THE TOP TEN BANDS MOST OFTEN MISCATEGORIZED AS HAIR METAL: #6, BON JOVI
Since its inception by the typings of some clever music journalist in the 80s, the categorization “hair metal” (or “glam metal”) has been as amorphous and, consequently, as misused as “metalcore” has been in the aughties. And since it’s hair metal week here on MetalSucks, we thought we’d try to address this issue by pointing the spotlight on ten bands that are often, and incorrectly, deemed “hair metal.” And to that end…
I know what you’re thinking: “How the hell is Vince going to argue that Bon Jovi weren’t a hair metal band? Look at those guys! They’re the biggest poofty poofters of all time.” And you’d be right about all of things excepts for one: in order to be classified as hair metal, Bon Jovi would have to have been — or even aspired to be — a heavy metal band, when in fact they were just ordinary New Jersey dudebros playing pop. Pop in rock form with distorted guitars. Let’s call it hair pop.
From the beginning Bon Jovi were built like a pop act, a band structured around its ridiculously good-looking and charismatic frontman. Jon Bongiovi recorded an early version of future hit “Runaway” with a bunch of studio musicians, and when the track caught on at radio across the New York / New Jersey area he found himself in need of a band. Aside from his childhood buddy and former bandmate, keyboardist David Bryan, what would eventually become Bon Jovi the band — christened so by an employee of big wig manager Doc McGhee — was essentially a group of experienced musicians hired to back up the group’s namesake. From the very beginning Bon Jovi were a “handled” affair with big name writers, producers, and the whole nine hired to steer the ship. A young unknown songwriter named Desmond Child co-wrote “Livin’ On a Prayer,” and Child continues to write with the band today. I’m pretty sure Max Martin played a similar role for the band for a couple of albums in the early 2000s.
As for the music, I don’t think very many people are going to argue that Bon Jovi should be considered metal. They may have looked the part in the ’80s — albeit they were all way too pretty — but it was all part of the carefully constructed image put together by the band’s label and management, and aside from Richie Sambora’s deft [and yes, metallic] soloing, there’s really little that connect Bon Jovi to metal. Their stylistic shift to more straight-forward alt rock in the mid ’90s through early ’00s and their recent crossover to country should only further affirm the notion that Bon Jovi are essentially a pop band, rollin’ with the times. A good pop band to be sure, but metal they ain’t.