Saturday, April 20, 2024

Surprise! Jon Bon Jovi and Band Have Made the Best Album of their Long Career with Rocking, Intimate, Personal “2020”


You know what they say: who woulda thunk it? But Jon Bon Jovi and his band have made what I think is the best album of their long career.

The title is “2020” and it’s topical, personal, intimate. On top of that, it’s a collection of great rock songs — rock, not pop — and well made individual songs without a dud in the bunch. Starting with the opening track, “Limitless,” and powering right through to the end.

Even better: Bon Jovi wrote this album. He was a couple of collaborations with John Shanks, but otherwise the songs have single bylines. No committees, teams, no Max Martin or any of that stuff. It’s Jon Bon Jovi really at his best. Don’t forget, a lot of the Bon Jovi Big Hits were written by others, like Desmond Child’s “Livin’ on a Prayer.” There’s nothing wrong with that. But “2020” seems like an apt title because it’s not just the year, it’s also about seeing everything clearly.

“Limitless” is a very optimistic opener– life is worth the risk, get up, get dressed, let’s go. Life is limitless. A pandemic wake up song. But then “Do What You Can” addresses our reality:

Tonight they’re shutting down the borders
And they boarded up the schools
Small towns are rollin’ up their sidewalks
One less paycheck comin’ through
I know you’re feelin’ kinda nervous
We’re all a little bit confused
Nothing’s the same, this ain’t a game
We gotta make it through

It’s a punch, but what follows, in track three, “American Reckoning,” is Bon Jovi writing his Paul Simon-Dylan-Springsteen best, and it’s a gut punch:

America’s on fire
There’s protests in the street
Her conscience has been looted
And her soul is under siege
Another mother’s crying, as history repeats
I can’t breathe

The rest of the album goes this way, and to their credit the band supports the lyrics to all the songs with a strong foundation of melodically textured catchy reprises. There’s also a great radio single with “Beautiful Drug.”

Bon Jovi the band is what, 40 years old? 35? Nice to hear them at their peak.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

Read more

In Other News