October 24, 2002

On the Bounce

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Jon Bon Jovi may give love a bad name, but the musician-turned-actor has a serious side as well. On Bon Jovi’s eighth studio album, Bounce, the band offers up hard rock tracks inspired by the events of September 11th, 2001, as well as the power-pop love ballads that have become their trademark in the past decade.

Bounce doesn’t focus on political aspects of September 11th, nor does the album remain somber and hopeless, reveling in the world’s current state — instead, it relies on the nation’s resilience and unity as its backdrop. This theme is evident in the first single, “Everyday,” which finds the singer re-examining his priorities in the wake of the attacks (“I had enough of crying, bleeding, sweating, dying/ Hear me when I say/ I’m gonna live my life everyday”). The song has the same upbeat yet heavy sound that made 2000’s “It’s My Life,” from the band’s previous endeavor Crush, a hit on Top 40 radio stations around the country.

The opening cut, “Undivided,” starts off Bounce with guitar riffs reminiscent of early 1990’s grunge, and lyrically, the song is more blatant than any other on the album, with Jon Bon Jovi nearly growling, “That was my brother lost in the rubble/ That was my sister lost in the crush/ Those were our mothers, those were are children/ That was our fathers, that was each of us.” This is the only obvious reference to September 11th on the CD and has been deemed exploitive by some critics. There are some lines of “Undivided,” though, (“I found spirit, you couldn’t ruin it/ I found courage in the smoke and dust”) that show the New Jersey quartet is trying to reflect the feelings of the country during the Fall of 2001, when the majority of the album was written.

There are other hard rockers that seem to bring back the band’s Slippery When Wet days, but with an added sense of maturity. “Hook Me Up” begins with a thunderous guitar hook that sounds somewhat like the intro to Stone Temple Pilots’ 1999 single “Sunday Girl.” Instead of singing about relationships gone awry or using cute metaphors for sexual indulgence (as in 1994’s “Always” and 1988’s “Bad Medicine,” respectively), Jon Bon Jovi instead cries out for someone to save him from the world, since he’s “hanging by a thread.” The title track has a definite arena rock sound to it, with an anthemic chorus and the singer urging “bring it on/ I like it rough.”

Of course, no Bon Jovi album would be complete without a few mid-tempo love songs. “The Distance” fills this need, as does “Love Me Back to Life.” Both songs find the long-time married singer lamenting about love, the latter with lyrics like “Tonight I need you more than yesterday/ Tonight I need you, take me, touch me/ Hold me like you mean it….Rescue me tonight.” “Love Me Back to Life,” follows the Bon Jovi formula for radio success — heartwrenching words and electric guitars that intermingle with keyboards.

Bounce has its more solemn moments sprinkled throughout the tracklist. “You Had Me From Hello,” a title ripped right from the Tom Cruise hit Jerry Maguire features Jon Bon Jovi singing over nothing but Richie Sambora’s acoustic guitar while trying to understand the actions of his lover — “You’re insecure about what clothes to wear/ I can’t see nothing wrong/ To me you look so beautiful when you can’t make up your mind.” With pick-up lines like that, maybe some frat guys better hope Jon Bon Jovi never decides to come to the local bars.

“Right Side of Wrong,” finds the vocalist delving back into his obsession with the Wild West (think “Wanted Dead or Alive” from 1986’s Slippery When Wet), singing “Just like Butch and Sundance we’ll ride until the dawn/ sipping whiskey, singing cowboy songs.” Okay, Jon … if you’re reading this (which I’m sure you are) … I may have told my best friend that I wanted to ride your steel horse when I was thirteen years-old … but you’re from Sayreville, New Jersey — you’re not a cowboy.

Bon Jovi has once again created a collection of possible radio hits that range from heavy and catchy to quiet and nearly tear-jerking. Overall, Bounce is an album that proves Bon Jovi has withstood the test of time, and that they haven’t strayed from making guitar-driven All-American rock and roll.

Archived article by Ariel Ronneburger