June 14, 2024

Rock of ages: Bon Jovi lives on with new album ‘Forever’ — 40 years after their debut

When Bon Jovi made their debut 40 years ago with their 1984 self-titled album featuring their hit “Runaway,” they were compared to the likes of Loverboy.

Words like “characterless” and “nondescript” were used to describe their music in a review by the Washington Post, which called out Jon Bon Jovi’s singing as “high, hysterical screaming.”

The review went on to slam his songwriting, saying: “He writes dumb songs about women.”

Jon Bon Jovi in 1984.

While one critic slammed Jon Bon Jovi for his “high, hysterical screaming” when his band debuted in 1984, they went on to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Getty Images

And the review concluded with one final dig. And I quote: “The band’s brand of antiseptic hard rock only makes you want to cheer on all the more the undiluted heavy rockers like Motley Crue.”

Ouch. The shade was real.

Well, 40 years letter, where exactly is Loverboy? And, um, Motley Crue hasn’t released a new studio album since 2008.

Despite starting out as the Rodney Dangerfield of rock bands — with absolutely no respect — the Jersey boys were not just livin’ on a prayer four decades ago: In fact, they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2018 and now they’re back with “Forever,” their new album out on Friday.

And despite the ravages of time that made guitarist Richie Sambora get fed up and quit the band in 2013 and frontman Jon Bon Jovi undergo vocal cord surgery at 60 in 2022, Bon Jovi is still Bon Jovi’ing. 

When they come out rocking with opening track “Legendary,” that title isn’t a stretch — because, you know what, they are legendary. 

And when JBJ sings “You don’t pick up what you can’t lift,” it nails exactly what works about Bon Jovi.

Jon Bon Jovi

“You don’t pick up what you can’t lift,” sing Jon Bon Jovi on “Legendary,” nailing exactly what works about his band. Getty Images

They do exactly what they do best — exactly what millions of people who bought their 1986 blockbuster “Slippery When Wet” have expected of them. And they stay in their lane. 

Even if that makes them — to me and many other critics — a more basic version of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band.

But really, is that such a bad thing when you can consistently crank out the kind of catchy — if sometimes corny — tunes that they do on “Forever”?

It all feels instantly familiar, as if you’ve heard it all before — and trust, you have — but damn if they haven’t lost the knack for big singalong choruses.

The cover of Bon Jovi's

Bon Jovi’s new album “Forever” is their first since frontman Jon Bon Jovi underwent vocal cord surgery in 2022. Universal Music Group

And there is one semi-surprise: “The People’s House,” a funky shimmy that captures the charitable spirt of JBJ’s Soul Kitchen community restaurants in his native New Jersey: “Come in and leave your mind open/It’s time we let love in/Mother, father I am broken/Barely breathing, but I’m hoping/There’s forgiveness for my sins.”

It’s certainly hard to hate on that.

None of it will make your forget “You Give Love a Bad Name,” “Wanted Dead or Alive” or even “It’s My Life.”

But when they sing “We Made It Look Easy” on one track, truer words were never spoken.

Because they’ve been making it look easy for 40 years.

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