Shine A Light, by Bryan Adams
If you’re a fan of Bryan Adams, as I am, then you will know that he is definitely well on his path as a legacy act, with popular live shows to devoted fans but with limited album sales and a distinct lack of hit singles. And yet every few years he releases a new album like this one to demonstrate that he is indeed still making new music and of course that music happens to be pretty good but also not the sort of thing that a radio station will play. This album, like every album of new music he has released since On A Day Like Today in the late 1990’s, has a similar feel to it with Adams’ world-weary voice, various sometimes contradictory treatments of love and relationships, and a general nostalgic tone to it, as well as a refusal to sing the sort of ballads that got him a lot of his hits. And if you know that going in, this album can be an enjoyable listening experience as it was for me. Here is a track-by-track review:
Shine A Light – The album opener, this number is definitely an attempt by Bryan Adams to make an optimistic and anthemic song that appeals to optimism, a rather strange mood in this dark time.
That’s How Strong Our Love Is (f/Jennifer Lopez) – This song has a beautiful instrumental and both Adams and Lopez do a good job at presenting themselves, although this particular song is a mid-tempo love song without being a ballad that Adams has been doing for a while now, and it is interesting to see whether he thought it would be hit somehow.
Part Friday Night, Part Sunday Morning – This song is a surprisingly beautiful one as Adams looks at someone–it is unclear exactly what relationship he has with her–who appears to be caught in between various qualities. The feeling of being complex and not entirely coherent is handled with surprising graciousness and this is a standout.
Driving Under The Influence Of Love – This song somewhat undercuts the mood of the last song by presenting a mood of being down on love with a classic rock feel. This is a song that could have played out of a jukebox in the late 70’s or early 80’s without any difficulty and yet it is here.
All Or Nothing – This song really left no impression on me after hearing it. I can’t say it was a bad song it’s just not a particularly memorable one as far as I am concerned and that is a great shame.
No Time For Love – Here is another sort of down on love song that has a lot of classic rock feel to it, which is pretty remarkable, I have to say. This album has a tonal issue when it comes to dealing with love songs in that it cannot decide to be pro or anti-love, which is a strange dissonance to have when it doesn’t feel as if any of these relationships are real.
I Could Get Used To This – Here again we have another tonal shift that shows a more positive side of love and relationships where Adams’ narrator opines that he could get used to the sort of relationship that he is enjoying. Again, though, the shifts in tone from one song to another make it hard for there to be a consistent feeling about anything.
Talk To Me – While this song isn’t as memorable as Stevie Nicks’ song of the same title, it has a similar pro-communication message that is an enjoyable one to listen to. If it is one of the stronger tracks on the album it is also one that is part of a larger incoherence in the album as a whole.
The Last Night On Earth – A strangely prescient song, this number is one of many that has been released recently reflecting on what it would be like if the world was in fact ending. It is interesting to see Adams participate in this narrative with a song that is pleasant and enjoyable to listen to.
Nobody’s Girl – This song comes off as being a bit of fan service in the sense that “Nice For What” was for Drake. The point is the same in that Adams celebrates a woman who decides to remain free and belong to no one, a nod to the female fans of Adams that have stuck by him loyally through the years.
Don’t Look Back – This song is a strange one, in that it discusses the avoidance of looking back even as the song and the album as a whole look back in terms of their musical style and approach as well as their relationship to Adams’ body of work as a whole. If the message certainly is a strong one, Adams is a strange messenger given his own tendency to look back here and elsewhere.
Whiskey In The Jar – A surprisingly moving song about the generational effects of alcoholism, this song feels country and in listening to it I was surprised that it wasn’t played on country radio because it would be a strikingly neo-traditional take on a deep and meaningful subject. This is one of the best songs on the album and certainly the most surprising.
Overall, this is a good album if you judge the songs individually. Adams clearly has co-written some solid songs and the instrumental backing (even with a lot of different musicians) is very excellent as well. While none of the songs seemingly charted anywhere, this is an album that is certainly of quality. Yet as a whole it is a bit less than the sum of its parts. This album is a selection of solid and competent and occasionally excellent songs, but it doesn’t appear as if anyone involved in the album’s production thought about the importance of making a coherent album with a unified tone and perspective. Still, if you are a fan of Bryan Adams at this point, this is an album that will be appreciated.