"For Bon Jovi, life is good"
|Bon Jovi Article in Detroit Free Press
November 17, 2000
BY BRIAN McCOLLUM
FREE PRESS POP MUSIC WRITER
Don't look to Jon Bon Jovi for any sharp-edged cynicism.
At 38, the New Jersey native can look at a two-decade career in which he's transformed himself from teen-idol pop star to respected actor to seasoned rock 'n' roll statesman. And he's riding the good vibes.
"I'm always the optimist," says Bon Jovi. "If I had a shrink sit me down, I know I'd say the glass is half full."
Bon Jovi has particularly good reason to be pleased these days. "Crush," his band's latest album and first in five years, has gone platinum. And the group is enjoying its first certifiable hit single in a decade, the midtempo rocker "It's My Life."
You can call it the comeback of the year. Recent times haven't been kind to '80s rock bands, which makes Bon Jovi's high-profile storming of the pop charts even more notable. Tickets for the group's four-week American tour were immediately snatched up by fans -- fans who nobody knew for sure still cared.
"It's the end of the world as we know it, huh?" Bon Jovi says with a laugh. "I'm really excited, really jazzed, that we can still sell out a place like the Palace in a day."
But even an optimist like Jon Bon Jovi was prepared to accept less glowing results. While the band's international appeal has wavered little over the years, nobody could say just how America would take to a reinvigorated Bon Jovi.
"To tell you the honest-to-God truth, it's a big world out there. We've played multiple nights in stadiums in every country in the world. That's how big this band is," he says. "So if I couldn't play in my backyard anymore, I'd be bruised but not beaten."
That same philosophy drove the creation of "Crush." After such mega successes as "Slippery When Wet" (12 million sold) and "New Jersey" (9 million sold), the band was able to enter the studio feeling little pressure.
"We were proud of what the record was -- we didn't care if America didn't want it," he says. "We were going to do what we did, and if people didn't accept it, I wasn't going to run to the mirror and figure out the latest boy-band dance moves."
"Crush" reveals a grown-up, wiser Bon Jovi, assimilating the creative directions he had begun to reveal on his 1997 solo album, "Destination Anywhere." Critics -- not always the most reliable ally of the New Jersey band -- have uniformly chalked it up as the band's best record.
Bon Jovi still knows the secret to getting his audience emotionally engaged in his work: Keep the songs real. The "Crush" track that most deftly captures that spirit is "Just Older," which Bon Jovi wrote and performed during his late-'90s solo tour. It's an unabashed anthem to middle age: "I like the bed I'm sleeping in," Bon Jovi sings. "It's just like me; it's broken in."
"I only try to write about my experiences. The magic comes when you realize it's someone else's experience, too," he says. "I had seen in the eyes of people who heard it (on the solo tour) that it was theirs. But it was absolutely written about me. I'm 38 years old -- I don't care about being a Backstreet Boy or Limp Bizkit."
The song didn't make it onto the new album without a fight. Guitarist Ritchie Sambora, the band's other charismatic linchpin, was particularly leery of including a rock tune that celebrated aging. But Bon Jovi was adamant and ultimately prevailed by convincing his bandmates that the song wasn't inherently different from what the quartet had always done: absorbed its surroundings and processed them into music.
"It's still the same. It's just that 15 years ago, all I had to look back on, with a song like 'Never Say Goodbye,' was the high school prom. At 25, that's nostalgic," he says. "Now you just look back on a bigger canvas."
One corner of the canvas he has no time for is carping about his hair-band days.
"I don't have enough time in my life to worry about that," he says. "We were the poster boys of that era. We were the successful band that other people emulated when the record companies signed them. The good news for me is that we came through it. We're still here."
He continues: "There's nothing not to be proud of with songs like 'Dead or Alive,' 'Living on a Prayer.' They stand the test of time. The lyrics tell stories that people related to."
This year marks the band's first American appearance in half a decade, but it's not like Jon Bon Jovi has been AWOL. With a host of acting roles ("Pay It Forward," "Moonlight and Valentino," "U-571"), he's put his matinee looks to good use. And fans of George W. Bush might want to check their applause at the Palace this weekend -- Bon Jovi was relentlessly side-by-side with Al Gore during the final stretch of the presidential candidate's campaign.
Expect to see Bon Jovi back on the road next summer for a series of amphitheater dates. And plan to continue seeing a guy who's positively tickled at his good fortune.
"You know," he says, "I must have done something good in my last life."
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