"Fairytale of New York" is actually one of my favourite Christmas songs, but the original version by The Pogues contains some pretty controversial lyrics so I did wonder if Jon was going to:
change the lyrics to the offending verse
skip the offending verse entirely
go all out calling someone an "old slut on junk" and words of that nature
Unsurprisingly, he did not go with C. 😆 (He chose A.)
Jon also did an IG Live interview with Geoff Edgers from The Washington Post, which has been described as awkward. And frankly, it is. But I thought there were some cool moments too, like when they discussed the evolution of Jon's social consciousness, and whether or not he worries about alienating fans. Besides, awkward video meets are the epitome of 2020, aren't they? 😜
You can watch the interview on The Washington Post's Instagram:
Bon Jovi's pandemic concert documentary, On a Night Like This premiered on Facebook on Friday, but it was available on SiriusXM before that. If you missed it or want to watch it again, you can do so on Facebook and YouTube:
The band performed the 2020 album in its entirety, though not in the expected order (which was kind of good... kept me on my toes):
Do What You Can
Lower the Flag
Let it Rain
Story of Love
Blood in the Water
Brothers in Arms
The performance was shot while David Bryan was in iso preparing to shoot his Broadway musical, Diana, for Netflix. Greg Mayo from the Kings of Suburbia filled in for him as he has for the other 2020 promo shows.
Bonus tracks were also performed and made available as an exclusive for members of the JBJ Experience but have since been leaked.
Here's "Luv Can":
I enjoyed this. As a film, it was nicely put together. Performing to no one is awkward AF though.
I would've liked more of Phil X rocking out -- his excitement is always a joy to watch. Though I was pleasantly surprised by John Shanks' guitar playing... too bad he can't get the "In These Arms" solo right. (By the way, Shanks has more musical talent in his pinky nail than I do in my entire body, but that doesn't mean I don't yearn for better versions of that solo.)
I guess the real litmus test will come much later, but a couple of months on, I still really like the album. It's more of a Jon album than a band album, but it demonstrated (to me, at least) that regardless of the patchiness of his voice these days, the dude can still write a banger.
I wasn't even going to touch this one with a ten-foot virtual pole at first. But then people in my life, who aren't really Bon Jovi fans but know that I am, started bringing it up and asking for my thoughts on the matter. To the point where it started to feel odd that I wasn't saying anything when I have an entire blog dedicated to Bon Jovi.
So here goes.
Ahead of the release of 2020, Jon was interviewed via Zoom by Thomas Moser from Rock Antenne in Germany. Here's the interview:
At around the 9:50 mark, Jon was asked if he had any regrets in his career, to which he replied there were very few because even bad things had led to other good things. But he did say this about Richie Sambora, which has been plucked out and republished elsewhere:
"There's not a day that goes by that I don't wish that Richie had his life together and was still in the band. And yet, you know, in a weird way it's because of his inability to get it together anymore that we went on and wrote This House Is Not For Sale, and it was a very strong record, and that I'm able to write songs like this. Maybe we would've gotten lazy. Maybe we would've been... I don't know where we would've gone. But through all that pain and heartbreak came this."
The reason I wasn't going to blog about it initially is that... I kind of put all this to bed a few years ago. I like Bon Jovi. I like Jon. I like Richie. I make no apologies about that.
I don't subscribe to the view that Bon Jovi is dead because Richie isn't there. Or that Richie was the One and Only True Talent of the band. That's pretty disrespectful to David Bryan and Tico Torres, who are still there as original members, and Hugh McDonald who's been around longer than Alec John Such was.
But neither am I going to dismiss Richie's hugely important contributions to the band. Richie co-wrote some of my favourite songs of all time, songs that made Bon Jovi what they are. His guitar work and harmonies define a lot of what people recognise as Bon Jovi. So of course it's different now that he's gone.
