Def Leppard’s “Make Love Like A Man” single was released 27 years ago this month.
The track was the second single off the band’s Adrenalize album.
“Make Love Like A Man” is also included on Def Leppard’s Vault (vinyl edition) as well as The Story So Far: The Best of greatest hits releases.
A Def Leppard song featuring tongue-in-cheek lyrics isn’t anything new.
Just take a glance through Def Leppard’s song catalog and you’ll quickly find a handful of examples.
There are times when the band’s writing can be quite subtle in capturing and communicating a song’s message — “Make Love Like A Man” is not one of those times.
It’s very straightforward in its delivery and humor — for better or worse — and is a prime example of the lighthearted direction the band pursued for the Adrenalize album. (After all, the album’s lead-off single “Let’s Get Rocked” was inspired by “The Simpsons.”)
Whereas Hysteria offered up songs like “Women” and “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” Def Leppard took their adoration of the female persuasion to a bolder level lyric-wise with Adrenalize songs like “Personal Property,” “I Wanna Touch U” (“…till we’re stuck like glue!”), and, of course, “Make Love Like A Man.”
Some may view the lyrics to “Make Love Like A Man” as blunt and crass, but that’s how they were intended to be: co-writer Phil Collen, who brought the song’s original concept to the band has stated the original “make love like a man” lyrics were used as filler until better ones could be crafted during the song’s recording stage.
Not only did Joe Elliott and Mutt Lange enjoy the humor in Phil’s original lyrics, they preferred to keep them as-is. (This should come as no surprise, especially for Mutt Lange, who’s had his share of “unique” songs; soon after, he would co-write the Bryan Adams songs “(I Wanna Be) Your Underwear” and “The Only Thing That Looks Good on Me Is You.”)
Make Love Like…Captain Cool
There’s no point in attempting to dissect the lyrics to “Make Love Like A Man.”
They’re basic and simplistic, though lines like “I’m a man…that’s what I am” can make one wonder if the band could have come up with something a tad wittier.
But that’s neither here nor there.
“Make Love Like A Man” is a playfully fun song.
It’s been included in many Def Leppard tour setlists over the decades, and it takes on a whole new energy when performed live, especially with its sing-along chorus which audiences happily participate in.
The song also showcases Phil Collen taking over lead vocals for a brief moment, further adding an element of fun in concert…
Here’s just one example, cued up to that very moment:
Def Leppard: “Make Love Like A Man” Music Video
The easy-going environment showcased in the “Make Love Like A Man” music video is further highlighted by the band’s lighthearted…
Digging Much Deeper: Single Release Strategy
Putting aside the amusing aspects of “Make Love Like A Man” for a moment, releasing the track as the second single off the Adrenalize album — at least in hindsight — was a strategic misfire.
As mentioned in a previously written article about the state of the music industry around the time of Adrenalize‘s release, the Hysteria days of numerous hit singles living on the charts for long stretches of time were just about gone.
Adrenalize launched beautifully with “Let’s Get Rocked” as its first single. Yes, it was silly in its own right, and some hardcore fans might have felt a bit of a disconnect to the “edgier” Def Leppard they so fondly remembered from the Hysteria and Pyromania days, but the song did its job.
“Let’s Get Rocked” exploded onto Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart (its most mainstream chart).
The single debuted at number 27(!) — an unprecedented position for a Def Leppard single’s first week on that chart, but not surprising given their long-awaited return, single sales, and initial radio airplay support.
But “Let’s Get Rocked” quickly started to lose momentum; in its second week, it stalled and remained at #27.
Normally, a song DEBUTING at number #27 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles Chart would be a safe bet to rocket up the Top 10 and have a great chance at topping the chart at some point.
That didn’t happen.
“Let’s Get Rocked” peaked at #15 — a respectful accomplishment in and of itself, but when looking at the bigger picture, it was an early sign that the band’s history of chart success was beginning to waver.
Not only did “Let’s Get Rocked” not even reach the Top 10, it peaked 6 weeks into its run before declining back down the chart.
