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Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Fight For Better Music
(Aside from a repeat of Broken Social Scene's performance, I didn't watch the Junos Sunday night. Not intentionally. But not unwillingly either. I can only assume that a) Pam Anderson said something controversial about the seal hunt, b) there were about 37 poorly veiled jokes about Pam Anderson's breasts and c) Jacob Hoggard walked on stage and apologized to the nation... for everything. Anyway. This will have to count as my Juno post. At some point this past weekend Bryan Adams was inducted into the Juno Hall of Fame or won a lifetime achievement award or something. Or so I can only assume.)

When I inevitably sell out and take this blog big time, rest assured I will be hiring Bruce Allen as my manager. And Keith Scott as my guitarist. For reference, consider their work for Bryan Adams.

According to Allen, Adams is "indefatigable" and "the furthest thing from a robot there is."

But wait, there's more...

"If he made a decision in his younger years to be a neurosurgeon, he'd be the best neurosurgeon in the world."

"He takes a lot of risks, but he challenges all those around him to keep up with him. He's just driven to be excellent. It's unbelievable."

"Most of all, he's got a terrific work ethic, loves to work."

"I don't think he's ever got the credit for what he's done musically."

"He might be - as Mutt Lange and Bob Rock, two of the greatest producers in the business, said - the best white singer in the business today."

"He's done so much in his career, done things that you can actually take a look and say, 'He was the first act to go to Pakistan; first in Vietnam; first in Turkey.' He believes that music breaks down all borders. That's what he really thinks about music."

"His actions speak louder than his words. He shows up. The money he's raised for cancer; he's the guy who got the whale sanctuary going in the southern hemisphere; he's built schools in Pakistan. He played Jordan on the last tour. Korea, Iceland, Egypt, Qatar, India, Chile, East Berlin, Russia -- a lot of people would never even go to these places."

"He's Canada's number one ambassador by far. There's nobody close."

To review: He fights oppression, heals the sick, could have been the world's best neurosurgeon, can sing better than Justin Timberlake and is most likely not a robot.

So there is probably a decent argument to be made that Bryan Adams is criminally under-appreciated. Then again, there's also a very valid argument to be made that Bryan Adams is incredibly over-appreciated.

If you've ever read this blog (all four of you) or at least come here looking for those semi-nude picture of Michelle Branch (the other seven of you), you may know that I'm vaguely obsessed with the successful but completely insignificant. It's a theory I'm working on.

Well, if there were a Successful But Insignificant Hall of Fame, Bryan Adams would probably be among the inaugural inductees. He's just that successful. And insignificant.

Adams is undeniably the first. He's one of the best-selling artists in Canadian history and he's recorded probably a half dozen bonafide international hits. According to a study I just made up, one in four adults worldwide owns a Bryan Adams record or has awkwardly made out with someone to the strains of Everything I Do (I Do It For You).

But Everything I Do is probably a perfect metaphor for his career. Though massively popular and having spent approximately four years atop the Billboard charts, it is entirely forgettable. Honestly, until I started thinking about Bryan Adams, I had erased it completely from my mind. The same cannot be said of, say, Love Me Do or Start Me Up or even Life Is A Highway.

Furthermore, it wasn't even the most important melodramatic ballad of its era. In fact, it pales in comparison to Whitney Houston's I Will Always Love You.

Now, there is a certain idea that Adams blazed a trail for Canadian artists hoping to succeed in the United States. That he paved the proverbial trail for Celine, Shania, Alanis, Avril and, of course, Kazzer. Unfortunately, there are several flaws in this theory. First, Rush, The Guess Who and William Shatner all pre-date Adams. Second, it assumes that previous to Adams, the American public held a pre-conceived hatred for Canadian recording artists. And that once Americans heard Summer of '69, they decided to give our humble nation a second chance. Even if we assume the prejudice existed, I'm hard-pressed to believe that solution is plausible.

So what, beyond the people who work for him, is Bryan Adams particularly famous for at this point? Well, being Canadian. And existing in the 80s. And being schmaltzy... though not as famously schmaltzy as say Sting or Phil Collins or Anne Murray. And having a name that sort of sounds like Ryan Adams, much to the latter's chagrin.

The problem, of course, is that there are plenty of schmaltzy Canadians who existed in the 80s. In fact, most Canadians who existed in the 80s were schmaltzy. Some of them probably even had or have names that sound like Ryan Adams.

This is not to say that Bryan Adams is entirely without merit. Quite the contrary. I imagine he's exactly twice as interesting as 95% of professional musicians. All things considered, this country, at the very least, should care about him a bit more than it collectively does.

But, at the same time, it has plenty of excuse not to.

Look at it this way: when David Fricke finally gets around to writing the definitive Rock N Roll bible (if he hasn't already), Bryan Adams will be lucky to merit a sentence. And, if that, it will probably be one that starts "Several other popular soft rock stars included..." or "Ryan Adams eventually committed suicide one night after the 7,489 request for Summer of '69, a once-popular song written by..."

What is perhaps most significant about Bryan Adams is that he has managed to remain so insignificant. He was never at the forefront of anything. He can't be said to have led a particularly important movement or defined an enduring sound. His influence cannot be heard in the hip music of today. He has so far failed to die via drug overdose. Or at least over-eating. We probably will not feel a need to tell our children about him. Unless, perhaps, the story goes, "I remember when I met your mother, it was our senior formal and that song from that Robin Hood movie was playing. I think it might've starred Christian Slater. You know, the actor who went on to become that famous used car salesman. Anyway..."

This is not particularly Bryan's fault. We could probably take a few hours to debate the system of social prejudices and pre-conceived, intellectual wisdoms that create significance. But, until then, consider just this: Bryan Adams is arguably the most successful artist ever to achieve such insignificance. I struggle to find a comparison - an artist as successful who is less significant (or at least equally insignificant) than Bryan Adams. He basically epitomizes this entire half-formed concept.

Go through the list of the most popular recording artists of our time and every one of them could make a greater claim to significance. Even MC Hammer. You laugh, but if asked I bet I could put together a decent university paper placing him within a greater context of popular hip-hop and race relations in middle America. Bryan Adams? Close, but not so much.

It's difficult even to figure out what Bryan Adams could do at this point to render himself significant. Form a band with Pete Doherty? Shoot Pete Doherty? Help Pete Doherty shoot up? Try out for American Idol? I have no idea.

Well, I do have one theory. It's crazy, but it might just work. First, he'd have to get himself booked on some big awards show (the Junos don't count). At his designated time he would then stride on stage and, to the screams and shrieks of onlookers, begin peeling off his face. As he began to reveal his true, metallic face, he would announce that all along he was part of an elaborate ruse - he was not Bryan Adams, a good Canadian kid who made, good, forgettable rock music, he was Bryan Adams, the first and most successful robot in pop music history.

I can dream.

(VJ Search update coming soon. Suffice it to say, I'm frustrated. And now resentful.)

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