"I was in a dire situation with my family and I had to make a tough decision and I did and I'm sure people weren't happy about it"
Look, I personally don't buy the "I left to spend time with my daughter" story. Because a) you can do that without leaving your band in the lurch on the day of a concert, and b) for most of 2013, Richie was still talking about rejoining the band later in the tour. So I think spending more time with Ava ended up being a wonderful by-product of not being in Bon Jovi anymore rather than the reason. But I'm glad Ava seems to have turned out really well.
Is Jon seeking attention for his new albums by bringing Richie up? Perhaps. But I liked This House Is Not For Sale, especially "Living with the Ghost" (which is about Richie's departure, so obviously it couldn't have been written without it). And I think some of the songs on 2020 are the best material that's been released under the Bon Jovi name in maybe 20 years. Sure, it's a Jon-centric record, and probably not what they'd be releasing if Richie were still writing Bon Jovi songs. But it's a good album. Well, I think so, anyway. So I think Jon might actually be right about that particular silver lining.
And I'm eye-rolling pretty hard at all the keyboard warriors fawning over Richie's parenting while bringing up Jon's daughter's overdose at college. Like those same people wouldn't have been taking cheap shots at Richie's mug shot appearance after he was caught driving drunk with his then-10-year-old child in car.
But as I said before -- I like both Jon and Richie. Neither is by any means perfect, but their music is a part of me. I love the latest Bon Jovi album and I'm keen to listen to Richie's next solo album. I'd love some sort of a reunion someday, but I don't expect it to happen, and I'm okay with that.
P.S. I reckon the Rock Antenne interview with Jon was pretty good. That's probably been lost in all this drama. Another good one is the interview Jon did with GQ Magazine recently, where he talks about the making of 2020, the campaign against him in Buffalo, and patriotism.
Jon Bon Jovi recently phoned into the Rich Eisen Show, where he talked about NFL, the 2020 album, the Soul Foundation and Soul Kitchens, and the late great Eddie Van Halen:
Rich Eisen is a sports broadcaster, in case you're wondering why so much of the interview is dedicated to Jon's relationship with New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. American football happens to be my least favourite football code (sorry not sorry 🤪), but the interview was cool.
Bon Jovi beamed into Ellen for a socially distanced performance of "Beautiful Drug", which I assume/hope is the next single from 2020. Greg Mayo filled in for David Bryan on keys:
I wish "Beautiful Drug" had been the lead single. Having said that, the fact that the first two songs I did hear from 2020 were very uninspiring to me, and I now absolutely love the album, is testament to how strong the other tracks are. In my humble opinion, of course. Obviously if you hate the album, you'll disagree with those sentiments. 🙂
Bon Jovi's 2020 album promo continued on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, with Jon chatting to Colbert via video.
Jon talked about working the JBJ Soul Kitchens and food pantries during COVID, being mentored by Sister Mary Scullion, his Catholic upbringing, and quarantining with his family:
And of course, they discussed about the new album:
The band then socially distanced to perform "Do What You Can", with Greg Mayo again filling in for David Bryan:
I really enjoyed the interview, actually. It seemed fun, relaxed. And in "Do What You Can", Jon appeared more animated than he has in some of other performances where the band has been playing to no one.
In what seems like a weird move, a deluxe version of Bon Jovi's 2020 album has been quietly released to download and streaming services three days after the standard version came out. In addition to the 10 tracks on the original version, the deluxe edition contains three bonus tracks:
"Do What You Can" - duet version with Jennifer Nettles
The latter two were already on the Japanese edition of the album. I had ordered a CD from Japan but it'll take a while to ship to me so I'm very happy to be able to get the tracks in the meantime.
"Shine" and "Luv Can" have been circulating online for the last couple of days, so the sudden release of the deluxe album might be in response to that. Or maybe it was planned. But hey, I would've liked a 12-track album in the first place. 😉
Anyway, there's obviously a new album to promote, so I'll be posting some of that on this blog over the coming days/weeks.
