On A Day Like Today, by Bryan Adams
If 18 Til I Die marked a crisis point within Adams’ discography where he struggled to maintain two very different approaches to music, one of them focused on emotionally immature rockers and intimate ballads, to a great deal of tonal dissonance, after only two years and only one year after his successful MTV Unplugged effort, Bryan Adams came out with a studio album that essentially ended his career as a popular musician within the United States, an album that featured a more mature approach to his songs and a large-scale avoidance of ballads, indicating that a great deal of his mainstream fans were interested in either his immature songs or his ballads and what is a thoughtful set of songs that I liked at the time and still enjoy today. How does this album stand up after more than twenty years?
The album begins with “How Do Ya Feel Tonight?,” a rocker that expresses the narrator’s uncertainty and suffering. “C’mon C’mon C’mon” then follows with a call for strength and persistence in the face of life’s difficulties. “Getaway” expresses a desire to escape from the problems of life by getting away, an understandable sentiment, if expressed in a rather pessimistic manner. “On A Day Like Today” offers optimism, but a hard-won sort, with a recognition of the need for salvation and purity. “Fearless” is a somewhat ominous song about a complicated relationship with someone who isn’t being very honest and forthright. “I’m A Liar,” is Bryan Adams’ entry into the Cretan paradox where someone seeks to convince someone that they are a liar, and does not portray the narrator in a positive sense. “Cloud Number Nine,” present in a studio version as well as later in the album in a dance remix, is a mid-tempo romantic song about love and happiness that is pretty mellow and enjoyable. “When You’re Gone,” featuring the Spice Girls’ Melanie C, is an upbeat song about how bad it is in one’s life when one is missing one’s partner. “Inside Out” is probably the closest thing this album has to a ballad and it is a loving song of devotion, albeit from a mature and realistic perspective. “If I Had You” is a somewhat melancholy and wistful expression of a desire to have a particular person as a partner and all the good it would do. “Before The Night Is Over” is a rather unflattering look at a case of clear mutual cheating where the narrator seeks to convince someone to set their hearts on fire with each other even though both recognize it is wrong and even though both have partners already. “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” expresses the narrator’s desire to have a good time and not live for a long time. “Where Angels Fear To Tread” is a gentle love ballad that expresses a hard-won feeling of happiness. “Lie To Me,” is another song that reflects on dishonesty on this album, and the desire to be lied to by someone who is being unfaithful. The album then ends with the dance remix of “Cloud Number Nine,” which was a moderate hit.
In listening to this album in retrospect, it is not hard to see why I lived it then and still appreciate it now. Adams is surprisingly tough-minded, calling back to his early albums and works like “Into The Fire” that present the listener with empathy but also with some tough truths about the way that people actually behave. It is to be lamented that an album which speaks of tough times and resilience and deception and self-deception as well as the moments of love and happiness that are to be found in the midst of struggle and difficulty was so completely ignored. The album is pretty coherent, generally a mid-tempo album that represents something approaching maturity in the rock world, and it was an album that was fairly popular overseas if not in the United States. It is unclear why this album was such a failure in the United States, but for those whose emotional resonance is similar to my own will probably find a great deal to enjoy here. Some of these songs are real underrated classics in the Bryan Adams body of work as a whole.