“Everything I Do,” the song without subtext

“Everything I Do,” the song without subtext

Kevin Costner in Robin Hood
Kevin Costner in Robin Hood

In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week, we’re picking our favorite songs from action movies.

Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves is a film that I treasure, for largely personal reasons: It happened to be on TV a lot when I was growing up, and my sister and I have watched it together dozens of times. It is not, by any measure known to humans, a good movie. It is very fun to watch, though—it’s deliberately and gloriously mindless, dotted here and there with romantic overtures toward diversity, liberty, and patriotism that make it an American movie more than any other setting could. It’s single-minded, extraordinarily silly action, brought to life in a backlot hastily renamed Sherwood Forest. The film spends way too long on the stunts; none of the “good guys” are all that interesting, and Kevin Costner isn’t even trying to have a British accent.



The soundtrack is really what pulls it all together—anchored by the love theme, Bryan Adams’ “Everything I Do (I Do It For You).” Adams’ song was the official radio single for the film—and has since, of course, become a soft-pop staple. It is the least action-movie song ever, but that’s part of what brings it toward perfect imperfection. It’s so over-the-top with its earnest romance that it’s pure cheese, and that’s all Robin Hood is going for. (Hence the treehouse city full of happy outlaws, and flaming arrows sailing elegantly through the air, as Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio blows gently on Costner’s ear.) The film and the song are both the confluence of wonderful intentions and painfully unconsidered delivery; of grand ambition and mediocre talent. (Just listen to the terrible guitar bridge in the last third of the song. Yikes.)

Robin Hood and “Everything I Do” both defy ironic detachment. There’s nothing in them to enjoy ironically; both require that you take the premise entirely seriously. (The music video for Adams’ song is depressingly earnest. Like, you’re worried about him, that’s how seriously he’s walking around forests singing about unhealthy attachment to another human being. Also, the band is playing in the woods, and there are scenes from the chemistry-less romance between Robin and Marian.) You either buy into it or you don’t; there is no subtext, there is just text.

Which might be why both were so appealing when I was younger. Robin Hood did not require any understanding of the world in order to enjoy it—indeed, an understanding of history actually makes it harder to appreciate the film. And knowing anything about love, relationships, or music makes it difficult to appreciate “Everything I Do,” which sits with Police’s “Every Breath You Take” in the hall of fame of songs that are textually very creepy and yet still somehow make it to mainstream radio stations.

For me, this song, and this film, are a nostalgic dose of the cultural moment of the early ’90s, well before I learned how to look at things with irony. Not too nostalgic, because wow, this song is a lot of weird feelings all at once—but a reminder of who I once was.


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