Here's Jon's interview with Good Morning America, where talks about 2020 and collaborating with Jennifer again, among other things:
And here's Bon Jovi's performance on the show of "Do What You Can", with Jennifer Nettles joining remotely and Greg Mayo filling in for David Bryan:
Jon also joined Jim Kerr on iHeartRadio to celebrate the release of 2020. The segment featured an interview with Jon interspersed with recordings of recent live performances. It included the live debuts of "American Reckoning" and "Beautiful Drug", as well as "Do What You Can", "It's My Life", and "Livin' on a Prayer":
I mention elections and presidents because the album cover was inspired by a shot of John F. Kennedy, and the album title partly inspired by the fact that it's an election year in America. Funnily enough, I never mentioned the cover on this blog even when 2020 was originally meant to come out in May. It's a cool photo of Jon, though I'm not sold on it being the album cover... I guess I'd prefer something a little more abstract. Or band-oriented. But hey, we all know Bon Jovi is Jon's ship, so whatever.
Now onto the music.
It's early days but I am really loving 2020. I know it polarises people when Jon "gets political" or "tries to be Springsteen"... but screw that. Besides, much of the world is pretty effed in 2020 and if you're going to call your album 2020, you might as well make it a little time capsule of the world as it is.
When "American Reckoning" dropped, I had discussions with a few people about whether or not it was too on the nose. Certainly, there's no mistaking what it's about. But I actually like that Jon got specific. There are plenty of generic Bon Jovi songs already ("Have a Nice Day" was supposedly a sneaky diss track aimed at George Bush, but you'd never know it).
My first-impression faves from 2020 are "Beautiful Drug", "Story of Love", "Lower the Flag", and "Blood in the Water".
But I'm digging the album as a whole. Considering I was very lukewarm about "Unbroken" and "Limitless", the rest of it has ended up sounding pretty damn good in my ears. I could be getting caught up in the moment, of course. But as of 2nd October 2020, I approve. 👍
Jon Bon Jovi recently spoke with Peter Helliar from The Project. The segment -- which included bits from a February interview that didn't go to air, as well as this more recent interview from about a week ago -- was broadcast tonight in Australia:
Pete is a Bon Jovi fan and reckons 2020 could be their best album ever, which is a huge call. He might just be getting caught up in the moment. But I am getting pretty excited about it myself, so fingers crossed for something awesome.
Here's the full interview Pete alluded to. Among other things, Jon talks about the new album (obviously), the current sociopolitical state of the world, and his attitudes towards touring:
And let me just say, if Bon Jovi were to do an acoustic show at the Sydney Opera House I would lose my mind in the best possible way.
Are you looking forward to the 2020 album?
I guess, from my perspective at least, it's been such a crazy year and Bon Jovi music has often been like a warm hug. Obviously the music has changed over the years. But that's okay. My attachment to Bon Jovi has largely been about them having the right songs at the right time for me, regardless of whether they're the greatest songs ever. And this album might be one I kind of need. I have high hopes anyway, so hopefully my next blog post won't be about how disappointed I am. 😜
You can now preview all the tracks on iTunes ahead of the album's release this week.
Edit: I wasn't disappointed! Read my early impressions of 2020. Meanwhile, Pete Helliar's earlier interview with Jon (conducted back in February, which never went to air) has now been uploaded to The Project's YouTube channel:
The iHeartRadio Music Festival went virtual in 2020 for obvious reasons (*cough* global pandemic *cough*) and Bon Jovi was part of it. Here's what they played:
Do What You Can - featuring Jennifer Nettles on the big screen
You Give Love a Bad Name
Who Says You Can't Go Home
It's My Life
Wanted Dead or Alive
Livin' on a Prayer
If you missed it when it was originally streamed, here's a video of Bon Jovi's set:
David Bryan missed the taping due to commitments with his Broadway musical, Diana. Greg Mayo from the Kings of Suburbia filled in on keyboards.
I actually really enjoyed this performance, even though it's a little awkward. There's no crowd, and Jon looks like he doesn't know what to do without a live audience to feed off. Plus, the fake crowd noises that have been edited into the broadcast don't quite seem to fit.
