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.