At Fred Bronson’s Billboard book number 1 hitsMichael Kamen tells the story: “Johnny Depp was a kind of alternative character at the time, and [Soler] was determined that she would use Tori Amos and Michael Stipe, which is a good idea. But she could not manage to get the film for any of them, so they had to make a song that they could shoe in one place. ” It sounds good! They should have done that! Next time I want to make fun of some asshole, I’ll also call him “some kind of alternative character.”
Tori Amos and Michael Stipe really wrote and recorded a song together for the film. It was called “It Might Hurt A Bit” and it was never released. Amos has spoken vaguely about the idea of releasing it one day, but so far the only proof we have of the song’s existence is a short clip from the TV show Additional where we see Stipe and Amos work not too seriously on the song. (Tori Amos’ most popular single is “Spark” from 1998, which topped with # 49. The highest hit list from Stipe’s band REM is “Losing My Religion” from 1991, which topped at # 4. It’s an 8.)
I do not quite understand why Don Juan DeMarco soundtrack could not have had thaw songs, but Michael Kamen went to New Line Cinema founder Bob Shaye and complained that he should have a Bryan Adams song on Don Juan DeMarco soundtrack instead of Stipe / Amos duet: “[‘It Might Hurt A Bit’] was a pretty cool song, but it had nothing to do with the film either lyrically or musically. I believe that a film score and the story are inextricably linked, and that the theme of the film should be the theme of the song, period. “Michael Kamen got what he wanted, and then he left with Bryan Adams and Mutt Lange to write the song.
“Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman” is based on a tune that Kamen compared to “a kind of Mexican folk tune.” The three writers spent some time struggling with that tune and tried to figure out how to turn it into a song, but then it all fell apart. Here’s Kamen in the Bronson book: “Bryan, Mutt and I had that chilling goosebumps feeling when we knew we had come up with something so delicious. This was a love song so tender and sweet and so evocative, that to this day it makes women melt. ” I do not have the right chromosome situation to fact-check just that statement, so I just have to take Kamen’s word on it.
Here’s the thing: “Have you ever really loved a woman” is a damn ridiculous song. That’s so stupid. Lyrically, Adams insists again and again that you just have to immerse yourself in a woman’s juice before you can say that you really love her. I wish I was exaggerating: “To truly love a woman, let her hold you until you know how to touch her / You must breathe, really taste her until you can feel her in your blood / And when you can see your unborn children in her eyes, you know you really love a woman. ” Bryan Adams put it on thick with this. He was on his Fabio shit. Maybe the song makes women melt just because it tries so hard. It’s a weapon quality pander. I would respect the sheer shamelessness if the song was good, but it’s not, so I do not.
Legendary flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia plays over “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman”. I’m usually a sucker for flamenco guitars on pop songs, but “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman” makes me mostly just wish I could listen to that guitar and mute everything else. Adams sings the whole song in a romantic grunt-moan; he really tastes the “taste her really” line. The song rises and falls dramatically, with these big orchestral swells on the chorus. At the climax, the song threatens to rock out for a few seconds, but that impulse ends quickly. There’s not much of a hook to the song and I can not really call it a power ballad. It’s not a slow-dance number. Instead, it is a kind of sour trot that never settles into something resembling a groove. When I listen to it, I mostly just feel great embarrassment for everyone involved.
IN Don Juan DeMarco, Adams’ “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman” is played over the closing lyrics, and there is also a scene where the great Tejano star Selena sings the song in Spanish. A few weeks before the film came out, Selena was murdered. (Selena’s highest hit Hot 100 single, 1995’s “Dreaming Of You”, topped # 22.)
Bryan Adams filmed the “Have you ever really loved a woman” video in Spain with Anton Corbijn, the Dutch photographer and video director who had done iconic work with Depeche Mode, and who would later make the muted, minimal films Control and The American. I interviewed Corbijn once years ago; he was very intense and very quiet. The only thing I remember him saying was that he hated 24 hour party people and that he wanted to make a film that was true to the spirit of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis; That was it Control. The fact that Corbijn ever made something as silly as the “Do You Ever Really A Woman” video is very, very funny to me. It’s all just Bryan Adams taking on Don Juan shit and scamming around picturesque Mediterranean places with two extremely hot women who are also wearing Don Juan masks. (One of them is Cecilie Thomsen, the Danish model and future Bond girl, who was Adams’ longtime girlfriend at the time.)
Don Juan DeMarco was a disastrous box-office flop. In its opening weekend, it made less than Bad Boys, A silly movieor Tommy boy, of which the latter was in his second week. (Please enjoy the mental picture of Brando / Farley’s box office showdown.) But “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman” persisted, and it topped the Hot 100 two months after the film opened. Maybe women in reality was melting; I do not know. I’ve never seen my unborn children in anyone’s eyes, so maybe I just did it all wrong. Maybe Bryan Adam knows things I do not know.
