CD: Bon Jovi - What About Now | New music reviews, news & interviews
CD: Bon Jovi - What About Now
New Jersey rockers' state-of-the-nation address fails to impress
Over 30 years, Bon Jovi has remained one of the more cartoonish fixtures in soft rock. With characteristic lack of irony, the boys from New Jersey have perfected the art of singing nonsense - my favourite example is "someday you tell the day / by the bottle that you drink" - with straight faces. Now, they’re getting more ambitious. What About Now is being touted as a “big rock record full of social commentary". Its subject is Obama’s America. How odd then that half of it sounds a bit like the Stereophonics.
Still, it’s not all bland, anthemic, stadium rock. The lead single, “Because We Can”, is a bright, catchy pop song. Then there’s “The Fighter”, which seems to be modelled on Springsteen’s “The Wrestler”. But whereas the Boss told a story of an actual wrestler, here, the plucked guitar and gravel vocals evoke the daily struggles of a blue-collar everyman. Jon lays it on a bit thick at the end, but for the most part it’s done with admirable pathos.
A couple of highlights notwithstanding, however, “What About Now” is the music of eastern seaboard Democrats operating with all the subtlety of mid-western Republicans. On "I'm With You" and "That's What The Water Made Me", any vestigial trace of their erstwhile fun-loving guitar rock is finally given over to bland FM hogwash. The stories told hardly compensate. A good indication of the emotional range on offer here can can be found on the album's first promo video (see below). The action takes place in two settings. In the first Jon and his friends are performing in the corner of what looks like a regional Italian-American boxing match. They then move to some kind of strip club and the delights of the fetching, tattooed Astrid who, of course, eventually locks tongues with Jon. Rather than being a snapshot of Obama’s America, the band has hardly moved on from the world of Tommy and Gina, the heroes of their classic, “Livin’ on a Prayer”. If only the music had stayed there too.
Watch the video for "Because We Can"
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