The numbers speak for themselves. New Jersey rock band Bon Jovi have sold over 40 million albums in the US and over 120 million worldwide. Since their debut album in 1984, the group has released 8 top 10 albums and 10 top 10 pop singles including 4 #1’s. Nearly 25 years after formation, Bon Jovi carries on with the same 4 core band members as they had in the beginning. They have earned a place as one of the top American pop-rock bands of all time.

Band Formation

Jon Bon Jovi first began putting together rock groups at the young age of 13. However, it wasn’t until he was out of school, age 21, in 1983 that circumstances dictated he had to put together a group quickly. Jon Bon Jovi had been shopping around demo tapes of his own work when a recording of one of his songs, “Runaway,” caught the ear of record label scouts. Suddenly, Jon Bon Jovi needed to put together a band.

By late 1983 the group christened “Bon Jovi,” after a respelling of Jon’s original last name Bongiovi, was signed and ready to record. Their first, self-titled, album landed in record stores in January, 1984. The album went gold and the band found themselves performing on American Bandstand.

Jon Bon Jovi
Net Worth: $410 million

Born John Francis Bongiovi March 2, 1962, Jon Bon Jovi has succeeded musically as not only the leader of the group Bon Jovi but also as a solo artist. His first solo album Blaze of Glory, released in 1990, featured the title song, a #1 pop hit single. His second, Destination Anywhere, released in 1997, was not as successful in the US, but it included 2 top 10 UK pop hit singles. As a producer, Jon Bon Jovi was instrumental in Cher‘s late 1980’s pop comeback. Bon Jovi is married to his high school sweetheart, Dorothea Hurley, and is the father of 4 children.

Richie Sambora
Net Worth: $100 million

Richie Sambora was born July 11, 1959. As lead guitarist for Bon Jovi, he has gained acclaim for his melodic rock style. Acknowledging influence from Peter Frampton and Joe Walsh, Sambora is known for making distinctive use of the talkbox in some of Bon Jovi’s signature hit songs. Richie Sambora has released 2 solo albums, Stranger In This Town in 1991, and Undiscovered Soul in 1998. A 12-year marriage to actress Heather Locklear formally came to an end in early 2007.

David Bryan
Net Worth: $125 million

Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan was born David Bryan Rashbaum on February 7, 1962. He dropped out of college to attend Juilliard, the famed New York music school. David Bryan has released 3 solo albums, Netherworld in 1991, On a Full Moon in 1994, and Lunar Eclipse in 2000. He is also the author of a successful off-Broadway musical, Memphis.

Tico Torres
Net Worth: $25 million

Born on October 7, 1953 of Cuban-Italian descent, Tico Torres was already an accomplished musician before joining the group Bon Jovi. He was a veteran studio musician that had played on 26 albums by artists ranging from Pat Benatar to Stevie Nicks. Tico Torres is also a successful visual artist. He has been displaying his paintings since 1994.

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Band Members

  • Jon Bon Jovi – Lead vocals, rhythm guitar
  • Richie Sambora – Lead and rhythm guitars
  • David Bryan – Keyboards
  • Tico Torres – Drums
  • Alec John Such – Bass – 1983-1994
  • Hugh McDonald – Bass – 1994-Present
  • Bobby Bandiera – Rhythm guitar – 2004-Present

Top Bon Jovi Albums

  • 1986 – Slippery When Wet – #1
  • 1988 – New Jersey – #1
  • 1992 – Keep the Faith – #5
  • 2002 – Bounce – #2
  • 2005 – Have a Nice Day – #2

Top Bon Jovi Singles

  • 1986 – You Give Love a Bad Name – #1
  • 1986 – Wanted Dead or Alive – #7
  • 1987 – Livin’ On a Prayer – #1
  • 1988 – Bad Medicine – #1
  • 1988 – Born to Be My Baby – #3
  • 1989 – I’ll Be There for You – #1
  • 1989 – Lay Your Hands on Me – #7
  • 1994 – Always – #4

