How many clichés can you squeeze into a pop song? Probably not as many as Jon Bon Jovi can. Listen to “Raise Your Hands,” from his new album Slippery When Wet. (I know, that’s two already, but titles don’t count.) Bon Jovi lets loose with nasty reputation, sticky situation, ain’t nobody better, show me what you can do, under the gun, out on the run, set the night on fire, playin’ to win. Pretty impressive, and that’s only the first verse.
Maybe I’m being unfair. Nobody listens to Bon Jovi’s brand of pop metal for its lyrics – they listen because they want to bang their heads lightly. It’s a canny marketing strategy, but Bon Jovi’s band is barely functional: guitar solos pop up like afterthoughts, bass lines whine like spoiled children, and Jon Bon Jovi’s voice is double- and triple-tracked in halfhearted attempts to cloak its blandness. Bon Jovi stumbles into sentimental territory on “Never Say Goodbye,” but delicacy is not the band’s strong suit – Meat Loaf is subtle compared to these guys. The callous clinker “Remember when we lost the keys/And you lost more than that in my back seat” is Bon Jovi’s idea of evocative storytelling.
Jon Bon Jovi and his band serve up condescending sentiment, reducing every emotional statement to a barefaced cliché – either because they think that’s all their audience can comprehend or because that’s all they can comprehend. On Slippery When Wet, Bon Jovi sounds like bad fourth-generation metal, a smudgy Xerox of Quiet Riot.