It was vital to keep radio airplay momentum going, so picking a follow-up single was a very important strategic decision — not only to help maintain (if not grow) album sales but interest in the Adrenalize album itself.
Don’t Make Love Like A Man?
Deciding what would be single #2 off of Adrenalize was imperative.
The fact that “Let’s Get Rocked” had a chart life drastically shorter than previous Def Leppard singles was clearly a warning sign.
And knowing that a challenging music industry all but guaranteed a much shorter lifespan for any new Def Leppard release — song or album — meant time was of the essence.
Adrenalize was not going to have the same lifespan as Hysteria; it didn’t have the same album depth to even attempt to have as many hit singles released, so striking while the iron was still hot (though quickly cooling) was all the more crucial.
And for that reason, “Make Love Like A Man” should NOT have been Adrenalize‘s second single.
Moreover, “Let’s Get Rocked” already showcased the “sillier” lyrical side of Def Leppard; following it up with an even sillier song wasn’t helpful.
What should have been the second single?
“I Wanna Touch U” and “Heaven Is” were other radio-ready tracks, though a little too overly produced and not as potent as “Let’s Get Rocked.” (Even though “Heaven Is” was never released as a single in the U.S., it was released in the U.K. and reached the Top 15 on the charts.)
Ultimately, “Tear It Down” would have been a wiser choice.
It’s unfortunate the Adrenalize version of “Tear It Down” watered down the song’s original rawer, edgy sound (the original version was a B-side on Hysteria‘s “Women” single). Nevertheless, the track as a single would have effectively showcased Def Leppard’s mastery of still rocking hard and reminded many people of the vintage riffs and hooks they’d come to love over the years.
It would have also satisfied “old-school” fans by giving them the opportunity to reconnect with the band’s music, as well as newer fans just discovering the band.
And finally, it would have appeased ROCK radio stations who no doubt would have supported the track and helped maintain sales momentum for Adrenalize in the process.
Obviously, this didn’t happen.
“Make Love Like A Man” was released, it peaked at #36 (after only FOUR very short weeks of climbing the Hot 100 Singles chart) and quickly disappeared…and took the air out of Adrenalize‘s sails (and sales) in the process.
This is not to dismiss the fact that Adrenalize achieved great early sales success. Not long after its release, the album was immediately certified triple platinum in the U.S. alone! Very impressive…but it’s also where its sales certification remains to this day; it never increased after that initial phase. (Hence, the importance of keeping the early sales momentum going.)
I believe a good parallel to “Make Love Like A Man” is the Hysteria track “Excitable” — it’s fun, catchy, and rather straightforward (lyrically and musically). With that said, “Excitable” was once considered to be the EIGHTH single off of the Hysteria album, but ultimately wasn’t released.
But it still makes a fine album track.
“Make Love Like A Man” would have been just fine following the same path as a solid album track.
Def Leppard: Make Love Like A Man…On Occasion
Decades after its release, “Make Love Like A Man” still goes over well when Def Leppard performs it live.
Its days of heavy rotation on the band’s tour setlist are likely over though, as even Joe Elliott has gone on the record saying he prefers to not perform it live, referring to the lyrics these days as a “nod too stupid.”
Well, I guess the old saying is true: a “Leppard” truly cannot change its spots.
As for whether releasing “Make Love Like A Man” as a single was the wrong decision no longer matters; it’s also worth noting that it’s a critique of the record company’s promotional strategy, not the band itself.
It’s nice knowing decades after the “Make Love Like A Man” release — misfire or not — that Def Leppard still enjoys an immense amount of popularity and is a well-deserving member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Time will tell whether the band further shies away from “Make Love Like A Man” on future tours, but it’s still a piece of the fabric that is Def Leppard and an integral part of the Adrenalize album.
“And that’s a fact!”
Def Leppard “Make Love Like A Man” Song Ranking
A detailed song ranking and review of all 115 songs from the band’s original studio albums can be found here.