Bryan Adams has spent most of the last few months in and around St. Tropez, the French Riviera resort town renowned for its topless beaches and a musical nod in that tanning-lotion jingle of antiquity. The slightish singer, however, has been burnished only a tad browner than his traditional shade of pasty Canuck. For one thing, Adams is on the job here, working under a beginning-of-March deadline for his first album of new material in five years, in a hilltop home he and producer Robert John ”Mutt” Lange have converted to a makeshift studio. Also, there’s the fact that even the sunny Riviera experiences an off-season resembling, however vaguely, winter. Adams’ life, for the moment, is less Bain du Soleil than band on the run.
Not everyone quickly cottons to the idea that Adams’ rented Mediterranean estate, littered though it may be with banks of recording equipment, is a place of all work and no play. Rock photographer Anton Corbijn has just arrived from Italy to hash out music-video ideas but suggests to his host that he might like to take a dip in the pool before talking shop.
Adams breaks the bad news: ”Actually, it’s not heated.”
”That’s all right, I might still give it a try,” says Corbijn.
Adams is emphatic. ”No, really, I’m telling you — it’s this cold,” he says, holding his thumb and forefinger a half inch apart, sizing up just how distressingly little of one’s masculinity might remain upon exposure to the elements in question.
So business it shall be for the Canadian rocker and his international guest. But don’t cry for him, British Columbia. For all the seasonal lack of water sports and toplessness, Adams can’t stop invoking ”fun” — as in the most he’s ever had — as the byword of these extended sessions. And fun might be the very least you would expect of an album that has just been titled 18 ‘Til I Die.
Music retailers, faced with a spring all too light on superstar releases, are hoping Adams’ good cheer is contagious when 18 is emancipated come May. Except for the Beatles and Sting, no act with product slotted for the first half of ‘96 has sold anything close to Adams’ worldwide tally of 44 million records.
Yet 18’s success is not necessarily a given. Mainstream arena-rock peers have lately been swept away by the tide of alternativism. And with only one studio album (1991’s Waking Up the Neighbours) released in the last nine years, Adams’ massive popularity this decade has been built on what he calls ”my second career” — a string of chart-topping film themes cowritten with Lange and British composer Michael Kamen: ”(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” (from 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), ”All for Love” (1993’s The Three Musketeers), and the just-nominated Oscar front-runner ”Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?” (Don Juan DeMarco). The cumulative effect has been the seeming reinvention of the heartland rocker (and author of such ’80s teen sing-alongs as ”Summer of ‘69” and ”Run to You”) as Movie Ballad Boy, if not quite a Shirley Bassey for the ’90s.