http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/77c30588454dbd0fa6f35164d5cf6a4f198e7065.jpg These Days

Bon Jovi

These Days

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February 2, 1998

Bon Jovi are the musical equivalent of romantic films like While You Were Sleeping: You realize you're being shamelessly manipulated by the script, but you cry anyway.

For proof, hear "Hey God," the opening track on These Days. Here are Bon Jovi, a band that includes numerous multimillionaires and the guy who married Heather Locklear, and they're rocking out behind lyrics like "We're barely hanging on.... Only two paychecks away from living in the street." Jon Bon Jovi not only sings it with a straight face, he makes it work.

The fact is, nobody does this better. Bon Jovi pump out those really big, rounder-than-round sound-wavin' hooks, the ultimate guilty pleasure. Then there's the BJ-patented Crescendoing Power Ballad, including I-will-die-for-you lyrics that tread that fine line between Springsteen and Hallmark: "She came looking for some shelter with a suitcase full of dreams." The chorus of "These Days" insists you sing along nonetheless.

These Days employs these cheesy-but-irresistible pop qualities while unapologetically presenting mostly sad music for grown-ups. On this, their sixth album, Bon Jovi trade their metallic party-dude past for Garth Brooks and ZZ Top-ish turns. Check the gorgeously depressed twangy harmonies of "Diamond Ring" and the boozy pathos of "Lie to Me" ("If you don't love me, baby, lie to me"). Even the record's most rollicking, guitar-solohappy cut, "Damned," owes more to INXS than to Motley Crue.

The glossy-but-desolate tone of Richie Sambora's solo disc, Stranger in This Town, shows up on "My Guitar Lies Bleeding in My Arms." In fact, a welcome morose quality permeates These Days; it's the next smart step away from the land of puffy hair. Remember the White bands (Lion, Great and 'Snake)? Unlike their crash-and-burned pop-metal cohorts, Bon Jovi have maintained their platinum status and age gracefully along with their fans – who'll probably be flocking to the Vegas Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in the year 2025. Jon Bon Jovi in an exclusive engagement on the big stage ... the Frank Sinatra of his era.

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