Don’t look now JoviNation, but New Jersey rock Gods Bon Jovi are feeling déjà vu all over again.
They even did it old school: this time around, they went out on tour first like they used to do back in the day and released the record after a well-orchestrated tour and media blitz.
The result is the band’s third consecutive #1 following close on the heels of Lost Highway and The Circle, and their fifth overall in a career that spans three decades.
As if that weren’t enough to shock the haters who believe Bon Jovi’s talent shrank with their hair, What About Now is Number 20 on the iTunes album chart.
This is no small feat in a digital world, especially when the names ahead of your chart position on iTunes include Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift, The Lumineers, Lil’ Wayne, Bruno Mars and Rhianna.
To hardcore Bon Jovi fans that comprise a global clique known as Jovi Nation, it’s no surprise. But to occasional listeners and music critics, the reaction is more like a raised eyebrow, a stifled yawn and the not too quiet whisper, “Those guy are still around?!
Indeed they are, but music industry truth hurts: if Adele, Maroon 5, The Lumineers or She Who Couldn’t Sing Her Way Out Of A Paper Bag (Taylor Swift) had crafted a record as listenable and refreshing as Bon Jovi’s latest music critics would be throwing descriptives like “refreshing”, “ground-breaking”, “invigorating rock”, or “Record Of The Year in the genre”.
That’s a damn shame because a Bon Jovi record is like inviting good friends over for warm conversation, comfort food, and the feeling of familiarity that comes from connecting naturally and without pre-condition.
Listening to What About Now is like slipping on a favorite pair of jeans that fit just right in all the important places.
Once again in their thirty-year thrill ride, Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, David Bryan, Tico Torres (and yes you too Hugh!)are the guardians of an intimate connection between band and fan that other acts can only dream about.
Because We Can (Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, Billy Falcon): the first single and video, this is classic Bon Jovi. The more you listen the more it grows on you thanks to catchy hooks and call and response chorus just made for live shows.
“Because we can
Our love can move a mountain
If you believe in We”
Unfortunately, the video is horrid with band shots ruined by some fighter getting his ass kicked in the ring and some drunken floozy trying to fly with pigeon wings and a JBJ Backstage logo tatted on her back. But, I digress…
Driven by Richie Sambora’s quirky smirky guitar, this song just works.
Im With You (Jon Bon Jovi & John Shanks): features a wall of sound that wraps richly textured melodies around excellent harmonies.
While some have said “I listen to Bon Jovi for rock, not social conscience”, the message in this song is Zen; and where the hell are we headed as a civilization without a conscience, social or otherwise?
Whether you are a rock star or a janitor and every color of the rainbow in between, pain and suffering in this life atop a spinning ball of dirt called Earth aren’t optional.
We’re all going to have happy moments---the Oreo and the smoke after an orgasm---as well as some of unspeakable pain and loss, but we don’t have to shoulder the burden alone.
“When hope is gone and all you want is the truth,
Carry on when you see it’s no use.
I’m with you
If I got one thing and there’s something to prove,
We all got nothing and there’s nothing to lose”.
If we share our hardships or shoulder another’s the weight of the burden is halved, underscored by a steady crescendo march that builds to a Sambora buzz-waa solo that picks at life’s travails like a lathe shaping wood.
What About Now (Jon Bon Jovi & John Shanks): talk about handing the musical key to your band and letting them take this bitch out and drive!
Torres and Sambora provide the energy and David Bryan plays gracefully between the smoky remnants of drum and guitar like a true Phantom of the Opera.
“You wanna start a fire it only takes a spark
If you wanna take a bite you better have the teeth
Take that step and get up off of your knees”
Sure bad shit happens to good people, but the burden needn’t be shouldered alone and Pain and Sufferring are optional but there’s a catch. When others extend a hand, you have to pull yourself UP now and be accountable because there ain’t gonna be a better time than the present.
Pictures Of You (Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, John Shanks): the record’s first masterpiece appropriately written by Jon and Richie and producer Shanks. It’s got romance and class with lyrics that make every woman’s eyes well-up with tears as they prepare to toss their panties on the stage.
Jon Bon Jovi clearly needs to stop letting brother Matt pick which songs get put out first because this one should have been the first single and first video.
“If I should go crazy
If I would go blind
I’d still feel the canvas
From the pictures in my mind
If that’ the only way to make you mine”
Richie Sambora’s intergalactic solo lines use the universe as a canvas as the King of Swing paints a starlit night with color after delicious color of his musical Technicolor rainbow.
Amen (Jon Bon Jovi & Billy Falcon): a classic Bon Jovi love song and the second masterpiece on the disc.
On the current tour the song is used as an intimate transition within the set, with Jon stepping out into the stage extension at the front of the circle while Richie stays back on stage, dimly lit with his acoustic guitar.
“The skin under my finger tips
Honeysuckle on her lips
Sweeter than a man deserves to taste
Mercy, mercy, what else can I say?
But Amen. Amen"
Jon Bon Jovi lays to rest concerns about his vocal range. While the concert version is good, the recorded version with an orchestral arrangement thrown in make this song not only a Bon Jovi classic, but truly majestic.
That’s What The Water Made Me (Jon Bon Jovi & Billy Falcon): As good as this song is, it’s got issues.
The lyrics are a hodge-podge of previously used images from other Bon Jovi songs (“This world is cracked and crazy” is akin to “The world is cracked, the sky is torn” from When We Were Beautiful.
Then there are the weak "Baby-baby-baby" opener and "Don't know how, don't know what, don't know why". You can just hear Jon telling Billy Falcon, "We need another word here that begins with "W" ".
That said, although no one can figure out what the hell the song is about, it finds a way to work after successive listen which is a testament to the overall musicianship of this relentless band.
It’s driven largely by Sambora’s big meaty and relentlessly pulsating (get your heads out of the gutters ladies!)guitar that ends with a sonic chime line that personally delivers the song to the very angels in heaven they sing about.
Unfortunately the song also has an unintended humorous characteristic: when Jon Bon Jovi sings “That’s what the water; that’s what the water…..” his enunciation of his “t’s” sounds like the letter “d”, making it possible to imagine Elmer Fudd from the Looney Tunes cartoons singing, “Dat’s whad the wadda, dat’s what da waddddddddda”.
But if you’re vewy vewy quiet da song grows on you.
End Part 1