Like just about everyone on the planet, Bryan Adams had a pretty lousy time in lockdown. It started with a misinterpreted comment about his veganism and ended with a canceled performance at the 2021 Rock & Rock Hall of Fame inductions after the Canadian rocker tested positive for COVID-19.
But as Adams sings along to “Never Gonna Rain,” a highlight of his 15th album, So happy it hurts“I’ll smile like I never had heartache / Laugh like I never had worries / Dance like I was born to dance“It’s party time, and Adams jumps in with both feet. The last two years have been tough, he knows that, and life is even more precious now. It’s a cliché, that’s for sure, but Adams has never been one to shy away from a time-worn sentiment or an infectious hook if they serve the song.
There are a lot of big guitar riffs and standard rock fare on So happy it hurts, which at times feels like a throwback to the Adams Golden Age of the ’80s, with a few modern touches to bring things into the 21st century. It’s not a tough mix – Adams and co-producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange tweak the dozen songs to their sharpest edges – though nothing here fits neatly into the constricted box of pop music these days.
Like in 2015 To get up and to some extent 2019 shine a lightAdams here makes few concessions to modern audiences (although shine a light included a Ed Sheeran co-write and a Jennifer Lopez guest place). The opening title track is fueled by a 1,000 watt choir and chiming guitars not far removed from the 1984 reference Reckless. The ballads could play over the end credits of a Kevin Costner movie from the early ’90s. And the upbeat “I’ve Been Looking for You” is a Buddy Holly-style rave-up from an even older era.
Who can blame Adams for finding solace in the past? He may be ready to move on from COVID, but in songs like “On the Road” and “Kick Ass” (which sounds like a holdover from Lange’s Def Leppard days), he revisits a time before the masks, mandates and lockdowns are not part of everyday parlance. There is a reflection on So happy it hurts — “Never Gonna Rain,” “These Are the Moments of My Life” — but it’s mostly about sunny days ahead. “The sun is shining and there’s no more rain“, he sings on the cut of the title. You will sing with him.
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