Bon Jovi is back, but "Crush" is lost
|Crush review from NY Daily News
Bon Jovi is back, but "Crush" is lost
Rock's good-looking statesman is 'Older' but no wiser
by Jim Farber
Get ready for Jon Bon Jovi -- elder statesman.
Following one solo CD and several hunky movie roles, Jon has reunited with his hit-making Bon Jovi band for "Crush," where he presents himself as pop's ancient mariner, back from the salty seas with braves tales of his well-traveled life.
"Like the bed I'm sleeping in/just like me, it's broken in," he bellows proudly in the song "Older," before going on to grandly compare his skin to "a favorite pair of torn blue jeans."
Never mind that, at 38, Jon looks about as careworn as Britney Spears. Or that his voice carries all the wisdom of Haley Joel Osment. All this hasn't stopped Jon from opening his new album with a song where he compares himself
to no less looming an icon than Frank Sinatra. "Like Frankie said/I did it my way," he defiantly yelps.
Jon certainly has an original story worth shouting from the rooftops. It's just not the story he thinks.
This isn't the tale of a great and noble pop survivor. It's the saga of one of the least-gifted persons in pop history to sustain a substantial career. Even long-running blights like Styx and Emerson, Lake " Palmer didn't achieve as impressive a commercial record as Jon.
At this point, he and his bandmates have survived hair metal, grunge, alt-rock, neo-metal and rap-rock to rack up no less than 17 years of stardom.
So what accounts for their staggering longevity? Top-notch management, for one thing, no to mention Jon's heroic bone structure and lustruous hair, plus an especially crass level of commercial cunning in their music.
That last point stands in striking contrast to the story Jon tells. He spends key parts of the new CD asserting that he and the band valiantly followed their own muse. Like they were Neil Young and Crazy Horse or Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band.
In fact, Bon Jovi never met a commercial rule it didn't worship. As usual, their latest work sounds like it was constructed entirely with radio programmers in ind. The groups continues to specialize in bubble-gum blues rock, lowlighted by the guitar work of Richie Sambora, who favors more gimmicky sound effects than any axeman since Peter Frampton.
Jon uses equally silly tricks in his lyrics. Usually he presents himself as a working-class stiff, barely squeaking by on the love of a good woman. We've seen this character before -- usually in the songs of fellow Jerseyite Bruce Springsteen.
But we buy Bruce as a wounded and struggling soul. It's a different story with Jon. There's no trouble or passion in his voice, only an excess of phlegm. Ultimately, he's less a Bruce Springsteen than another Rick Springfield -- without the good hooks.
And don't ask about his idea of poetry. "I never went to college/I don't have a degree/the sweat on this collar/that ain't a Ph.D.," goes one verse.
Other lyrics suggest Jon could get a nice second job writing motivational speeches. For example, "You can't win until you're not afraid to lose."
A favorite image of Jon's seems to be the mysterious woman. He anoints several songs with titles like "Mystery Train" (not the Elvis classic, thank God) and "She's a Mystery." All of which wouldn't be so bad if the characters they describe didn't seem so transparent.
Unfortunately, we live in an age when the measuring stick for pop credibility is 'N Sync -- which leave Jon Bon Jovi looking like John Lennon by comparison.
Given that standard, it's hair-raising to hear a new Bon Jovi song like "The Next 100 Years," which finds the star vowing to last another century. Considering what he has managed to do with his career so far, don't put it past him.
Related URL: http://www.nydailynews.com