’90s No. 1s Revisited: “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You”
The forty-fourth No. 1 song of the 1990s was “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” by Bryan Adams. This song was a phenomenon. Featured on the soundtrack to the blockbuster film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, it was the longest-running No. 1 song of 1991 in the U.S., and it ended up at No. 1 for the year. It also topped the charts in 17 other countries and was No. 1 for the year in Australia, the U.K., The Netherlands and, of course, Canada, Adams’ country of origin.
Prior to “I Do It For You,” Adams had scored a series of hits dating back to the late ’70s in his native Canada. In the U.S., he broke into the mainstream in 1983 with tracks off his album Cuts Like A Knife. He charted 13 times on the Billboard Hot 100 during that decade, sending one song, “Heaven,” to No. 1. Following “I Do It For You,” Adams would chart 11 more times, twice again reaching No. 1: in 1993 with “All For Love,” with Rod Stewart and Sting, and in 1995 with “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman?” All four of Adams’ chart-toppers are ballads, and of those four, the three in the 1990s all were from soundtracks from historical or historically influenced films. Robin Hood is from the 1300s, Three Musketeers (which featured “All For Love”) was first published in the 1800s but takes place in the 1600s, and Don Juan DeMarco (which featured “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman?”) is a 1900s story based on a 1300s character best known from an 1800s play.
The point of this history lesson is that Adams, for whatever reason, was a go-to person to write and perform songs with timeless romantic quality. Perhaps this is because his voice sounds like that of someone who has been alive for centuries.
Let’s re-explore “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You”:
This is not a poorly written piece of music, and it would stand alone well as a piano composition. The lyrics and instrumental arrangement are both acceptable, but they’re bland — there’s nothing unexpected, innovative, emotional, surprising or interesting happening here. And the two serious offenses that plague this track are Adams’ terrible vocal performance and the fact this track was crazy overplayed. We still remember the jolt of pain we felt every time we saw those sunbeams shine through the trees in the first moment of the video. “OH GOD, NOT AGAIN!!!” we would think, before changing the channel from MTV to VH1, where 9 times out of 10 this same video would be playing. What a rough life.
For the record, Adams did some work in the ’90s that we liked. “I Do It For You” was later featured on Adams’ full-length album Waking Up the Neighbours, which among its releases had two very nicely done tacks — “Thought I’d Died And Gone To Heaven,” which peaked at No. 13, and “Do I Have To Say The Words?” which peaked at No. 11. We also liked 1993’s “Please Forgive Me,” which peaked at No. 7 and was shamelessly plagiarized, without punishment, by Lonestar on their 2000 No. 1 hit, “Amazed.” We enjoyed his 1996 hit “Let’s Make A Night To Remember,” which reached No. 24. And we have to admit we didn’t altogether hate his duet with Barbra Streisand, “I Finally Found Someone,” which reached No. 8 in 1996.
People loved this song at the time. It had the perfect balance of hard and soft to make it a hit on both Adult Contemporary and Rock radio. R&B listeners luckily got a reprieve — until Brandy unleashed her remake of it a few years later.
Does it hold up? From a pop cultural perspective, this song has long legs. It was, for example, featured in this popular Family Guy clip. And in an era of televised talent shows and overnight superstars, this track has provided ample opportunities for wannabe stars to flex their singing muscles (e.g., David Cook, Anoop Desai, Will Champlin, blah blah blah). A good choice, too, because everyone will sound better than Adams by comparison.
Dopeness: 2 out of 5 Birkenstocks
’90s No. 1s Revisited is a regular feature on “Was It Dope?” where we walk through every No. 1 song of the 1990s on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in order, give it another listen, and answer two critical questions: Was it dope? And does it hold up?