Slippery When Wet (1986)

Undoubtedly one of the seminal rock albums of the ’80s, Bon Jovi’s third full-length release cemented the band as bona fide superstars capable of commanding the attention of both pop and hard rock audiences. Though overly slick in places (professional songwriter Desmond Child was brought in by the record company to help ensure smash hit status), Slippery When Wet features an impressive selection of arena rock anthems with wide enough appeal to carve a niche in the increasingly popular hair metal movement as well as attract massive airplay on both pop music radio and the rising video medium of MTV.

Pros

  • With three Top 10 singles, the album represents the finest mainstream rock of the ’80s.
  • Strong album tracks deftly complement the singles and the keep the filler to a pleasing minimum.
  • The record features a masterful blend of power ballads and mid-tempo rockers even if it’s not metal.

Cons

  • The album’s hook-laden, heavily produced sound can suffer from a plodding sameness at times.
  • There is absolutely nothing groundbreaking or daring about the record’s music.

Description

  • This is solid, well-crafted pop/rock that blends its core styles as well as any other competitors during the glossy mid-’80s.
  • Any sacrifice of artistry for a blue-collar aesthetic has disappointed few of the album’s millions of admirers.
  • The quality of the band’s songwriting and performances makes it clear why Bon Jovi has built a long-term pop music career.
  • Released August 18, 1986 on Mercury Records

Album Review

The bombastic organ opening of lead-off track “Let It Rock” clearly sets the stage for the record’s overarching anthemic approach, and as always, it’s a good idea to begin any record with one of its best tunes. The marriage of Richie Sambora’s muscular guitar work with Dave Bryan’s equally forceful keyboards serves as a perfect backdrop for one of Jon Bon Jovi’s most spirited studio performances. The album’s next two tracks just happen to be the ubiquitous No. 1 hits “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Livin’ on a Prayer,” both of which helped Bon Jovi rule teen pop culture during the fall of 1986 into the winter of 1987.

The odd combination of horns and a minor stab at social commentary turn “Social Disease” into a decidedly mixed listen. But the record’s quality doesn’t lag for long, with the moody, even rootsy power ballad “Wanted Dead or Alive” serving as a nice change of pace at the album’s halfway mark. “Raise Your Hands” announces itself as an obvious stadium fixture in the band’s live shows, a position the tune has held consistently over the years. Even better, “Without Love” keeps things moving along at a confident pace, as few mainstream releases of the era could boast deep album tracks with hooks like this one.

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With a keyboard riff that fondly recalls perhaps the band’s finest moment (“Runaway”), the sturdy arena rock of “I’d Die for You” provides useful balance for the album’s final third. One of Bon Jovi’s greatest assets, after all, was its fervent following of female fans, but the group was careful to avoid pandering. That’s one reason “Never Say Goodbye,” the set’s most shameless flame-worthy prom slow-dance number, works as well as it does. Following in the footsteps of obvious influence and fellow New Jersey native Bruce Springsteen, Slippery When Wet ultimately functions as a populist offering with something for every taste.

The Circle (2009)

Bon Jovi’s The Circle is the veteran New Jersey band’s first rock record since their foray into country on 2007’s Lost Highway. Unfortunately, The Circle merely combines the worst tendencies of contemporary country with the band’s already well-established tendencies for toothless feel-good songs. Featuring lyrics that touch on current events in the most shameless of ways, The Circle seeks to give comfort to downhearted listeners, but there are few things less inspiring than cheesy, phony uplift.