But I had a lot of fun watching this at my desk. (Maybe I'm just itching for a tour that can't happen.) And I thought the debut band performance of "Do What You Can" was cool. I've mentioned that that's my favourite of the 2020 songs we've heard so far and it still is.
Way back in 2006, Bon Jovi won a Grammy for Best Country Collaboration for "Who Says You Can't Go Home", which featured Jennifer Nettles from Sugarland. They've joined forces again, this time for a country duet of "Do What You Can". Because I guess the country-tinged band only version isn't country enough?
I'm not knocking country music here, just sayin'.
Anyway, here's the official video of the "Do What You Can" by Bon Jovi and Jennifer Nettles:
If you're thinking it looks familiar, that's because it's pretty much the same video we saw last month, with clips of Jennifer added to it. But I had fun watching it again.
Jon and Jennifer had teased the latest collab before it was announced, with both of them quoting "Who Says" lyrics on their socials, followed by screenshots from different angles of the same scene in the video. So it wasn't really a surprise when we found out the duet was dropping.
The official music video for Bon Jovi's COVID-19 anthem "Do What You Can" has been released. Check it out:
It's kind of a mini documentary of the pandemic, interspersed with Jon walking around New York in a face mask. The rest of the band is absent, but there was a nice little nod to David Bryan, whose musical Diana was supposed to open on Broadway this year. (It will now premiere on Netflix next year, and is scheduled to open on Broadway in May 2021.)
Anyway, back to the "Do What You Can" video. It's fairly literal, I guess, but it made me hopeful that the situation around the world will get better.
In today's episode of Things I Never Thought I'd See, Jon Bon Jovi covered The Killers and Black Eyed Peas. It was part of Hampton Water Cares -- a virtual concert featuring Jon's other band, the Kings of Suburbia, and lots of bottles of Hampton Water rosé. The show was streamed on Facebook and raised money for World Central Kitchen's COVID-19 relief efforts.
Jon was joined at his studio (with plenty of social distancing) by Everett Bradley on percussion, Lorenza Ponce on violin, Greg Mayo on guitar and Carl Gentry on keyboards. Jon's son and Hampton Water Wine co-founder, Jesse Bongiovi, hosted the broadcast.
I really like Jon in acoustic mode these days. He sounds pretty good and it's the only time we can realistically expect him to pull out bonus tracks like "I Will Drive You Home". Plus, it was unexpectedly cool to see him having a bit of fun with "Mr Brightside" and "I Gotta Feeling", even if he flubbed the lyrics. I've affectionately renamed the latter song "I Gotta Feeling (Oh No, Somebody Sing the Chorus)".
Jon also indicated during the after party on Instagram that there are plans to broadcast the 2020 album being performed live, in lieu of a tour.
Another thing... There are now inexplicably two versions of the album listed on iTunes for pre-order, with different track lists.
One is entitled Bon Jovi 2020, and this is the original album that was supposed to come out in May (the expected date listed for this one is now 31 December 2020). The track list is as follows:
Brothers in Arms
Story of Love
Lower the Flag
Let it Rain
Blood in the Water
The newer version is just called 2020, and this has the release date as 2 October 2020, which is in line with what we've been told. The track list for this version is:
Do What You Can
Story of Love
Let it Rain
Lower the Flag
Blood in the Water
Brothers in Arms
So basically they've taken two tracks off ("Luv Can" and "Shine") and replaced them with "Do What You Can" and "American Reckoning" to keep it to a 10-track album? And if you pre-ordered the original version, you now have to pre-order again for the new version? I hope the latter is a bug that gets sorted out soon.
Bon Jovi has dropped a very topical new song, "American Reckoning". And here's the lyric video:
The lyrics are not at all subtle, making specific reference to the death of George Floyd, which sparked a new wave of Black Lives Matter protests in the US and around the world.
The harmonica solo was unexpected and cool, although it helps draw inevitable comparisons with fellow New Jersey native Bruce Springsteen. And once again, this sounds more like a Jon Bon Jovi solo track than a band song.
