’90s No. 1s Revisited: “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman?”
The eighty-eighth No. 1 song of the 1990s was “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman?” by Bryan Adams, off the soundtrack to the Johnny Depp vehicle Don Juan DeMarco. The song earned the film its sole Oscar nomination, for Best Original Song, losing to “Colors Of The Wind” from Pocahontas. This single was Adams’ fourth and final No. 1 song. And, as it turns out, it would be the last No. 1 single of the ’90s credited solely to a white man, with the exception of Elton John’s Princess Diana tribute 2 1/2 years later. In the latter half of the decade, Top 40 Radio primarily rewarded Hip-Hop/R&B collaborations, female R&B/Pop vocalists and, eventually, Latin-influenced Pop singers.
“Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman?” was a global success, topping the charts in half a dozen countries. It is a Spanish-influenced waltz co-written by Adams, Michael Kamen and Mutt Lange, the same trio that penned both of Adams’ other No. 1 hits from the ’90s, “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” and “All For Love.” Despite sharing songwriters, and despite all these songs being ballads from soundtracks to history-inspired films, these tracks are actually remarkably different-sounding from one another. So credit to these folks for their range.
Take a few minutes to hear “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman?”:
This song sounds meticulously engineered to serve a purpose as soundtrack music, and because of that, it lacks authenticity. It’s worth asking, though, what inauthentic message is being communicated here. To whom is the protagonist addressing, and why? Sounds like he’s an expert on being a good lover who’s singing to someone who isn’t, or is a man who has experienced the feelings of being in love and is sharing them. Either way, we don’t really give a crap. The song is well-crafted musically, but it has no impact, and evokes nothing from the listener.
In the context of the Summer of 1995, Adams’ sucess with this drowsy ballad stood out among an array of Hip-Hop/R&B music dominating Top 40 radio. Elsewhere in the Top 10 the week Adams rose to No. 1 were: Method Man, Mary J. Blige, Monica, TLC, Adina Howard, Montell Jordan and Boyz II Men. Positions 11 through 20 contained tracks by Dr. Dre, 2Pac, Notorious B.I.G, Total, Soul For Real and Raphael Saadiq. So “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman?” was not particularly dope in this company.
Does it hold up? Musically, this track holds up fine. It has a classic melody line and traditional instrumentals, and doesn’t incorporate any mid-’90s trends that would date it. That said, its meaninglessness outside the context of Don Juan disqualifies it from most modern contexts. Why would someone want to play this song now?
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?