With American Idol having a Bon Jovi night this week, I thought it was a good time to explore the band's career. I've always tried to not be an elitist about music here, as I realize that people have all kinds of genres that they want to listen to. If it was 1990, I wouldn't be using the band as a Please Explain topic, as Bon Jovi was the quintessential American pop metal band of the 1980's.
I know I will get slagged for this, but I like some of Bon Jovi's debut album, as Runaway and She Don't Me were better than almost anything new coming out on classic rock radio at the time.
Their sophomore release sucked, but their 3rd release, Slippery When Wet is the best pop metal album released by anyone not named Def Leppard. Livin' On a Prayer is good enough to be on a Springsteen album, while You Give Love a Bad Name and Wanted Dead or Alive were slamdunks right out of the box. Sure radio has killed the songs, but I give the group credit for this album. I grade on a curve and compared to the Poison's and Warrant's of the world, Bon Jovi was a big step-up.
Bon Jovi was able to follow-up this monster smash with another album loaded with hit singles, New Jersey. While it had nothing artistically on the level of Livin' On a Prayer, it was still solid arena rock. Guns and Roses had come out with Appetitie for Destruction by this time, which didn't hurt record sales for Bon Jovi, but exposed them to being pretty fluffy in comparison.
By 1992, when Bon Jovi was set to release their next record, grunge rock had taken over and all of sudden you were even seeing hair metal guys wearing flannel. It was the best time period for rock music, outside of the late 60's, and it made Winger, Slaughter, Europe, and their fellow aqua-net breathren seem really silly. While Bon Jovi was superior to these bands, it is remarkable to me that they were the only ones who have continued to ship millions of albums and play sell-out arenas. I mean outside of a couple decent singles, Bon Jovi has made a lot of crappy music since this point.
So what are the reasons that Bon Jovi have been able to thrive, while the rest of their fellow mousse-metal members have little to do, except play county fairs and appear on VH-1 retrospective programs?
I know some of it has to do with Bon Jovi having the largest amount of quality songs from this genre, but that still doesn't explain why they still can hit the top of the Billboard charts when they put out a new record.
Another reason for their continued success is that lead singer Jon Bon Jovi and guitarist Ritchie Sambora are sex symbols, but it wasn't like guys in any band who stalked the Sunset Strip ever had had trouble cultivating a female following, as well.
Being from the East Coast gave them a regional advantage, as all the SoCal fluffy-follicle-fellows had to compete with each other. Bon Jovi always seemed more down to earth and more All-American. While these characteristics explain some of their continued success, it also creates a bigger mystery to why they are so huge in the rest of the world. They have sold a ton more albums in Europe than Springsteen ever has and actually have had better luck charting new singles on that continent that on their home shores, during the past decade. What this tells me is that just like McDonalds, Europeans like to consume shit just as much as we do.
So my question for this week is to Please Explain Bon Jovi, post 1990? How have they been able to flourish for so long, with a style of music that gets no radio play besides by them and some of the lame ass ballads that Aerosmith pumps out?