you have all been waiting for when you’ve been reading this blog- when is he going to discuss Bryan’s song ‘Everything I Do’? Well…now actually. Arguably his biggest song to date, this chart-topping melody written specifically for the 1991 movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, starring Kevin Costner, was in fact one of a few songs Bryan sung for movies (‘Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman’ and ‘All For Love’ being the other two). The song itself is a reminder about devotion and a steadfast love we all as humans should strive towards. A song that was written from the point of view of Robin Hood singing to Maid Marian, ‘Everything I Do’ was written with ex-husband of Shania Twain, ‘Mutt’ Lange, and in no less than 45 minutes. As Bryan himself extrapolates the song and the story behind it, we are given a glimpse into genius at work- ‘…writing ‘Everything I Do’ with Mutt took about 45 minutes and it was a moment that I’ve only felt a few times – it’s the moment when you know it’s a good song, you don’t know if it’s a hit, you just know it’s good…’ ‘…I feel great about that song, it’s one of the reasons I’m still out there. It’s always worked live, so I enjoy singing it. It’s one you can’t replace in the show, you’d be really hard-pressed to leave that one out…’ For me, I’ve always felt a spiritual connection to the song, and it is a reminder of how much I know my Father in Heaven loves me. It is a sign of devotion of Christians to Christ, and a telling reminder of the lengths that I know Christ went for myself and humanity in general to be reconciled back to Himself. By all intensive purposes, Bryan Adams wrote a quasi-romantic quasi-worship song, without him even realising it. And maybe those are the best songs that people can worship along to and alongside, for songs that can have double or triple meanings are great, and a song like ‘Everything I Do’ is one such melody. UK gospel artist Philippa Hanna even covered the song on her facebook page, altering some lyrics and writing a ‘Christian’ version. That is how popular the song is and the reach it has had over the years. If Bryan Adams can be remembered for only one song, this is it- a melody that defines what it means by having and giving unconditional love to the other.

I love an interview that Bryan himself did a few months back, promoting his new album Shine a Light, and how he says that he doesn’t believe in endings, maybe in relation to retiring, or even settling down- because as far as I know, he’s never married. And I have found such an assertion fascinating, because I know that all good things end, and all things end period. I guess sometimes when you’re in a business of giving oneself to the masses, either in the form of music or photography or philanthropy or otherwise, there is never really a moment where you do ‘retire’ per se- you never have an ‘ending’ to your career- you just move on and your career can look a little different, but your message of connection, emotion, relationship, and themes like hope, asking the questions ‘why’, those things will still be the same. It is a reminder that even as Christians in this life, we must never look at life like as something that we need to finish- we’re always learning and growing, always admitting when we get things wrong, and exploring the things that we believe God has imprinted on our hearts to undertake. Bryan’s career and his attitude to life has rubbed off on me in a good way. It has re-evaluated my love and appreciation of 1980s and 1990s music, and for that and that alone, his music and him in a general sense, has influenced and shaped my wide array and direction of music of late.

And that is a good thing and scary at the same time- for so long I have loved only CCM and to see this year me branching out into different music, can be a good thing, but also be an illuminating thing as to how I only solely thought God could speak through CCM and nothing else. I was naïve, but now I am reminding myself on a daily basis that artists like Bryan Adams, and even previously in artists like The Corrs, Sara Bareilles, Ed Sheeran, One Republic, Martina McBride and Avril Lavigne to name a few; have just as much a place in my life as artists like for KING AND COUNTRY, Skillet, Switchfoot, Tenth Avenue North and Michael W. Smith. And that statement alone marks the beauty that comes with allowing God to use music, no matter the label, to bring people together in conversations and discussions. Bryan’s music will certainly promote discussion, both now and maybe in decades to come!

Does Bryan Adams make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Best Influential Artists of All Time’ list? Is there any song (other than ‘Everything I Do’ and ‘Summer of 69’) that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!

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