Feb 15

CHICANE ft BRYAN ADAMS – “Don’t Give Up”

Popular41 comments • 3,824 views

#851, 18th March 2000

chicane I like the brusqueness – and the ambiguity – of Bryan Adams’ feelgood advice here: “Don’t worry if the sun don’t shine / You’ve seen it before.” The problem is, we’ve heard this before too – “Don’t Give Up” is an unglamorous song about the unglamorous struggle of getting things done, set to a laborious trance backing. Perhaps there’s a virtue in effort, but this isn’t the record to sell the idea: to my ears, it’s one of the most doggedly boring number ones. If “Pure Shores” was running hand-in-hand over white sands under an azure sky, this is a pebbly trudge along Frinton seafront in overcast early March. As it trots through its subdued melody and dutiful builds, I’m left thinking Chicane wouldn’t have had a sniff at the top without the gimmick of “Don’t Give Up”’s unlikely frontman.

Adams digitally treated his vocal on this track to an extreme degree to make it sound less rock. I don’t think he quite manages it – his singing is husky anyhow, and it’s not just tone that makes the arena rocker: even in this dessicated version the chorus sounds likes its written to shout at packed stadiums, it’s just the production leeches the weight and power from it. Inadvertently, the track hits on an idea – throaty, effortful bloke singing over formula builds and drops – that we will see an awful lot of in the early 2010s. But this inadvertent futurism isn’t the result of any particular vision, just an offspring of the listless humping of two clichés.



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  1. 1
    lonepilgrim on 16 Feb 2015 #

    I have no memory of hearing this at the time and can no longer remember it now, having listened to it yesterday. I found it quite pleasant at the time and I actually like Bryan Adams voice. It seems surprising that something so anonymous should reach number 1

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    Shiny Dave on 16 Feb 2015 #

    We’ve talked about artists getting number ones one single too late – e.g. the Manics with “If You Tolerate This…” rather than “A Design For Life” – but that’s not the sort of thing that should happen to trance acts.

    And yet, playing Chicane’s glorious Clannad-sampling “Saltwater” then this, it seems impossible to conclude very much else. First 30 seconds of this sound like a cheap sports TV theme tune, and the rest doesn’t get much better. It’s such a production downgrade from “Saltwater” I can’t believe it’s the same people behind it, and even less that this came second.

    This idea does indeed get done rather more in 2010s EDM, and that doesn’t help my view of the production on this – but it really does sound like a sketched-out cheap idea, a #fitspo soundtrack a decade before that was a thing and sounding even older than that.

    I’d have given “Saltwater” a 9. The square root of that for “Don’t Give Up” is absolutely fair.

  3. 3
    Billy Hicks on 16 Feb 2015 #

    One of those where a brilliant act – Chicane – gets to number 1 with their worst release, which we’ll also see to a huge degree with the Swedish House Mafia in a decade’s time.

    ‘Offshore’ – #14 in 1996 and #17 in a 1997 vocal version is a stunning piece of music, and then words don’t even describe the heart-stopper that is ‘Saltwater’, #6 in 1999. Trance is my favourite genre of music and we’re still very much in its commercial peak, but the worst records kept getting to number 1 above the classics lower down the charts and this is one of them, a bland bit of pop that uses some trancey sounds but waters them down enough to sound ok on daytime radio.

    After this he tried the same trick with Tom Jones, getting a #7 with Stoned in Love in 2006 (slightly better) and returned out of nowhere with the surprisingly brilliant Poppiholla in 2009.

  4. 4
    Matt on 16 Feb 2015 #

    This song is representative of what tended to happen when an Ibiza-grade dance producer would have 2-3 hits over a short period – generally the production ‘hook’ that made the first record memorable would be redeployed over and over, with mild variations and diminishing returns. So that short staccato synth riff here has been semi recycled from Chicane’s previous hits Offshore and Saltwater, the same way ATB would constantly wheel out the pitch-bend guitar synth and (albeit earlier) all Robert Miles’ early hits use barely-distinguishable dream piano melodies.

    I guess it’s the incongruity of Bryan Adams here that made this a number one over Chicane’s earlier outings – they’re all pretty bland, but at least Saltwater’s Clannad samples conjure up a sort of new agey atmosphere that this lacks.

