11 is Bryan Adams's 11th studio album. It features 11 tracks and is available exclusively at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club, where it sells for roughly $11. In accordance with Adams's current numerical fascination, I will listen to 11, on headphones, 11 times in a row and chronicle my experience.
10:34 a.m. — First listen, track 5: I find very little immediately likable or dislikable about 11. There are certainly optimistic moments; "I Thought I'd Seen Everything" has hints of Springsteenian triumph, and the intro for this track, "We Found What We Were Looking For," is reminiscent of U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." Unfortunately, both tracks digress into by-the-book adult-contemporary productions by the chorus.
11:44 a.m. — Second listen, track 11: The acoustic guitar and reverberated cello of "Walk on By" make the economical closer surprisingly light on sentiment compared to 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 of Randy Newman's Oscar-winning "You've Got a Friend in Me," which is like calling Toto "edgy."
With Foreigner, Friday, July 25, at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Dr., Spring, 281-363-3300.
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 below his fanbase'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 Adams on Wikipedia. He was born in November 1959, which means he was only nine years old during the "Summer of '69." If those were the best days of his life, dude peaked before he even hit double digits.
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 over five hours that didn't come from the moderately gruff-voiced Canadian singer-songwriter that'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," almost identical to the opening couplet of Dismemberment Plan's "Gyroscope."
3:59 p.m. — Eighth listen, track 9: The tempos on 11 are perfect for jogging and/or mall-walking. I had an 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.
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In fact, "milf rock" is an apt description of Adams's music. 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." Adams has probably signed enough boobs in his lifetime to warrant a Sharpie endorsement.
5:03 p.m. — Tenth 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, sans harmonica, it could be on Death Cab for Cutie's Plans.
5:51 p.m. — Eleventh listen, track 4: "Are you sure you want to move 'Bryan Adams — Oxygen' to the Recycle Bin?" Yes.
6:21 p.m. — Mission accomplished: Appropriately for an album sold exclusively through Wal-Mart, 11's appeal lies in its inoffensiveness and digestibility; it's made to be consumed with as little effort as possible, to share a shopping cart with a one-pound bag of M&Ms and 24 rolls of paper towels. After 11 listens, 11 has given me almost nothing beyond the surface it exposed on first listen. My ears have rarely enjoyed silence like they do this very moment.