Reckless, by Bryan Adams
If Bryan Adams had become increasingly well-known as an artist after releasing three albums, it was perhaps unexpected how popular he would end up being as a result of the release of his fourth album. Having had a few hits, he was poised to make a major jump in popularity, and this album did so, selling millions of copies and spawning seven hit singles from an album of only ten songs, a massive achievement that few albums reach. Few albums in any artist’s body of work have been more massive than this one, and compared with subsequent albums, this particular work was designed not merely as a collection of popular rock tunes, but also a concept album of sorts about a doomed relationship. With this context in mind, does this album hold up in its 2014 remaster or is it simply a nostalgic trip to the middle of the 1980’s?
Reckless begins with “One Night Love Affair,” a melancholy song that features a reflective look on a one-night stand that left both people with nothing even if they pretended that they didn’t care about what was going on. “She’s Only Happy When She’s Dancing” attempts to be cheerful about a woman who loves to dance and finds it as her chief happiness in life, but it comes off rather melancholy in reflection. Similarly, “Run To You” tells a story of a man’s struggle to be honest with his side piece about the fact that he goes to her only because his partner, whom he claims to love, isn’t very good at lovemaking. “Heaven,” taken as a standalone song, is an aid to faithful devotion over the long haul of a relationship, but in light of the context of the album, those feelings are a bit undercut by the rest of the album. “Somebody” is a rather artless call for someone to be with the narrator because he needs “someone” because he doesn’t want to be alone. “Summer of 69” calls back to the nostalgia of youth and young love in light of the troubles of the narrator’s contemporary life, and is unsurprisingly an enduring classic in the singer’s body of work. “Kids Wanna Rock” is a callout to fans who wanted to rock in the face of music trends like New Wave that were trying to move rock music in a more pop-centered direction. “It’s Only Love,” a sizzling duet featuring Tina Turner, is an attempt to minimize the importance of relationships in the face of love’s fickleness. “Long Gone” sings of a relationship that are long gone, which makes sense in light of the foregoing. The album then ends with “Ain’t Gonna Cry,” which shows the narrator putting on a brave face and pretending (?) that he does not care about a past lover.
When looked at as a concept album, this album works as a rock album that is simultaneously also a commentary on the attitude of rock singers towards love and music. It is not surprising that this album was so popular–it had something for almost everyone, whether it was inarticulate young men wanting songs praising rock & roll music or expressing their inchoate desire not to be alone (“Kids Wanna Rock” and “Somebody”), including some introspection about love gone wrong (“One Night Love Affair” and “It’s Only Love”), heartfelt ballads (“Heaven”), or songs about the complexities of adult love and relationships and a nostalgia for the past (“Run To You,” “Summer Of 69”). If this album does not feel as honest and vulnerable as some of Adams’ earlier work, it is certainly an accessible work that marks a worthy high point in the singer’s body of work.