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    AMZ1981 on 16 Feb 2015 #

    It is perhaps worth noting that this is almost Bryan Adams’ last hit of any significance. A soundtrack song, Here I Am, made number five two years later but he hasn’t troubled the top forty since 2004. In some ways he’s one of rock music’s most frustrating figures, turning out albums of undistinguished chugging rock while you have the feeling that if he could get a major producer behind him (Daniel Lanois or Rick Rubin for example) he could stagger us artistically. The fact he hasn’t attempted anything like this is even stranger when Don’t Get Up, while not a great song by any means, showed a willingness to experiment with dance music.

    I saw him live last November and he actually did Don’t Give Up, suggesting that it always was an arena rock song.

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    Ricardo on 16 Feb 2015 #

    I guess I’m in the minority here, as I had to YouTube “Saltwater” to be reminded of it. “Don’t Give Up”, though, was still embedded in my memory. Doesn’t mean it amounts to much, sadly.
    Bryan Adams had had a last sniff of a genuine hit a year previously with that Mel C duet (and that was most probably why it was a hit in the first place), so having him on an Ibiza-grade trance record was certainly a coup. But as others already said, that’s pretty much what the song seems built upon. Enough to give it a #1 nonetheless, if only because the new release schedule was so meh – Tom Jones feat. Kelly Jones of the Stereophonics tearing through “Mama Told Me Not To Come” or a totally unremarkable single by Five weren’t exactly the biggest of contenders. Still, #’s 11 & 35 present us with true future jewels; Moby’s “Natural Blues” and Coldplay’s “Shiver”, respectively. Yes, the week Chicane was #1 was also the one where Chris Martin and his chums would have their first taste of the Top 40 circle.
    Oh, and there’s also Kraftwerk’s “Expo 2000” theme tune at #27. But that’s not really one for the ages, is it?

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    Tom on 16 Feb 2015 #

    I will check out Chicane’s other stuff – he didn’t really register for me at the time, even in the “this guy is irritating and keeps turning up” sense of ATB. But trance was something of a blindspot to me – I really didn’t like it, and resented it somewhat because it was the first big wave of dance music I didn’t like, and it made me feel old :)

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    Tom on 16 Feb 2015 #

    Oh I liked Expo 2000, I remember writing about that one somewhere on here. I don’t think it was meant to amount to terribly much, it’s a theme song for a trade fair after all!

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    wichitalineman on 16 Feb 2015 #

    Just a trace memory of Don’t Give Up – I remember it’s slenderness which, given the singer’s pedigree, I found endearing in 2000.

    In 2015? I think I’m happier with trance’s airy, minor chord wash than most. Still, this is a pretty slight single, lacking ATB’s undeniable hook, and failing to add anything out of the ordinary (beyond an odd guitar per-lunk at 2mins32) to what had become a formulaic genre.

    Saltwater is Clannad’s Harry’s Game (which I love) given trance’s pushmepullyou treatment. It does less for me than this.

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    mapman132 on 16 Feb 2015 #

    The presence of Bryan Adams wasn’t enough to make this a US hit, although apparently it did reach #3 on the dance chart. Despite the digital treatment of Adams’ voice, it’s still recognizable to me, and I’m often one who doesn’t recognize voices as well as others. Of course I had already seen the credit before listening to the record, so who knows whether I would have recognized Adams otherwise.

    The record does seem a bit understated for a number one, but I liked it enough to go back to it a couple days after first listen, so that makes it worth at least a 6/10 from me.

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    Billy Hicks on 16 Feb 2015 #

    On Stoned In Love, not only does Tom Jones sing the verses in a much gentler style than what we’re used to, but he’s digitally pitch-shifted up to the point where, at first, you have absolutely no idea it’s him. Only when the chorus arrives and he starts booming it out does it become even slightly familiar.

    Used to good effect in the video too, with someone in a mask being chased around only to be revealed as the actual real Tom Jones when his mask is taken off at the end.

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    Ricardo on 16 Feb 2015 #

    @#10 – Well, Bryan Adams’s career was already pretty much on autopilot in America by then. Besides, dance music wasn’t yet exactly big business there, even though I remember Basement Jaxx, Daft Punk and Faithless making some pretty serious moves towards America at the time. Daft Punk’s “One More Time” actually got to #61 on the Hot 100 in 2001, with some actual Top 40 airplay contributing to it. But that was as far as it got.

