New Jersey rockers/fossils Bon Jovi have announced plans for a summer tour in support of their newest album, Crush (Island). Don’t doubt it: their jaunt across America will be a success. After 35 weeks on the Billboard Hot 200, Crush is holding at 70, and its second single “Thank You for Loving Me” is storming the charts.
The question is, who let these guys back in?
Didn’t we bury them in the early 90s, after sagging album sales proved that “Bad Medicine” was not, in fact, what we needed? Did we not accept a newly shorn Jon Bon Jovi as an actor simply because it was a lesser evil than his band? Richie Sambora? Isn’t he dead? How have these lousy longhairs clawed their way back into the public consciousness? It’s like throwing a party, and noticing about halfway through the night that the guys you tried so hard to avoid inviting have come over anyway, and are standing by your keg drinking.
I laughed out loud when I first heard the band’s rockin’ lead-off single, the imaginatively titled “It’s My Life.” From Bon Jovi’s braying vocal to the muddled, Hysteria-esque production, it was the 80s, remixed. The obligatory synth-drum track in the background was an obvious (and cheap) attempt at updating a tired idea. In my head, the boys rocked along with a mullet-headed DJ, spinning the wheels of steel in Z.Cavariccis and a Hyper-Color t-shirt.
Inexplicably, “It’s My Life” was a hit.
Who was buying this? I asked around. No one I knew was happy to hear of Bon Jovi’s return. And yet, the re-emergence continued. Appearances on VH-1. Concert specials. All of this exposure was only serving to illustrate that the members of Bon Jovi who aren’t named Bon Jovi or Sambora would easily be confused with those employees of Aerosmith not named Tyler or Perry. The rub: aging white men in leather vests and bad weaves. Amazingly, Crush peaked at #9 on the Billboard charts.
Taken at face value, Slippery When Wet is a great album. You drum on your steering wheel when K-Billy FM plays “Livin’ On A Prayer” as part of its Big Hair Weekend. “Never Say Goodbye” brings you back to that night at the union hall, when there was no use talkin’ ’cause there was nothin’ to say. But check it: I’ve listened to Crush. It’s terrible. Danger Kitty performing “Love Rocket” at a bris is better than this shit. Every rock cliché, every sappy lyrical couplet (“It’s my life/it’s now or never/I ain’t gonna live forever”)—it’s all here.
If Bon Jovi needed a quick payday, why didn’t they just release a Christmastime greatest-hits box and get it over with? That would’ve been better than Crush, a collection of weak rockers and sleep-inducing ballads that somehow manages to sound amateurish and sad all at once. You know that feeling of pity you get watching some middle-aged fat guys rock out the songs of their youth at a summer street festival? It’s my sincere hope that it’s this notion of pity that accounts for Bon Jovi’s resurgence. You don’t really want to watch those fat guys, sweating as they roll though an out of key take on “Livin’ After Midnight.” But you order another beer, because like a car accident, there’s a perverse pleasure in watching the carnage unfold.