Review this album
Apr 16, 2013I’ve been a fan of Bon Jovi’s work for around the past 7 years, since just after the release of the fantastic Have a Nice Day in 2005. Their latest What About Now is one I’d compare mostly to their previous album, 2009’s The Circle, where song structures & choruses became more arena-friendly & lyrics strayed from personal struggles & more in the realm of politics & self-empowerment. And asI’ve been a fan of Bon Jovi’s work for around the past 7 years, since just after the release of the fantastic Have a Nice Day in 2005. Their latest What About Now is one I’d compare mostly to their previous album, 2009’s The Circle, where song structures & choruses became more arena-friendly & lyrics strayed from personal struggles & more in the realm of politics & self-empowerment. And as a result it made for a welcome slight shift in their overall sound. However, despite a few duds here & there in the band’s discography, What About Now is the first Bon Jovi album I’ve ever disliked as a whole. Why, because they made some monumental change that alienated a lot of people? Nope, actually the problem is quite the opposite. In a nutshell it’s just a watered-down version of The Circle. I’d compare the situation most to a disappointment from last year, Mumford & Sons’ Babel. Their first album (which FYI I’m comparing to The Circle), while containing a couple duds & having a fairly repetitive formula, still managed to keep things fresh throughout, offering little bits of diversity in the process as well as some heartfelt lyrics. Next time around however they took the small bad things about the first album & blew them up, making everything feel formulaic & phoned-in, despite a few highlights. Here though it’s an even worse case; not only because there’s less key tracks, but also because there’s an all-around dullness that’s being overproduced-ly forced in your face throughout. Easily the biggest flaw with this album is how ridiculously uninspired, pretentious & corny the lyrics are. It names off pretty much every conceivable cliché “you can do it”/”self-empowerment”/”going through hard times” phrase in the book & doesn’t even try to hide that fact. And not only that, there are a few moments where Bon Jovi is practically copying themselves. First off, the vocal melodies & structure of the verses in the title track sound just like lazy a conglomeration between The Circle’s Superman Tonight & Happy Now. I’m With You subject matter-wise is just a self-important & less effective version of Keep the Faith’s Dry County, and Thick as Thieves is just Bounce’s Right Side of Wrong without the great lyrical imagery. Oh, and the verse melody in Beautiful World is a blatant copy of Matchbox Twenty’s How Far We’ve Come. And musically, while the album is far more tolerable in this department, it still feels like not as much effort was put in as there was on previous albums. Some tracks find themselves either without a good hook or trying desperately (and failing) to find one. And even Richie Sambora’s great guitar solos are for the most part reduced to mindless noodling. I thought Because We Can was a mediocre first single when I first heard it, but honestly it’s still one of the more notable tracks here. I mean despite the generic lyrics, at least it sticks in my head nicely. If there’s one track here that I’m truly impressed by, it’d be What’s Left of Me, which paints vivid & believable pictures of people going through hard times & willing to push through in a way that works far better than similar attempts here. It even has a 2nd verse that doubles as a brief social commentary about the decline of the classic American punk rock scene. Reflective self-analyzing ballad The Fighter’s pretty good too. Overall though this album left me cold, and it’s my first (and hopefully only) big musical disappointment of 2013 so far.
Top 4 tracks: What’s Left of Me, The Fighter, Because We Can, That’s What the Water Made Me.
Score: 45/100… Expand
Classic Rock MagazineJun 6, 2013Their most self-important but least memorable, engaging or relevant album yet. [Apr 2013, p.98]
Kerrang!Apr 12, 2013There's enough gritty social commentary and songwriting class amid the occasional cheese to suggest that, on the long road to credibility, Bon Jovi are finally more than halfway there. [9 Mar 2013, p.52]
Q MagazineApr 10, 2013Jovi's delivery of the usual cliches has a curious, sickly sheen. [May 2013, p.96]