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    Alan on 16 Feb 2015 #

    What’s up with the ski-ing on the sleeve? Surely chicane != skiing, it’s a more generic term than that, non?

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    chelovek na lune on 16 Feb 2015 #

    Agree that this was surely only a no 1 on the coattails of the vastly superior “Saltwater”. This, while not unpleasant, and in places even hypnotic, is eminently, completely, forgettable.

    Best thing Bryan Adams did in the 2000s IMO -in 2002 in fact – play a walk-on part in a rather fantastic Russian film, “Dom Durakov” (House of fools), where he arrives in a storm at a lunatic asylum near the border of Chechnya to sing “Have You Ever Loved A Woman” to a female inmate who is obsessed with him and believe she is, in fact, his wife.

    This, though – bland, bland, bland. 3

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    thefatgit on 16 Feb 2015 #

    Yup, sign me up for “Saltwater” as well. Could easily have got an 8 or 9 score.

    As for this…well if somebody asked me to explain the term “phoned in vocal”, then this would be a perfect example. (2)

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    Andrew Farrell on 16 Feb 2015 #

    Saltwater is indeed amazing. “When you’re gone” (the duet with Mel C) is – not amazing, but a lot of rollicking miserable fun, the pop end of the country end of rock.

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    flahr on 16 Feb 2015 #

    I am enjoying imagining a clipped affectless German vocal line of “Let’s all meet up at Expo 2000”.

    Far more than I’m enjoying listening to “Don’t Give Up” anyway.

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    Ed on 17 Feb 2015 #

    Am I right in thinking Bryan Adams has mostly given up music now and become a photographer?

    I remember seeing a picture I liked somewhere, checking the photo credit and thinking: “Poor guy. He must be like Michael Bolton from Office Space.”

    But no, it was the very same Bryan Adams, it turned out.

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    Chelovek na lune on 17 Feb 2015 #

    #18 Just today I saw a flyer promoting a book edited by a Mel Gibson “[exploring] what superhero narratives can reveal about our attitudes towards femininity, race, maternity, masculinity and queer culture”.

    Oh, gosh, I thought, someone must get some ribbing because of their name.(Turns out this Mel Gibson is female, though)

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    Garry on 17 Feb 2015 #

    I agree with #3 regarding this being a hit of good band with less good track, but that said I did like Don’t Give Up at the time.

    I first heard Chicane on a Cafe del Mar album before (in my experience) I felt the various Ibiza styles were completely commercialised.

    (I felt a lot of good artists stopped being interersting in the late ’90s and started producing tracks for Ibiza compilations rather than their tracks being picked for Ibiza compilations).

    I loved Offshore so I felt Don’t Give Up was just reward for previous work. Plus there was a lot of trance and house around in 2000, and similarly a number of good dance DJs at my radio station so it was all around me. Don’t Give Up just matched the vibe.

    So yeah, a strong memory of this one.

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    Tommy Mack on 17 Feb 2015 #

    Only vague memories of this one. A lad I worked with at the time (also a guitarist) was a big Bryan Adams fan and gave this a cautious thumbs up.

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    James BC on 17 Feb 2015 #

    When You’re Gone was a classic, despite the unusual approach of having both duetters sing every line of the song. I could easily have seen it as a number 1 record, and I’m sure it must have had a longer chart run than the average number 3 hit.

    This, though, doesn’t seem very good. Maybe should have been called I’ve Given Up. The chorus lyrics aren’t so far away from Free by Ultra Nate, but where that was imperious, this is feeble.

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    lockedintheattic on 17 Feb 2015 #

    Isn’t the reason When You’re Gone is so good precisely because of the fact every line is harmonised by Mel (rather than despite)? It did have a pretty good run (10 weeks in the top ten) and actually outsold every other solo Spice Girls record (including all the ones which actually did make number one). It’s a cracking record.

    Wikipedia also tells me that “In 2005, Adams rerecorded the song with Pamela Anderson for the US release of the Anthology greatest hits album”. I’m scared to listen.