One Cliche After Another

Bon Jovi, led by telegenic frontman Jon Bon Jovi, have been consistently popular since the mid-‘80s, transitioning from the hair-metal hits of “Livin’ on a Prayer” to the adult-contemporary ballads of the ‘90s like “Always.” No matter what musical format they’ve followed, though, the ingredients have always been the same: straightforward lyrics about everyday concerns, choruses that will get people to sing along, and radio-friendly production that makes sure the song will entice as many ears as possible. On top of all this, Jon Bon Jovi has brandished a regular-guy appeal that’s reminiscent of fellow New Jersey native Bruce Springsteen. These qualities have been Bon Jovi’s winning strategy for more than 20 years, and one has to acknowledge that they’ve been one of the most consistent hitmakers during that time. But because The Circle lacks the inspiration (or maybe just the chutzpah) of the band’s earlier years, it’s an album that’s oppressively weighed down by commercial calculation. As a result, all you can hear are the clichés.

Saccharine Sentiments

For much of his career, Jon Bon Jovi has been mocked for his derivativeness. He emulates the common-man populism of Springsteen and the arena-sized ambition of U2 at their most inspirational. But as The Circle demonstrates, Bon Jovi merely reference those musical legends without adding much themselves. And as they settle into middle age, Bon Jovi have become a platitude-dispensing machine that can’t get through a single song without uttering such banalities as “When you’re young you always think/The sun is going to shine/There will come a day/When you have to say hello to goodbye” (from “Live Before You Die”). As an accompaniment to such pseudo-wisdom, Bon Jovi will often throw in pianos and strings that are so saccharine that The Circle can sometimes feel like the musical equivalent of a get-well card. Springsteen and Bono may want to inspire their audiences, too, but at least they come up with music that is equally rousing. By comparison, Bon Jovi just gives us syrupy goo.

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Songs That Are Ripped From Today’s Headlines

Perhaps most obnoxious, The Circle addresses contemporary issues in the most reactionary ways. On “Work for the Working Man,” Jon Bon Jovi sings in the voice of a working stiff, and the leaden musical accompaniment (which slightly recalls “Livin’ on a Prayer”) indicates that this is supposed to be an urgent, ripped-from-the-headlines critique of America’s rising unemployment figures. But the song is so false on every level – for instance, Jon’s polished voice just can’t convey common-man complaints – that it’s almost an insult to its intended audience. Likewise, “Bullet” is reminiscent of Nickelback’s huffing-and-puffing hard rock as the song details a crumbling inner-city ghetto. And although it’s touching that Jon Bon Jovi wants to speak about the world’s ills, the lack of specificity in his writing betrays his total lack of ignorance for his subject matter. In this way, The Circle draws comparisons to mainstream country, which often reduces front-page news to lazy laments about society. When they started out, Bon Jovi had a scrappiness that put real pathos into their underdog tales. But after years of success, their attempts to continue with that persona feel desperate and cynical.

So Common They Disappear

Because The Circle’s primary concern is the adult-contemporary chart, the album’s 12 tracks have a genial, breezy quality to them – this is music for people who just want to listen to something inoffensive in the background. So if you can tune out Jon’s lyrics, the album does have its moments. “Fast Cars” is a predictable tale of second chances, but its slowly building tempo has real energy behind it. And although neither of them break much ground creatively, the opening tracks “We Weren’t Born to Follow” and “When We Were Beautiful” at least are musically engaging. But even here, The Circle merely apes others – “We Weren’t Born to Follow” could have been on Daughtry’s Leave This Town, and “When We Were Beautiful” channels U2’s “Beautiful Day.” Bon Jovi are trying to give voice to the common man, but do they have to be so common while they do it?

The Future for Bon Jovi

In May, 2006, Bon Jovi became the first rock band to hit #1 on the US country singles chart. The song was “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” a duet with singer Jennifer Nettles from the band Sugarland. Following this success, the band considered recording an entire country album. Instead they put together Lost Highway, released in June, 2007. In the words of Jon Bon Jovi, it is an album “influenced by Nashville.”

The band received significant positive exposure on the 2007 version of American Idol. Jon Bon Jovi was widely recognized as the most successful celebrity coach on the show during the season, and Blake Lewis‘ performance of Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” was considered an instant classic.

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