Speaking of Bruce, one of my favourite Springsteen songs is "American Skin (41 Shots)", which was also inspired by the death of a black man (Amadou Diallo in 1999) at the hands of police. I think "American Skin" is a better song than "American Reckoning" but I don't dislike "American Reckoning". Besides, if you're going to release an album called 2020, you might as well sing about stuff that's happening in 2020.
I know it often polarises fans when a musician "gets political", especially if they disagree with the views expressed or they see music as a way of escaping the harsh realities of the world. Jon's views have not been a secret though, and they've come through in his music before, albeit not as overtly as this.
“I was moved to write American Reckoning as a witness to history,” said Jon Bon Jovi, “I believe the greatest gift of an artist is the ability to use their voice to speak to issues that move us.”
Now, Jon could be completely apolitical if he wanted to be -- he'd probably make a lot of people happier if he stayed away from these issues. And he's in a privileged position where politics aren't likely to have a significant impact on him personally. But for some people, what we call "politics" could literally be a matter of life and death. Or as Jon puts it:
"I'll never know what it's like to walk a mile in his shoes
And I'll never have to have the talk so it don't happen to you"
"American Reckoning" will be added to the upcoming Bon Jovi 2020 album, which is now slated for release in October (although my iTunes pre-order says 'Expected 31 December 2020'. What?).
Earlier in June, Phil X & The Drills released a new single, "Right on the Money" through Golden Robot Records.
The official video for "Right on the Money" is a sign of the times... It edits together the musicians' separate performance videos (since they couldn't film together due to COVID-19) as well as videos submitted by fans:
You might even recognise some of these fans from the Bon Jovi tour. 😉
With everything that's happened in the world since then, it's easy to forget that Bon Jovi released "Limitless" -- the lead single from Bon Jovi 2020 -- three months ago. The album was meant to come out in May but has now been delayed until October.
But the 2020 album is still coming out in 2020 so Bon Jovi got together, recording from separate locations, to promote "Limitless" during The Voice (US) finale. Check out their performance:
It's not on a stage, and won't be for quite some time... but it's great to see some fun being had (e.g Jon's "I need a haircut" sign at 2:34).
Jon is a long-time supporter of Covenant House. Check out his performance of "Someday I'll Be Saturday Night":
I'm enjoying the acoustic stuff at the moment and it's been cool to see Jon and/or the band contributing different songs to these events. Hopefully we'll be able to safely enjoy live gigs again at some point.
Bon Jovi regrouped at a social distance for the Rise Up New York! telethon on May 11 to raise money for Robin Hood's COVID-19 relief fund. With Jon Bon Jovi, Tico Torres, David Bryan, Hugh McDonald, Phil X, John Shanks and Everett Bradley each recording from a different location, they put together an acoustic performance of "It's My Life":
I'd be lying if I said I was a fan of This Left Feels Right, where this version originates from, but "It's My Life" was one of the tracks I thought was decent on that album. And I think the acoustic rendition suited the occasion. I love a good fist-pumping anthem, but sometimes it feels more appropriate to do something introspective and sombre.
If you want to jog your memory (or perhaps never listened to it in the first place) here's "It's My Life" as it appears on This Left Feels Right:
As a Mother's Day present to fans, the uncut version of Bon Jovi's 2018 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame premiered online on May 10. Opening with a welcome message from David Bryan, the stream included all the speeches and performances, some of which were cut in the HBO broadcast two years ago.
If you missed the Bon Jovi's full Rock Hall induction ceremony, or you want to check it out again, you can watch it below:
I was tuning in on a Monday morning while getting ready for work, but the speeches are still emotional for me two years on. And I enjoyed the performances, even though they were far from perfect. No musical artist has had as much impact on me as Bon Jovi. Sure, they've disappointed and frustrated me at times, but mostly because I've been so invested in them. They've been by my side (in my ears) through highs and lows. And tattoo removal is painful and expensive, so they'll always be a part of me.* 😜
In all seriousness, I was happy when Bon Jovi got inducted into the Rock Hall and I'm happy to be able to watch the whole thing today.
