ALBUM OF THE DAY: AN ODE TO BON JOVI
Girl metal fans kind of have to work harder to gain credibility. We get scoffed at for trying to be “cool,” and (allegedly) not really liking the music, are accused of being posers who couldn’t name a non-“Ace of Spades” Motorhead song if our lives depended on it, and just plain using metal to get guys. (And I have to interrupt myself with an “Are you freakin’ kidding me?!” I’ve loved metal since I was seven, and my first boyfriend came about thirteen years later.) And the first couple of bands that popped into my head for this piece were all set to be platforms for my incredibly high horse, from whence I would preach about the wonder that is genuine female metal fans. And no, I do not mean Juggalettes.
But then I changed my mind. There’s one other thing us girls have to put up with, and that’s defending our right to like “girly metal.” Hair, glam, power, those bands with guys in full tattoo bodysuits and stupid hair, and some other genres are accused of being not “metal” enough. which is (again, allegedly) “why girls like them.” Which is true to some extent, I guess; I mean, ask me to name all the members of Ratt and I’ll counter with, “Which incarnation?” and then give you all of them anyway. But I honestly can’t distinguish between Bring Me the Horizon or Bullet for My Valentine. I’ve only heard of the latter because I went to a Maiden show where they opened and got booed (and it was amazing), and the former from stuff on this site. But I have come to accept my taste in “girly metal,” and to put it simply: Fuck you, I can listen to whatever I want. My pick for album of a day is from a band I’ve had a love-hate relationship from the age of seven on.
Bon Jovi. I liked Bon Jovi just because my older cousin did, and she was awesome and I wanted to be just like her. On the night of my seventh birthday, my parents took me to a Bon Jovi concert. It was my first concert and I only knew “Living on a Prayer” (which I will argue is the best arena-metal song ever), so for most of the concert, I was pretty damn bored… until they played that very song. I was awed into a stupefied state of wonder. I mean, I had heard the song before, but it was completely different live, with an entire stadium of people screaming along to it. That song is an institution, and it sort of bugs me that it’s now a dumbass frat guy anthem at bars, but hey, at least people are enjoying it ,right? From that night on, I made it my business to own every Bon Jovi album I could find. My family totally supported me, as Bon Jovi has been one of two bands that we can all agree on (the other is Queen). We were pretty devoted for a while.
My little sister knew the words to”You Give Love a Bad Name,” and would sing them — as well as the background vocals — before she had properly learned to speak English. My mother could play “Bed of Roses” on the piano. A cousin figured out the chords to “Dry County.” We were so dedicated. That cousin I so wanted to be was of the Jon camp, but I argued for Richie, as I preferred dark haired boys. We thought Tico was so cool, and felt bad that David Bryan had the unfortunate luck of being the keyboard player and having curly hair. They were right for tossing out that bass player whose name no one remembers (okaaay,fine I do — it was Alec John Such) because he had a drug problem. They were our good, clean boys ,and I was so convinced that they were the one“nice boy band” that I was legitimately shocked when I heard the word “shit” in the song “Hey God.”
They taught me about not sleeping until I was dead, and about how boys wore their hair long to “pick up all the chicks, and have a real good time.” I had to get both the American and European releases of These Days because the American version didn’t have “All I Want Is Everything,” and to this day it’s one of my favorite songs by them. I learned that the word “baby” is not always a reference to an infant, and that rhyming the words “bleed” and “scream” several times is perfectly fine. Everything was just good ol’ fun in Bon Jovi-land, and it didn’t even matter that we lived nowhere near New Jersey — they were like home to us. To this day, I still know every beat, thump, nuance, spoken/ad-libbed word on those records. The “come ons ” and “one more times” on “Bad Medicine?” Can say’em right along with Jonny boy.
Then came high school. Bon Jovi became the band we all laughed at. We were just too cool for them. Keep the Faith was the first CD I ever bought? Hahaha, oh children and their stupid choices. How very droll. Fortunately, following that came the very fickle, and predictable, nature of adolescence where one makes an about-face about all their choices, and I stubbornly proclaimed that I liked Bon Jovi and none of my friends could stop me. I sat there, waiting for the backlash, but much like Rob Halford coming out of the closet, all I got was a “We knew all along and of course we still love you, it’s just who you are.”
Years have passed; I have since been to another Bon Jovi concert where Richie had to take over the high notes. They put out a country album and that pissed me off so very deeply because, I’m sorry, but country is never acceptable. Alas, in the last few years, Bon Jovi and I have sort of drifted apart. Sadly, I don’t know the name of their last record, or what they’re currently doing. Didn’t they do a song for a baseball team? Game? Football? I think Crush was the last album I bought by them. It’s the only “newer” album that’s any good, due simply to the presence of those stupidly unforgettable songs “It’s My Life” and “Two Story Town.” I do have the others somewhere, because my mom still buys me a copy every time they release a new album. She even got me the special edition CD they released just for Target. It had a pretty great song on it, actually: “Still Standing.”
