The boys straight out of New Jersey are back. Jon Bon Jovi and the boys, straight off their performance at the 12-12-12 Concert, benefitting Hurricane Sandy relief, are prepping for their latest release and going back on tour to support it. Thankfully, the guys aren’t backed by a thumping electro-pop beat on this record as is what seems to be the case with most of what you hear on the radio today. Nope, Bon Jovi remain in their comfortable pop-rock zone with a new song that isn’t their hardest of the hard, but isn’t a quiet ballad either. For most Jovi fans, it should be more than enough to wet their appetites for what’s to come this era.
“Because We Can” is the leadoff single from the band’s forthcoming release, What About Now, their twelfth studio album, which will be out at the end of March. The song was written by band members Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora and Billy Falcon, who you may remember from his 1991 hit, “Power Windows”. It’s very much a socially conscious record for the band, who don’t really tread into that lyrical realm too often (at least in terms of their singles) but it seems to work at appealing to those affected by the economic times of late. You’d think that another rocker from New Jersey would pull off the message better, but the band is steadfast in remaining genuine on this record and the effort shows. It all goes back to a particularly strong chorus: “I don’t want to be a wave in the ocean/I am a rock, not just another grain of sand/Want to be the one you run to when you need a shoulder/I’m not a solider, but I’m here to take a stand/Because we can.” It’s not necessarily the best sing-along hook given the length of it, but the message is strong enough to lead the listener in, about supporting one another and having your voice heard. It’s a feel-good song, almost verging on anthemic or patriotic in a sense. You get into it after a few listeners, at least that was the case for me. However, they take a tad bit of a risk leading off the song with it. I understand the accessibility of leading off with it since it’s the first thing you hear, but I’m not sure that it totally works here. I think an instrumental opener would have sounded better; perhaps there will be a single edit that changes things around. If not, eh, I’ll get used to it.
The verses themselves talk about a couple (Tommy and Gina, is that you two?) who are fed up with their current status: the female is “living life in black and white” and the male, while struggling himself, feels like “a broken promise” but “he said forever and he’ll never let her down.” They live in a mess, but they console themselves in the sound of music (even though the bills are alive with the sound of it too) and rest in each other’s arms; they may not be able to keep up with all the challenges around them, but at least they have themselves. I think I just heard a collective “awww” somewhere.
Sonically, it’s not much of a departure from what they’re been putting out the past few years; a lot of guitar and drum, though the guitar solo is pretty good on this particular song. There’s a nice breakdown in the middle with just Jovi’s vocals against a hard drum beat, which I imagine will be a clapping extravaganza in concert. Jovi’s voice seems to get better with age. I think it’s great that he’s been able to keep it up both live and in the studio. If you’re expecting this to be another “Livin’ On A Prayer” or “Bad Medicine”, then you’re going to be sorely disappointed, but considering that the band has been doing this for the better part of thirty years, I think we can give them a break… because we can.
The band hasn’t had a top ten hit on the Hot Adult Contemporary chart since 2009 when “We Weren’t Born To Follow” did the trick, so I’m not expecting this one to be as big, but it should easily make the top 20. At least I think it’ll have a better chance of doing something than a recent attempt by Aerosmith, who got just short of it with a full-fledged ballad. All in all, it fits into the “good, not great” category, but I’ll take that over “bad”. I just hope their parent album has some harder stuff to show they still have a little bit of edge, but this will at least get them back in the mainstream. Alright, Jovi fans, rock on.