*If you're wondering, I have a heart and dagger tattoo. It's pretty rad, if I do say so myself.
In much sadder news, rock 'n' roll legend Little Richard passed away on May 9. So here's "You Really Got Me Now" by Jon Bon Jovi featuring Little Richard, from Jon's debut solo album Blaze of Glory:
Jon and David also paid tribute to Little Richard on social media:
From his home studio, Jon Bon Jovi performed "Do What You Can" in its entirety for the first time as part of Jersey 4 Jersey on April 22 -- a night of Jersey stars coming together to benefit the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund:
Inspired by life in COVID-19 lockdown, "Do What You Can" has had an intriguing journey. It kicked off in March when a photo of Jon washing dishes at the JBJ Soul Kitchen was posted to Instagram with the caption, "If you can't do what you do... do what you can."
That became the hook of a new song that Jon debuted a few days later. He sang a verse and chorus and invited fans to add their own verses telling their own stories:
Selected fans' verses have been played by Jon and shared on Bon Jovi's social media channels in the weeks since.
Here's Jon singing verses by Adriana, Geoffrey, and Bryce:
And Jon at the keyboard singing verses by Kristen, Maritza, Tanya, and Luca:
Jon also showcased video performances from Clint, Eleven, and Andre:
Others have contributed their own verses, and at a time when we need the world to come together (but not physically), it's pretty cool to see the power of music, social media and technology at work.
Even though I didn't immediately rush over here to blog about it, I felt a sense of pride in Jon that I hadn't felt in a while. Not that I was ashamed of him or anything. But just like Bon Jovi has changed, so I have I. I still love them (and by extension Jon) and I'm sure I always will, but they're not the singular focus/obsession they were when I started this blog as a teenager.
Anyway, the pride I felt was because there was something raw and honest about "Do What You Can". At least I thought so, and it's my blog. 😉
We've previously heard two songs from Bon Jovi 2020 -- "Unbroken" and "Limitless" -- and I haven't loved them. I've kind of felt like they were trying too hard and not really hitting the mark. (Both the original and the Invictus Games Choir version of "Unbroken" are supporting good causes though.)
But "Do What You Can" feels real to me. It feels like a guy from New Jersey, looking at what's happening around him, and expressing himself through song. It may not be the greatest song ever written. And sure, his voice isn't what it was. It didn't matter. It was the right song at the right time, when I was looking for a spark of hope amidst the confusion and uncertainty. And that's ultimately why I keep coming back to Bon Jovi -- when I've needed them, they've had the right songs for me.
Speaking of the power of music... my last few posts have alluded to the fact that I'm playing catch-up on this blog, and one thing I didn't post at the time was this Chicago singalong of "Livin' on a Prayer" in March, inspired by Italians in isolation singing on their balconies:
It's testament to the endurance of that song. And who doesn't feel better when they're cranking up or belting out "Livin' on a Prayer"?
Back to more recent history, Jon closed Jersey 4 Jersey with an acoustic rendition of "Livin' on a Prayer" that felt appropriate:
Due to the ongoing global pandemic, it is no longer feasible for Bon Jovi to tour this summer. Given these difficult times, we have made the decision to cancel the tour entirely. This will enable ticketholders to get refunds to help pay their bills or buy groceries. These are trying times. You’ve always been there for us and we’ll always be there for you. We look forward to seeing everyone again on tour when we can all safely be together. We will continue to send out news and updates on Bon Jovi touring in the weeks and months to come.
“We may never tour. This could be the end of touring, who knows?” Jon said, adding, “I’ve read these articles that ‘20 is out of the question, ‘21 is possibly out of the question. So, in ’22 when they tell you that you can’t play 50,000 people anymore, do you go, ‘Oh well, I can’t tour the way we used to’?”
The world has certainly changed in 2020. Is it a world where we've seen the last Bon Jovi tour?