No slow­ing down for Bon Jovi

With a world tour and a great­est hits pack­age, Jon Bon Jovi prom­ises that his band isn’t plan­ning on slow­ing down.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - by Adrian Yap C.K. en­ter­tain­ment@thes­

THERE is no deny­ing that Bon Jovi has had many de­trac­tors and crit­ics over the years. Most tar­get the New Jersey-raised band’s emer­gence dur­ing the fan­ci­ful glam rock move­ment in the 1980s, a pe­riod in rock his­tory that is not of­ten ac­claimed as its finest. Add to that the fact that the band is fronted by a blue-eyed pretty boy and hawk­ing a brand of rock that is best de­scribed as be­ing “bub­blegum metal”, and you get the gist of why the band has been fight­ing a “cred­i­bil­ity” war since 1983.

But 27 years on, many of the non-be­liev­ers have been grad­u­ally si­lenced not just by the band’s re­mark­able stay­ing power but also by how Bon Jovi has man­aged to still stay rel­e­vant. While many of their peers are mak­ing the tour rounds do­ing nostal­gia tours, the quar­tet of Jon Bon Jovi (vo­cals), 48, Richie Samb­ora (gui­tars), 51, David Bryan (key­boards), 48, and Tico Tor­res (drums), 57, has never stopped mak­ing new mu­sic.

Their last al­bum, 2009’s The Cir­cle, de­buted at a very im­pres­sive No.1 spot on Bill­board, sell­ing in ex­cess of 160,000 on its first week. This is not a band on the de­cline, so what has helped the band re­main in the head­lines all this time?

“You know, fash­ions and trends come and go but at the end of the day, good mu­sic is good mu­sic. Look at that Justin Bieber craze go­ing on right now. In six months, there will be six more Justin Biebers be­cause com­mer­cialised mu­sic sells, or so record la­bels think,” said Jon Bon Jovi dur­ing a re­cent Asian me­dia phone con­fer­ence from New York.

“Con­sumers are get­ting smarter now, with the ad­vent of so­cial net­works and things like YouTube, and they can tell orig­i­nal, cre­ative work from unin­spired ones.”

The band will kick off the Aus­tralian leg of its world tour in De­cem­ber to co­in­cide with the re­lease of four new tracks as well as a great­est-hits com­pi­la­tion. No con­cert date has been set aside for the Asian re­gion next month but the ru­mours are Bon Jovi will be back in this part of the world in the mid­dle of next year.

Out now is Bon Jovi’s Great­est Hits, a 16-song sin­gle CD that in­cludes Livin’ On A Prayer, Al­ways, It’s My Life, Wanted Dead Or Alive and Bad Medicine. Two new songs, in­clud­ing lead sin­gle What Do You Got?, round out the track­list. A deluxe edi­tion, fea­tur­ing two discs, slaps on a fur­ther two new tracks ( The More Things Change and This Is Love, This Is Life).

Apart from sell­ing the hits and crowd-pleas­ing con­certs, a big part of Bon Jovi’s amaz­ing longevity is the fact that the band’s line-up has re­mained rel­a­tively in­tact through­out its his­tory, with the ex­cep­tion of bassist Alec John Such quit­ting in 1994. On top of this, while many of Bon Jovi’s peers in the 1980s such as Mot­ley Crue, Guns ‘n’ Roses and Poi­son have had mas­sive fall­outs and pub­lic scan­dals, the band has re­mained clean cut and scan­dal free, an anom­aly when you con­sider the scene the group was born in.

“It helps that we all like each other a lot and get along very well, which makes this re­ally fun. You have to be sure to keep your ego aside,” shared Bon Jovi be­fore adding: “While com­pro­mise be­tween your record la­bel and band mates is an es­sen­tial part of this busi­ness, I would never do any­thing that goes against my prin­ci­ples. We’ve been lucky so far though; we’re usu­ally on the same wave­length and have the same vi­sion so there aren’t many ar­gu­ments.”

And at the ful­crum of this hard-earned in­tegrity is Bon Jovi him­self, who de­spite hav­ing been thrusted into the lime­light at the height of the “sex, drugs and rock & roll” cliché, re­mains a ded­i­cated hus­band and fa­ther to four chil­dren even till this day.