Yes, Bon Jovi and I have had a very long and turbulent relationship, much like Tommy and Gina. My favorite record is probably going to surprise many because I don’t think anyone liked it: These Days. I usually like my music like my men — hard and fast — but this record was so different, so bitter, and kind of heartbreaking (cue my boyfriend going, “Gaaaaay”), that it really hit me for some reason. “Hearts Breaking Even” is one of the best love songs ever, “Damned” is so catchy and so naughty (it’s about doing it with a girl behind her boyfriend’s back!) that I can’t help but like it, and “Something For the Pain” is probably my default favorite Bon Jovi song. That’s the thing with Bon Jovi: Even as wrist-cuttingly depressing this record is at points, it still had the hang-in-there-ness that Bon Jovi are so good at integrating into their music. Metal doesn’t always have to be angry, which is why I guess I still keep this band close. Hell, sometimes we need to feel good about ourselves after all those church burnings. Maybe they’re not technically “metal,” but come on, “Living in Sin,” is about people doing it before marriage! The video has people doing it before marriage! And it got banned. That’s pretty metal. Plus, remember that photo? Boobies + cheeky grins = metal.
The one album I would probably recommend to anyone is Keep the Faith. No, not Slippery When Wet. Yes, the latter album has “Prayer” and “Raise Your Hands” and a bunch of other classics that force VH1 to name it on their oh-so-relevant Best Record lists, but the album I always choose to go back, time and time again, is Keep the Faith. Every number stands alone, and can be used as an example of how to create a pop-metal anthem. It starts out with “I Believe,” which has this chorus that just reverberates to your core (no, I’m not high — this is how I write when I like something and can’t really put it into words). And the solo? Well, I like to be loyal (except in my teens apparently), so I will stand by that guitar break and tell you it is my favorite of all-time, even though I picked it when I was but a child that knew not of other guitar solos. The whole song has this earnest, pleading-ness to it that I really, well… believe: “Don’t look up to your movie screen/Your record stores or magazine/ Close your eyes and you will see/ That you are all you really need.” Maybe I was just in a really lonely time in my life (as I was for much of my early existence), but this entire album’s message — keeping the faith, believing in yourself, loving rock’n’roll and letting it push aside all your problems — just made sense to me.
“I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” is also on Keep the Faith, and that there was the entire justification for my life-long insomnia. Duh — being awake is for rocking out! I always thought “In These Arms” deserved more recognition, because it just begs to be butchered by drunk karaoke-ers. It would work so well as a duet:
“Your clothes are still scattered all over our room,”
“This whole place still smells like your cheap perfume,”
“Everything here, reminds me of you,”
[Together] “THERE’S NOTHING I WOULDN’T DOOOOO.”
There are so many other songs on there that are fucking feel-good staples of awesome. “Fear” is so dark and so powerful because Jon’s really just belting and screeching his way through, and it’s my top choice from the whole collection because, augh, it’s fantastic. When he bellows “Take my hand I know we’ll make it, I’ll let nothing slow us down,” you best believe he means it. “Woman in Love” is a fantastic ode to the ladies — Bret Michaels wishes he had half the skill to write a song this good. It was my lesson book on growing up to be a cool girl because hey, if Bon Jovi wanted “Silk stocking, smooth-talking, lipstick and curls,” then, by God, I would get some silk stockings, because I already had the curls and lipstick. The bottom line is that he wanted a woman “more than a girl.” And while girls are nice, women sizzle. Really, it was just a confidence-booster.
The popular song off of this album was “Bed of Roses,” which I never liked because I’m not a ballad person, but then there’s “I Want You,” which I enjoy even though it’s a secret ballad. (Secret ballads are slow songs that have so much aggressive wailing and loud guitars that you mistake them for fast songs.) This is also why I like “In These Arms.” “If I was Your Mother” always struck me as kind of weird (He wants to be her mother because there’s no closer relationship than a mother and child? Uh, easy there!), but lately, it’s kind of grown on me, because I am older now and can appreciate that Bon Jovi were not as saintly as I once believed. Of course there’s also “Blame It on the Love of Rock’n’Roll.” That song feels so good that it ought to have been illegal. And as a youth who also got my vaccination from a phonograph needle, this was probably the first song of Bon Jovi’s that I knew by heart. “I could feel it in my heartbeat, I could feel it in my bones.” Indeed I did.
The big finale is “Little Bit of Soul,” which, as the title suggests, is a bluesy little soul number, which cools down the tone after that hearty, rip-roaring ride. Even though this is the record where I like to snicker and point out that Jon got the Rachel from Friends haircut, I do it lovingly. It has a way of popping into my head every once in a while. When the oil spill crisis happened, I wondered when people would make a video of footage spliced with the song “Dry County,” (“Now the oil’s gone, and the money’s gone, still we’re hangin’ oooon down in dryyy county.”) like when they did that video of Katrina footage set to “Rock You Like A Hurricane.” If I’m grouchily complaining about how long it takes to get somewhere and someone makes the mistake of telling me we’re halfway there, you can bet your life on the fact that I will shriek “Whoooooaaa! Livin’ on a prayer!!!” as a rebuttal.
Just like Iron Maiden, Bon Jovi are probably still going to keep going and keep selling records. They’ve got millions more faces to see and they (probably) will rock them all. I like to call them my gateway band. From them I went on to hair metal proper, and from there, various other genres ranging from “girly” power metal (Okay, how are dragons and fighting with swords girly?) to Motorhead (“(We Are) The Road Crew,” “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” “Dr. Rock,” “In the Year of the Wolf” “Bite The Bullet,” “Sharpshooter,” “Metropolis,” “Bad Woman,” “Tear Ya Down” “Jailbait” and a great cover of “Louie, Louie,”). I don’t think I’ll ever love Bon Jovi like the way I did when I was younger, and before writing this I was on quite a long hiatus from them. But much like their current bassist, Hugh McDonald, though un-recognized, I’ll always take it for granted that they’re there. I’m no longer that wide-eyed little girl who will sit and learn all the words to their new record in one afternoon, but I’ll probably still let my mom buy it for me.