Album Review – Bryan Adams – Shine a Light

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REVIEW – Bryan AdamsShine a Light

I got the album to review while I was visiting my best friend, Vanessa, in Florida. Just two dog moms, sitting at her kitchen island with our Bikini Blondes and Trader Joe’s Churro Bites – we thought we might be, despite our young age (thirty-six), the ideal audience for this album. She is a huge Dave Matthews’ Band fan, and I like literally everything that isn’t DMB, so we had hope that one of us would like one of these songs.

We didn’t account for how deeply sarcastic I am, or how much she eggs me on. And with this ridiculously cheesy album, it was impossible for either of us to keep a straight face through a single song. From the first notes of the title track, Shine a Light, she pointed out how much it sounded like Christian pop. I was stunned to discover that Ed Sheeran co-wrote it, but after listening to it a few more times, I have decided that it’s tolerable. Unfortunately, that is not how I felt about the album overall.

The album is country, with some good electric guitar moments on All or Nothing, but it’s saccharine and dated, which is, I guess, predictable. That’s How Strong Our Love Is, features J-Lo, which also baffled me. It’s… not good… but I could picture my mom and stepdad dancing to this in their kitchen, and that redeems it slightly. I Could Get Used to This has almost no lyrics beyond Woo hoo/yeah yeah/I could get used to this and I’m frustrated by the meaninglessness of this album (and, possibly, life in general). At such a politically charged moment in time, it’s too bland. I expected more from a Canadian icon… at least musically, if not morally.

Driving Under the Influence of Love is one of four songs on the album co-written with Jim Vallance, and after diving into a Wikipedia hole, I discovered that this partnership gave us some of Adams greatest hits, but because Vallance didn’t focus solely on writing with Adams, they didn’t speak from 1989 to 2003. On Don’t Look Back you’ll hear some of the greatness of this once-epic duo; on the rest of their co-written tracks, you’ll hear what Adams meant when he complained that Vallance was giving his best material to bands like Glass Tiger and Aerosmith.

By the time we get to the tenth track, Nobody’s Girl, my bestie and I are ready for it to be over. This song reminds me of something I can’t put my finger on… something I maybe would have liked once upon a time. I quip to Vanessa, “You know what’s a good song? Uptown Girl. Want to listen to that?”

If any song could redeem this album, it’s the last song on the album, Whiskey in The Jar, because I enjoy the harmonica and the word whiskey. But Vanessa is not impressed with the lyrics. Whack for my daddy-o/It’s whiskey in my jar-oh – “What does that mean?” she asks me incredulously. “Who wrote this album?” we wonder aloud. Turns out this is a cover of a song of unknown origins. The most popular versions are by Metallica or The Dubliners, and by comparison, Adams version might actually be a better one. But it’s far from a hit, and the album is, overall, forgettable. 

Bryan Adams is the 250th most-followed artist on Spotify, which is huge considering that anyone I know who is part of his fanbase is still listening to CDs. In an interview with ET Canada, Adams talks about going back to make the album more modern, re-working it right up until the day of its release, and tries to put the kibosh on any talk of his impending 60th birthday. He says he can’t help but write music and that he might write thirty songs for an album that only contains twelve or sixteen of those. As a wannabe writer, I know you have to produce a lot of crap to find one nugget of goodness. I might write twenty pages and find I only wrote one sentence worth saving. This album feels like that month I kept a stream-of-consciousness journal that didn’t really tell a story. It doesn’t seem absolutely necessary to me that Bryan Adams release an album every two years to stay relevant. Everything I Do and Heaven will always be relevant. No song on this album will ever live up to those. It’s a no, for me. 

Review – Carrie-Ann Kloda

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