Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published October 10th 2020
The latest from JBJ & co
Like many people, I was first exposed to Bon Jovi in 1986 when Slippery When Wet was absolutely everywhere. I mean, it was everywhere. The songs were on the radio all the time, the videos on TV, posters all over the place, mentions were a pop-culture staple. However, the band was not just this one album. In the decades since, they have consistently released albums of strength and quality. I sort of fell off the Bon Jovi band-wagon when Richie Sambora left. Mind you, considering his wonderful output since, I felt I was right to follow him and not the band.
And then, a few months after it was scheduled, 2020 by Bon Jovi (2020) was released.
Okay. Well… I might have jumped the gun. This album is really, really good. And it continues 2020's run of classic rock artists (see Paul Weller and Deep Purple for examples) releasing albums of absolutely incredible quality. See that, younger artists? Making good music does not have to rely on being slaves to short-lived trends!
Sorry. Now, this album. Well… it is a mature album. There are protest songs. There are songs about family and growing up. There are songs about social issues. And yet it rocks. Wow. This is a really strong album. Now, there is apparently a Deluxe version but I bought the cheaper CD (money is not good) and so you only get the standard 10 tracks here, not the bonus stuff.
'Limitless' We start with a Bon Jovi song. Well, duh! No, I mean it has "wo-oah!"s, pounding bass-line and Jon's voice sounding like it has not aged. Drums feel a little muted, but it's still the sound we've grown to know and love. The lyrics are about living life to its fullest. This is the only way they could have opened a new album – by reminding people of the past, and yet not reproducing it exactly. Good opener.
'Do What You Can' There is an almost country feel to this. (On the Bon Jovi YouTube channel there is a more country version of this track featuring Jennifer Nettles and it is very good.) What is it about?"
"Although I'll keep my social distance… Until we find the vaccination…" Guess! The whole song can be summarised by another lyric: "When you can't do what you do, you do what you can." This is the song for our current times. A song of hope. A song we need right now. My favourite track on the album.
'American Reckoning' Now, we slow down and the age is there in Jon's voice, and it is what this song needs. It is about the trouble in America after the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement. It is very political; it is important a group like Bon Jovi "shines a light" on this sort of thing. Tough subject well handled.
'Beautiful Drug' This shows what experienced artists seem to know how to do well – song placement. After the heavy-duty theme of the previous song, we go straight into classic Bon Jovi mode. Not the most adventurous of songs, more a bit of fun, really. I mean, lyrically it's another song about love being the drug. (There's a column idea!) But good track.
'Story Of Love' Slow down again to a song about the love between parents and their children. Fitting in with the lyrically thrust of the album that we need to be better to one another, and this starts with the family. I can see this being used as the soundtrack for countless twenty-first birthday party videos. While I dislike the word, this is actually a sweet song. "Fathers love daughters like mothers love sons… There is nothing but pride, there is nothing but love." Oh, and a good guitar solo.
'Let It Rain' Back to the classic Bon Jovi sound. This song is about the bad times eventually coming to an end, using the imagery of a soldier to make the point. Yes, there is another message here, but it does not feel like you're being brow-beaten by it. There is more than a hint of early Springsteen about this, with the verse/chorus/bridge structure, the tinkling piano, the rising crescendos all reminiscent.
'Lower The Flag' Okay, I found this the most depressing song on the album. A song about the mass shootings, dominated by Jon and an acoustic guitar. This is Dylanesque. I mean it. And the bridge… a list of cities that have seen mass shootings, finishing with: "Marjory Stoneman Douglas High/ Columbine, Columbine /Sandy Hook Elementary." Then a plea for life in the final verse. What an incredible and moving track.
'Blood In The Water' We stay slow, but this is an angry, angry track. I re-iterate – there is something like Dylan, like Springsteen about these lyrics. He has something to say, and yet his delivery is so good. This would be a power ballad if not for the lyrics that try to be proud of America but are struggling.
'Brothers In Arms' The tempo lifts again. We needed it after those last two tracks. Another track that calls for people to look after one another. This I found the least track on the album, and yet it is not a bad track, not at all. Maybe I need to listen to it away from the one-two punch that preceded it to appreciate it more.
'Unbroken' We close with an anthemic track that has a steady and pounding drum beat driving it along, the sort of march song that gets an audience involved. And yet, we are finishing the album on another depressing song – soldiers struggling after war, with PTSD, with life. Downbeat, yes, but it suits the album.
Okay. 10 tracks. One mediocre one. Nine strong ones. I think I have another contender for album of the year. Wow. I mean… wow! Is this the best Bon Jovi album ever? No… but it is one of the best. This is stunning.
Not just Bon Jovi fans will get something out of this album. This is a strong album on any scale. Recommended. Yes. Definitely. It is a tough album at times with themes and lyrics that are unflinching and strong. This is what we might need now. Will I feel the same way in 12 months? I do not know, but I reckon some of these songs are destined to become classics in their canon.
To finish, I have received comments that it seems that I like everything. I will say again that I will only review albums I like (and songs, films, books, etc). If I do not like it, I will not review it. This year alone, albums by Halsey, Richard Marx and Dua Lipa (amongst others) have not been reviewed by me for that reason. But because I don't like it does not mean you won't. I will not inflict my negativity onto you. Only my positivity.
In the world, as it is now, being positive is for the best for everyone.