Crapping Out

What happens when a music journalist listens to Bryan Adams' newest release, 11, on loop for 11 straight plays?

Bryan Adams' 11 is his 11th studio album. It features 11 tracks and is released exclusively at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club, where it sells for roughly $11.

In accordance with Mr. Adams' current numerical fascination, I will listen to 11, with headphones, 11 times in a row and chronicle my experience.

10:34 a.m.—First listen, track 5

A MILF's Wal-Mart shopping list: sparkle eye shadow, some snow tires, a little Bryan Adams, some cheap perfume
A MILF's Wal-Mart shopping list: sparkle eye shadow, some snow tires, a little Bryan Adams, some cheap perfume

There's very little that I find immediately likable or unlikable about 11. There are certainly optimistic moments; "I Thought I'd Seen Everything" has hints of Springsteenian triumph, and the intro for the current track, "We Found What We Were Looking For" is sonically reminiscent of U2's similarly titled "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." Unfortunately, both tracks digress into by-the-book adult contemporary productions by the first chorus.

11:44 a.m.—Second listen, track 11

The acoustic guitar and reverberated cello of "Walk On By" make for an economical closer that's surprisingly light on sentiment compared with the fondue pot of cheese that is the middle of this album. Worst offender: "Broken Wings," a buddy ballad that comes off like an edgier version Randy Newman 's "You Have a Friend in Me," which is like calling Toto "edgy."

12:42 p.m.—Fourth listen, track 2

With a slower vocal delivery and a few words changed to suggest an apocalyptic theme, "I Thought I'd Seen Everything" could easily fit on Arcade Fire's Neon Bible. Wacky Canadians...

1:28 p.m.—Fifth listen, track 6

The verses of "Somethin' to Believe In" are eerily reminiscent of "Lake Michigan" by Rogue Wave. Maybe Bryan Adams is aping indie rock bands that are just obscure enough to land outside his fan base's collective radar. Or maybe my Bryan-Adams-to-coffee ratio for the day is way off.

1:42 p.m.—Fifth listen, track 9

I just looked up Bryan Adams on Wikipedia. He was born in November 1959, which means that he was only 9 years old during the "Summer of '69." If those were the best days of his life, dude peaked before he even hit double digits.

2:16 p.m.—Sixth listen, track 4

I have to say, "Oxygen" is pretty cringe-worthy. Check the chorus: "Oxygen, every moment/Oxygen, every day/I can't live without it/Don't take it away/I need to breathe you in/(drum fill)/Like oxygen." It's bad. Like post-millennial Bon Jovi bad.

3:18 p.m.—Seventh listen, track 10

I loaded 11 onto my iPod and walked to the local coffee shop. My conversation with the barista contained the first sounds I've heard in more than five hours that didn't come from a moderately gruff-voiced Canadian singer-songwriter who's bros with Rod Stewart. "Flower Grown Wild," an ode to a groupie with questionable convictions, sounds like The Hold Steady—if Craig Finn sucked down a helium balloon before recording the vocals. "Flower" also contains the line "too much lipstick and her dress real tight," which is almost identical to the opening couplet of "Gyroscope" by Dismemberment Plan.

3:20 p.m.—Seventh listen, track 11

For the life of me, I can't recall if Bryan sings "All," "for" or "one" on his collaboration with Sting and Rod Stewart for the Three Musketeers soundtrack, but I'm almost positive he takes the middle harmony on "all for love."

3:59 p.m.—Eighth listen, track 9

The tempos on 11 are perfect for jogging and/or mall-walking. I had an American Tail-esque experience imagining that, somewhere out there, a semi-hip mom is also walking in step with "She's Got a Way" on an iPod on her way back from a coffee shop right now. In fact, "milf rock" is an apt description of Bryan Adams; I'm sure his shows are swarming with 40-going-on-29-year-old women dying to hear him sing this song's hook: "I feel so naked/I feel so totally exposed." Bryan Adams has probably signed enough boobs in his lifetime to warrant a Sharpie endorsement.

4:10 p.m.—Ninth listen, track 1

I'm starting to grow attached to the way the final chord on closer "Walk on By" transitions into the moody organ chords of opener "Tonight We Have the Stars" when 11 is on a constant loop. The album is definitely book-ended by its best tracks, or at least the only two that seem to have some element of thought in their lyrics. Maybe Bryan should cut the fat (aka the other 9 songs) and put it out as a 7-inch. He could call it 2. I'm sure most of his fans still have record players collecting dust in their attics, right?

4:42 p.m.—Ninth listen, track 9

This bothers me: "We Found What We Were Looking For" features the hook line "We found our wings and now we fly above the wind." Adams repeats "You taught me how to fly on broken wings" on the very next track. Later in the album, "Mysterious Ways" immediately precedes "She's Got a Way," a tune whose chorus is strikingly similar to Tal Bachman's "She's So High."

5:03 p.m.—10th listen, track 3

I attempted to take a nap with headphones on to see if 11 would seep into my subconscious, but the harmonica on "I Ain't Losin' the Fight" woke me up prematurely. In my half-awake, disoriented state, this song sounds like it could belong on Plans by Death Cab for Cutie, sans harmonica.

5:51 p.m.—11th listen, track 4

"Are you sure you want to move 'Bryan Adams—Oxygen' to the Recycle Bin?" Yes.

6:21 p.m.—Mission accomplished.

Perhaps the most telling factor of 11 by Bryan Adams is its exclusive distribution deal with Wal-Mart; it is an album whose appeal lies in its inoffensiveness and digestibility, as if it were tailor-made for the mega-chain that shelves it. It's a product made to be consumed with as little effort as possible, to share a shopping cart with a one-pound bag of M&M's and 24 rolls of paper towels. After 11 listens, 11 has given me almost nothing beyond the surface it exposed on first listen, and my ears have rarely enjoyed silence like they do this very moment.

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