1983, Music

Cuts Like a Knife (1983) by Bryan Adams

I’m Canadian, so like every Canadian under a certain age, I know Adams’ hit singles rather well, whether or not I wanted to know them at all. But this is the first record of his I’ve ever heard. It sounds very much like I would expect Bryan Adams to sound (and I’ve heard the title track more times than I can count) but it also leaves me wondering, how did this happen?

Maybe it’s true what they say: most of us form our musical tastes in our tweens and teens and don’t really expand them much after that (though we do continue listening to new stuff, on average, until our mid 20s). Adams seems to have been some kind of musical prodigy, as he was made lead singer of a band well before it was legal for him to drink. So my theory is that Adams fell in love with arena rock in his tweens and early teens and then started playing it. When punk came around he was already too fully formed to be caught up by it. That’s my theory.

I have this theory because this record (and, I assume, his earlier and later records) are made in complete ignorance of punk’s revitalizing force. Listening to this record it’s as if punk never happened, and we’re still living in the early ’70s listening to Grand Funk Raliroad or what have you. (In Adams’ defense, this record sounds better than a lot of early ’70s arena rock.) In fact, listening to this actually caused me to look up Adams’ age and career, as I started wondering if he was 5 or 10 years older than I thought. Nope, he’s younger than the punks. But unlike just about every other white male musician of his generation, he wasn’t inspired at least a little by punk. I guess he should get points for bucking the trend, but that’s seriously weird.

And it’s a big problem for me because this is polished earnestness and I generally like my earnestness raw, if I like it at all. Though the record sounds like it was recorded with ’80s musical technology, the music itself is of another time, for the most part, and just feels as though it was made by people living in a very sheltered space. I guess that’s why his music is so appealing: it’s catchy and it’s safe. But it doesn’t do anything at all for me.

I will say that it’s clear he’s talented, I just think he should have chosen another path.


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