Bon Jovi softens up for ‘What About Now’

Bon Jovi fans have been waiting for four years to hear all new music from the 80s rockers. Their last all original effort was in 2009 with The Circle followed a year later by a double Greatest Hits record featuring a couple of new tracks. Earlier this year, fans got a glimpse into the new record with the release of the first single “Because We Can.” I was excited, but wasn’t quite sure what to expect and was ultimately left disappointed. My review of the single in January was pretty harsh only giving it 1 out of 5 stars. Was I right to judge my beloved Bon Jovi so harshly even though I knew the direction the band was moving in? I think so! After all, the review is my opinion on the track and as catchy as the tune is, it simply doesn’t hold a candle to the Bon Jovi I grew up listening to, and neither does What About Now, the album.

The band has been on the pop path since its comeback single “It’s My Life” in 2000 which enticed a new generation of fans. While the group still stuck close to their rock roots, Crush dabbled with pop elements like drum loops. Their next studio effort Bounce in 2002 changed their music completely going almost completely pop with more loop effects and more somber guitars and vocals. Bon Jovi has released three pop/rock studio albums since (four, if you count What About Now) and several compilations including a 2004 boxed set full of B-sides, rarities and unreleased material that included a lot of rock songs left off of their earlier albums, many of which are gems that would have been big hits had they included them on their respective albums.

I guess what I was hoping for with What About Now was material similar to those early 2000 albums that (despite my taste) incorporated those pop elements while maintaining the rock elements that defined the band in their heyday. What this album provides is pure pop with the slightest element of rock lacking big drums and major guitar solos. The song that stands out to me the most is “That’s What The Water Made Me,” an ode to being who you are no matter who tries to change you. It is more rocking than the other tracks and would probably do well as the album’s second single. “Into The Echo,” available on the deluxe version, isn’t a bad track either. The deluxe edition wraps up with the Jon Bon Jovi solo country-sounding “Not Running Anymore” from the Stand Up Guys movie soundtrack.

Available in a standard 12 track and deluxe 15 track editions, What About Now is presented in a six sided cardboard digipak with multimedia artwork. You have to download their iPhone or Android app and scan the front artwork to unlock exclusive bonus content. The digipak is covered with sections of the same artwork that makes up the front cover. One panel features the boxing hands inspired by one of the tracks “The Fighter,” while another features the heart and dagger logo from the “Because We Can” single. A soldier holding a guitar covers another panel and a blue and gold ripped background covers another. The front artwork does feature the band painted into the background.

The booklet is laid out pretty much the same, as it folds out into a larger six panel poster to reveal the expanded front cover artwork that also appears in smaller form on the back digipak panel above the track listing. No lyrics are included with the album, making it only the second Bon Jovi studio album to not include the coveted lyrics booklet (Crush being the first). The booklet sits on the left side of the digipak while the disc, covered in yellow and blue stripes with no ID text, slides out of the right.

I give Jon and his team credit for the artwork direction as they try to capitalize on the latest technological trends. I still prefer to have the lyrics printed inside the booklet instead of another view of the artwork, but I can always read them here if I insist.

Not their worst effort by any means, but the album is just not something I will be listening to over and over again like Slippery When Wet, New Jersey and Keep The Faith. Call me old fashioned or better yet, just admit I have better taste in music than most and despise the current state of the industry, I prefer Bon Jovi stick to their roots and ‘metal it up’ like before. New fans will love What About Now, but older fans are surely to hate some, if not all, of its material because it lacks the punch that made them a household name all over the world.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

CD | DELUXE CD | LP

Author: Buddy Iahn

Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites.

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