The song earned Bryan Adams his third Oscar nomination, and he lost the award for “Colors Of The Wind,” from Disney Pocahontas movie. (Former number one artist Vanessa Williams took “Colors Of The Wind” to # 4. It’s a 6.) Adams performed “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman” with a bunch of masked flamenco dancers on the Oscars. In a recent Stereogum interview, Adams described the experience as “I do not know. I was quite nervous. It’s the long and the short of it.” Thank you, Bryan Adams, very luminous.
Bryan Adams included “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman” on 18 until I die, the dubiously titled album from 1996, which he recorded with Mutt Lange. The album was not a hit. It limped on to platinum sales, moving about a quarter of what Adams’ previous LP was Waking up the neighbors had sold. “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman” was already more than a year old when the album came out, and its other singles did not do so well. The second biggest hit from that album was “Let’s Make A Night To Remember”, which peaked at # 24.
After “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman,” Bryan Adams scored another hit with yet another movie ballad. Later in 1996, Adams and Barbra Streisand came to # 8 with the duet “I Finally Found Someone”, the theme of the Streisand-directed romantic comedy The mirror has two faces. That song brought Streisand back to the top 10 for the first time since 1981. Neither Adams nor Streisand have been back in the top 10 since. (“I finally found someone” is a 3.)
Adams has been touring and recording since the heyday of his hit list, and he’s still a big draw around the world. He has made several movie themes, but none of them have been world-winning smashes. Adams was eventually reunited with his old co-author Jim Vallance, and the two of them wrote the songs for the Broadway musical version of Beautiful womanwhich opened in 2018. Adams is also a great photographer and he shot a bunch of female musicians for the 2021 Pirelli calendar.
There has definitely been something strange with Bryan Adams in the last few years. In 2016, for example, Adams got a strange steak with the website AllMusic, and he pressured the site to remove all mention of him. In 2020, shortly after the pandemic broke out, Adams posted some racist bullshit on Instagram and then apologized. Since then he got COVID twice and he was hospitalized in Italy last year but he is apparently ok now. A few weeks ago, Adams released an album called So glad it hurts.
Mutt Lange has not been back to # 1 since “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman”, but he certainly did well for himself in the ’90s. In 1993, Lange agreed to write and produce The woman in me, the second album by Canadian country singer Shania Twain. While working on the album, Lange and Shania got married. Lange’s mega-crunchy sound proved to fit perfectly with the pop country of the 90s in general and with Shania Twain in particular. The woman in me was released in 1995 and it went platinum 12 times. 1997s Come over here made it even better by selling double diamond. (The biggest hit from Come over here is “You’re Still The One”, which topped # 2 in 1998. It’s the highest hit list in Twain’s career. It is an 8.)
After another diamond album, 2002’s Up!, Twain and Lange went through a crazy divorce. In 2008, Lange left Twain for his best friend, and Twain ended up marrying this friend’s ex-husband. Lange continued to work with Nickelback and Maroon 5 and Muse, and he also co-produced the new Bryan Adams album. If an artist has enough clout, they can usually pick up Mutt Lange to reclaim some of the old 80s / 90s profits. In 2011, for example, the future number one artist brought Lady Gaga Lange in to co-produce her single “Yoü And I”, which peaked at # 6. (It’s an 8.) But Lange is probably richer than God, and these days he only works when he feels like it.
A few years after “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman” Michael Kamen was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. In 2003, Kamen died of a heart attack. He was 55. Kamen composed and orchestrated sheet music until the end of his life, and his last appearance on record was on Bryan Adams’ 2004 album. Room Service. In hindsight, it’s pretty amazing that a film music composer ended up writing three different # 1 hits. I may not like any of those songs, but I respect the bustle. Michael Kamen convinced.
BONUS BEATS: Here is the “Have you ever really loved a woman” soundtrack of a fantasy daydream sequence in a 2003 episode of Scrubs:
THE NUMBER TO: Monica’s overwhelming, Public Enemy-sampling loneliness song “Don’t Take It Personal (Just One Of Dem Days)” topped as # 2 behind “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman”. It’s an 8.
ASTERISKEN: Rembrandts’ Friends the theme song “I’ll Be There For You” was somehow one of the greatest songs of 1995. “I’ll Be There For You” topped the Hot 100 airplay chart for eight weeks that summer, beginning during the reign of ” Have you ever really loved a woman. ” At the time, however, “I’ll Be There For You” was not commercially available as a single, so it did not appear on the Hot 100. Eventually, the single was released and it peaked at # 17, but that did not happen until September. If “I’ll Be There For You” had been able to compete against songs like “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman” on the Hot 100, it would definitely have reached # 1. It’s a 6.