“Those guys who live by that cliché wouldn’t last long enough to be talk­ing to you about their mu­sic al­most three decades later.”

And while Bon Jovi con­fesses that his favourite hobby is writ­ing new songs, there comes a time for all bands to take stock on their mas­sive discog­ra­phy. Back in 1994, the com­pi­la­tion Cross Road was a very suc­cess­ful so­journ for the band, spawn­ing the mas­sive hit bal­lad Al­ways.

The last 16 years have spawned six more Bon Jovi al­bums and an­other size­able batch of hits, hence the re­lease of the new “best of” pack­age sim­ply ti­tled Great­est Hits. But so strong was the hard rock band’s de­sire to carry on mak­ing new mu­sic that the idea of an­other great­est hits out­ing seemed ir­rel­e­vant.

“It didn’t make me feel odd as much as old ( laughs). I ini­tially re­jected the idea but I had to do it as a com­pro­mise and a com­mit­ment to my record com­pany,” ex­plained Bon Jovi.

“I was in Nashville a cou­ple of years and I wanted to make a coun­try al­bum. Since we’re such an es­tab­lished band, my pro­duc­ers nat­u­rally couldn’t say no, but the CEO said: ‘ While you’re los­ing mil­lions of my dol­lars, could you con­sider mak­ing a Great­est Hits al­bum?’ We went on to make Lost High­way and it did very well but a deal is a deal and we sat down and started think­ing about the great­est hits com­pi­la­tion.”

And while pulling to­gether a great­est hits set for some bands might just be a se­quen­tial ex­er­cise (of try­ing to fill in the blanks), it wasn’t so straight­for­ward for a beloved band with such a hit-mak­ing his­tory.

“The songs needed to fit the idea of what the great­est hits were. I guess in a strange way, I think of this al­bum as a party and the songs were guests in­vited to this party. The old tracks min­gled well and the new songs had to fit in nat­u­rally and com­fort­ably,” added Bon Jovi who con­fessed that Bounce and Mis­un­der­stood were two tracks he would have liked to in­clude on the new com­pi­la­tion.

But they had to be left out be­cause of run­ning time con­straints.

On paper, you can’t ar­gue much with the set that has been put to­gether. Kick­ing off with ar­guably the band’s three biggest an­thems, Livin’ On A Prayer, You Give Love A Bad Name and It’s My Life, it also stretches on to fan favourites such as Born To Be My Baby (from the New Jersey al­bum) and main­stay bal­lads such as Al­ways and I’ll Be There For You.

“The new sin­gle ( What Do You Got?) was writ­ten while we were work­ing on our pre­vi­ous al­bum, The Cir­cle, but we set it aside,” said Bon Jovi.

“I had ac­tu­ally for­got­ten about it when some­one gave it a lis­ten and said it had great lyrical con­tent. We started on a Tues­day, recorded and cleaned it, and by Fri­day it was on the ra­dio.”

The lead singer also re­vealed that the songs choices were largely in­flu­enced by fan in­put. There are sep­a­rate Euro­pean, Amer­i­can and Asian ver­sions of the Great­est Hits pack­age to ap­pease as many of Bon Jovi fans as pos­si­ble.

With a nod for the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in the bag, 11 al­bums re­leased and pos­si­bly quite a few more al­bums left in Bon Jovi, the fu­ture is still a purring pink Cadil­lac for these vet­eran rock­ers.

So can Jon Bon Jovi be con­sid­ered one of the elder states­men of rock these days, much like, say, Mick Jag­ger?

“He’s about 20 years older than me and it’s hard to imag­ine I’ll be sit­ting here in 20 years talk­ing about Bon Jovi’s Great­est Hits Vol­ume IV. The beauty of this is that I don’t have any plans – ca­reer or re­tire­ment-wise. I’m not one of those peo­ple who are just hang­ing in there to com­plete a job so they can go off to be a gar­dener or some­thing. I’m do­ing what I love and I’m go­ing to keep do­ing it,” he con­cluded with fresh en­thu­si­asm for the rock ‘n’ roll cause. n Bon Jovi’s Great­est Hits is re­leased by Uni­ver­sal Mu­sic Malaysia.

Stay­ing power: ‘You know, fash­ions and trends come and go but at the end of the day, good mu­sic is good mu­sic,’ says Jon Bon Jovi.

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