In the '80s, a ton of bands got huge playing pop-metal; essentially just pop songs with big drums and loud guitars in reality. Bon Jovi were really just another one of them; they did it better and more successfully than almost everyone else, admittedly, but basically they were just another band with fluffy mullets, eye-liner, bad clothes, huge guitars and even bigger choruses. If someone had asked you in 1987 which of the currently popular bands would go on to become rock legends, would you have said Bon Jovi? I doubt it.
Even so, while every single one of their contemporaries is hated by, well, just about everybody, Bon Jovi enjoy worldwide stadium tours, multi-platinum albums, and serious respect. Fans of Motley Crue, and Def Leppard, the inventors of the '80s rock sound, probably feel it's a big injustice. Actually though, Bon Jovi have been exceptionally clever in maintaining their success.
From most of the hair bands waited until after grunge hit to try to improve their image, by which time it was too late. Bon Jovi started getting more credible with New Jersey and even though pre-production on 1992's Keep the Faith started before grunge was anything notable, when it landed it saw a shorn locks image and back-to-basics stripped down sound. Even in the mid-nineties, when hair bands were the antichrist in the eyes of the current crop of rock outfits, Bon Jovi managed to put out the successful These Days, which managed platinum even in the alternative-dominated States. All this kept their foot in the door for their big comeback with Crush. Even Crush showed shrewd use of the hit songwriters of the moment (something Bon Jovi had done since their breakthrough Slippery When Wet).
As I write this, Bon Jovi's worldwide sales are something in the region of 92-93 million, and they are about to release Bounce which could well see them break the 100 million mark. What are they doing to launch it? They are throwing a free private concert and inviting the entire staff of their record company. After the show the band will hang out with everyone there. That's brilliance. They know how to get the record company on their side, and this, along with wise image changes and consistently producing hit singles, has ensured their longevity. Poison, Warrant, and Cinderella trek around the United States on package tours occasionally managing as many as 10,000 at shows but generally drawing considerably less; their new album releases are low-budget affairs and 100,000 worldwide is an achievement to them. Bon Jovi are treated with the same reverence accorded to Aerosmith, sell-out massive stadiums around the world and if Bounce is half-decent it could sell 10 million. You can sit around being jealous and moaning about why your favourite band deserves the success more, but hats off to Bon Jovi… They're the stalwarts of hair metal who have risen above the stigma of the genre and become worldwide superstars.
One thing though: Don't be fooled by all the "Blood on Blood" crap. Bon Jovi got signed after Runaway became a hit and his band were hired; they're basically a bunch of session musicians -- a far cry from the Bloodbrothers they'd love you to think they are. Jon Bon Jovi is a smooth talking, egotistical pretty boy with really not all that much musical talent. He has written some excellent songs, but really without Richie Sambora he is nothing special and when singing live his voice goes from strong and gritty to whiny and nasal. Sometimes I think the rest of the band should fire Jon and re-christen themselves "Sambora".
Anyway, what you want to know is if they are any good. Well, if you've never heard any Bon Jovi, where have you been living? Anyway, yes, for the record, nobody does what Bon Jovi do better.
Best album: Bon Jovi fans will tell you New Jersey and while that's a great record, don't believe their foolishness. There's a reason Slippery When Wet sold so well: it's brilliant.
Official website: www.bonjovi.com
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See also Why Jon Bon Jovi Sucks, and Def Leppard vs. Bon Jovi.