Ever since their self-titled debut album came out in 1984, Bon Jovi have churned out songs about the triumphs and struggles of young working-class America. It’s where Jon Bon Jovi and his bandmates came from, and for many years the singer’s experiences and dreams provided abundant subject matter for rousing anthems and heartfelt ballads.
But when former common folk turn into superstars, sometimes it’s hard for them to really still empathize with the everyman. That might explain why on his band’s new album, Bounce, due October 8, Jon Bon Jovi has once again tapped into what he knows, and it’s a combination of what’s real and what’s ideal.
This time he’s not only crooning about working the nine-to-five, growing older and staying true to oneself. He’s also getting inspired by what he’s seen on TV and in the movies. Considering the political volatility that occurred during the disc’s creation, he couldn’t help but address what he saw on the news in the wake of September 11. The title Bounce comes from the idea of bouncing back after a tragedy and re-emerging stronger, wiser and more resilient than before. And the leadoff track, “Undivided,” is specifically about the World Trade Center attacks.
“That was my brother lost in the rubble/ That was my sister lost in the crush/ That was our mothers, those were our children/ That was our fathers, that was each of us,” he sings. But like his pal and idol Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi doesn’t dwell on the misery; instead, he examines the good that can come out of such evil. “Where we once were divided, now we stand united,” he sings over a rousing chorus.
Other songs were more directly culled from Hollywood. The title “You Had Me From Hello” borrowed from a line in the movie “Jerry Maguire,” and the Meatloaf-like love song “Open All Night” is based on the fictional relationship his character in “Ally McBeal” had with the heroine of the show.
All kinds of emotions stir through Bounce. While the album is hopeful and romantic throughout, some of the songs are angry and aggressive, reflecting the turbulence and tension that exists in the world today. However, the loud tracks aren’t just punchy commercial metal, they’re also forward-thinking, suggesting that Jon was tuning into modern rock radio between tapings of “Ally McBeal.”
The opening riff in “Undivided” sounds a lot like Weezer’s “Hash Pipe,” the tweaked, ragged guitars and electronic embellishments on “Everyday” are more than a little like Garbage, and the raw, precise riffery and exultant “I know you can do it, c’mon!” vocals of “Hook Me Up” are reminiscent of the Cult. Of course, all three tracks also feature elements of vintage Bon Jovi, including gradually building dynamics, dramatic vocals and infectious refrains, resulting in a style that introduces listeners to new sounds without jarring them out of their headphones.
No Bon Jovi record is complete without sweeping ballads, and Bounce has several. There’s the poignant piano and stirring strings of “Hey Joey,” the reflective, lighter-raiser “All About Loving You” and the breathing rhythms and ringing guitars of “Open All Night.” Of course, there’s plenty of ground between the two extremes, like the exultant mid-paced rocker “The Distance,” and “Misunderstood,” which simultaneously jangles, grooves and rocks.
Once again, Bon Jovi have created a record that pinpoints the passions, drives and points of interest of their audience, even though the band’s frontman is drawing less from personal recollections to help achieve that end.