WHAT ABOUT NOW
Every couple of years, a new Bon Jovi album comes across my desk. This reminds me every couple of years that there was a time when Bon Jovi was actually a solid rock band. For all the metalheads that want to instantly dismiss this band, those of us that grew up in the early 80s remember very distinctly that in the world of popular rock and metal that for the first time dominated the radio, it was Bon Jovi and Motley Crue that were the first of the massively popular. To be honest, Bon Jovi's popularity dwarfed that of the Crue. It was so big, in fact, that you saw bands like Def Leppard change their style and mimic it to find superstardom for themselves. Now though, and really for the last 20 years, Bon Jovi has been a sellout joke that has led with an overplayed radio single that program directors at middle of the road stations eat up, and then they disappear until halftime at some corporate NFL event here and there. They have become more of a brand than a creative entity, and most of their albums since KEEP THE FAITH have been universally below average.
WHAT ABOUT NOW is below average. It leads with the typical Bon Jovi schlock single "Because We Can", and screams downhill from there like Harry Chapin's mystical truck carrying 30,000 pounds of bananas. It's really immediate that there's just not a lot of substance or creative juice flowing with this band anymore. Songs like "I'm With You" are a great example of this. This slow, plodding and ultimately depressing sounding song just drones on and on for what feels like an eternity (even though in reality it's only 3:44 long). Listening through the album, there's just zero chemistry between the bands and these songs. I have no way of knowing it to be true, but my gut tells me that WHAT ABOUT NOW is a collection of songs that vocalist Jon Bon Jovi wrote and brought in completed. From there, he told the band what to play and how to play it. If that's not the case, then they have literally forgotten how to write cool hooks in songs or how to bring that fun energy that made Bon Jovi a really good band. Songs like "What About Now" sound like something that was written to sound like Bon Jovi, but is as lifeless as JBJ's daughter must have seemed when discovered after her heroin overdose.
To be blunt, WHAT ABOUT NOW follows the deterioration of the band for the last several albums. Their albums sound more and more like later day Springsteen albums, only not quite as good and lacking the "real" quality that makes Springsteen "The Boss". On so many of these songs, there's so little to distinguish this away from any other band that you just get bored listening to it. Songs like "Pictures Of You" start to have a moment when guitarist Richie Sambora lays in some nice gritty solo work, but it's cut off prematurely to go back to a dull sing song chorus that sounds ripped from the song "In These Arms" from 20 years ago. Other songs, like "Amen" are just repetitive, useless and lack anything at all that will make them memorable.
PITRIFF RATING - 25/100 - This is pretty poor. They get points because they are obviously Bon Jovi, which means that the production is nearly flawless. That said though, that really leaves the songs exposed as the utter garbage that they ultimately are. Richie Sambora was recently fired from the band, which is why I pullted this album back out and gave it a listen. While that might be a financial headache for Sambora, it's probably a creative relief. WHAT ABOUT NOW is definitely the dullest low point in two decades of "rounded corner" music.