Island / Universal
Bon Jovi’s latest album 2020, out on 2nd October, comes four years after This House is not for Sale. Originally scheduled for release earlier this year, it was derailed by the whole covid-19 situation even though the single Limitless was put out prior to that whole thing kicking off.
Overall, the album is generally a rinse-and-repeat of the Bon Jovi recipe: stadium sounds, acoustic ballads, story-line lyrics, and drum-thumpers. However, this time there is a strong message playing throughout that relates heavily to the challenging times faced by the whole world in 2020. Jon Bon Jovi says himself, “It’s not a political record, but 2020 is unlike any year I can remember. I was moved to write these songs as a witness to history.” He sure does cover some history here…
The album opener, and early single, Limitless, sounds very “Coldplay” on intro but quickly settles into a driving bass and drum groove which expands atmospherically for the chorus. Uplifting.
Do What You Do is next up and rocks a quickened country feel touching on the covid-19 crisis directly with references to social distancing and helping each other.
American Reckoning is all about the protests, riots and injustice, managing to weave in a significant reference to George Floyd, despite the claims of being a non-political album. A slower ballad style track, employing the harmonica to good effect for a more haunting solo section.
The pace is switched up for Beautiful Drug and claims that love is the beautiful drug that is all we need in these times (rather than ingesting bleach?). A messy guitar solo rushed in the middle goes with the hectic overall impression.
An acoustic ballad for The Story Of Love and Bon Jovi is back to telling a tale in the way we are used to from him. A bit slow and with some odd-ball ‘lay-laying’ instead of words and a guitar solo that wants to be huge but played on about 5 notes lets this one down.
After the quiet of the previous tack we get hit with a big opening from Let It Rain tackling prejudice and how it is all around us. Ultimately begging the question how to stop it all. But without any real answer.
Back to the acoustic story formula for Lower the Flag but this time we are journeying through the spread of riots (again), subsequent personal aftermath and media hype. Pretty sad and well emphasized by the haunting vocal refrain.
Blood in the Water starts off sounding like a Pink Floyd intro that morphs into A Dire Straits track. That doesn’t make it bad. It was written back in 2018 and with a few tweaks got updated and made relevant to recent events. A pretty good slow rock ballad should get the hands clapping, leading into a much better guitar solo this time even if short. Get the cigarette lighters out.
Strangely enough Brothers in Arms is actually the name of a Dire Straits track, but Bon Jovi is not making a cover version here. Instead, he delivers a driving rock beat with a strangled blues guitar riff telling of the advice a child gets from his dad growing up. The bottom line is ‘take a stand – stick together – don’t give up’. This one also has political undertones.
The last track Unbroken is perhaps the weakest musically on the album. A marching drum beat and muddy overdriven guitars lend a military drudge that drags the story out of a soldier returning home with PTSD, and the overall mental and physical price military vets can pay. A serious topic that manages to squeeze itself onto this album echoing the serious issues faced across the world right now in “2020”.