  24. 24
    JLucas on 17 Feb 2015 #

    I have heard the Pamela version. You’re right to be afraid.

    I kind of enjoy this, but very much in a passive way. I found the video quite striking at the time. It was set in some kind of dystopian futureverse where identically dressed people performed mundane, repetitive tasks amid slogans like “eliminate imagination” and “repetition is education”. The story was that one of the drones furtively listens to the song and dreams of a better life. I always felt like it was a strange fit because lyrics aside the song sounded exactly like the sort of flavourless muzak that you’d be encouraged, if not forced to listen to under an oppressive regime.

    My favourite Bryan Adams song is ‘I’m Ready’, incidentally.

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    Inanimate Carbon God on 17 Feb 2015 #

    Christ on a bike. This achieves the near-impossible by being something involving Bryan Adams I actually enjoy. It’s just so damn catchy.

    Also great to see Flux by Bloc Party topping the charts seven years before it even existed.


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    23 Daves on 17 Feb 2015 #

    This entry has really surprised me. I’d been harbouring under the illusion for years that “When You’re Gone” actually did get to number one, and that we’d be discussing it in due course (if it hadn’t slipped by unnoticed already). Instead, we’re talking about a Bryan Adams record which I not only didn’t know climbed to the summit, but actually have no memory of whatsoever.

    Checking the date of its peak, however, it all makes sense. This marks the week of my return to London, to do an admin/ project buying job for an internet business connectivity company (a job, incidentally, I was so clueless at that I still cringe thinking about it now. I quit after five months ahead of the inevitable boot). Not only had I finally tuned away from Radio One at that point, my mind was also almost certainly almost entirely on other things, though I’m surprised the idea of a Trance record fronted by Adams didn’t at least grab my interest.

    Listening to it now, I have almost nothing to add, apart from to say that it does sound like the template for the very worst of EDM that presently dogs the mainstream. It might sound wonderful to anyone who genuinely gets a buzz out of that material, but it’s not for me.

    I have to wonder how often I’m going to be thrown by number ones in future. I started playing the online music shares game Popex (anyone remember that?) for a long while at this point, so I still watched the charts like a hawk – but there’s every chance I only heard some of the forthcoming one week number ones a few times, if indeed at all.

  27. 27
    Kinitawowi on 17 Feb 2015 #

    Listened to it all the way through five minutes ago and I can’t remember a single thing that happened outside the chorus.

    Meh. If I want random Canadians in my trance music I’ll listen to Silence. (Saw Sarah McLachlan live once in Manchester on the Afterglow tour – she did a strange version of Silence, figuring it would be the only song the British audience might know. She was wrong.)


  28. 28
    Shiny Dave on 18 Feb 2015 #

    Oh, Silence was fantastic. And I own more albums by Sarah McLachlan than any other artist, which I can directly trace to the performance by the theatre director I mentioned before (and her being a fan of McLachlan’s work generally). I’d go on to sing McLachlan’s work in a singing lesson, but it was with a different teacher (in fact, it was Afterglow lead single “Fallen” that I did – by then McLachlan’s voice was lower, and/or she was writing lower in it, than before, to the point that “Fallen” caught out my classically-trained teacher).

    This digression is far more interesting than “Don’t Give Up.”

  29. 29
    Martin F. on 18 Feb 2015 #

    I assume the groundwork for this collaboration was laid with the Chicane remix of Adams’ “Cloud #9” the previous year – in its original form, one of the ploddier and less memorable songs to bear the usually reliable Gretchen Peters seal of (co-)writing quality, but a fairly standard beat somehow lifts it into pleasingly floaty, number-6-chart-position-worthy territory.

    File this one under “Lightning Actually Strikes Twice”, then – at least chart-wise. As a song and a production, it whelms rather less.

  30. 30
    JoeWiz on 19 Feb 2015 #

    Adams lost it as early as 95’s 18 Til I Die album, a plodding and disorganised mess which took five years to produce. It did, at least, produce several hit singles for him, albeit not ones the public would really be able to recall now. I remember be severely embarrassed by ‘Lets make a night to remember’, which bore moe similarities to the aforementioned Michael Bolton.
    This was pleasant enough, but sounds woefully of its time today.
    Adams released a covers album last year, along with a remaster of ‘Reckless’.

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