Ranking the Bon Jovi Catalog
Written by Thomas Trog II
In my quest to tap into my writing talent and get back into the groove of writing I am going to roll out something I am very qualified to talk about, the Bon Jovi catalog, one of those rock bands I have been listening to for a very long time, since 1984 to be exact when I walked into a Peaches record store on a cold end of winter day in March 1984 & bought the 1st album by Bon Jovi simply called “Bon Jovi” along with the very 1st album by Queensrÿche, a four song EP called “Queensrÿche.” I remember then walking to my uncle’s apartment on my way home and showing off my purchase to him and his girlfriend who allowed me use of their record player. The needle hit the 1st song “Runaway” and his girlfriend, a woman who would later become my Aunt, said, “I recognize this song. They play it on the radio.” Yes they did. That song was Bon Jovi’s 1st radio and MTV hit.
Now it’s 2021 and Jovi has released 15 albums in total & I am going to rank them. I do not want to get too caught up in overanalyzing any of this music so don’t expect a real deep examination.
To be fair, I am not familiar with the band’s output from 2013 onward having only heard two of these albums in full (“Burning Bridges” and “2020”) because starting with “The Circle” in 2009 I felt the quality of the band’s music took a mighty fall. I found myself completely bored with that album upon hearing it and the songs I sampled on their next album, “What About Now” only alienated me further.
Understanding 2015’s “Burning Bridges” was the last for their long time record label Mercury Records and their 1st album recorded without long time guitarist Richie Sambora and knowing there was some minor controversy about the album of material that was mostly left over songs and unfinished songs from the “vault” I gave it a listen. Disappointed. That was my only reaction.
In 2016 they released their 1st album with the new guitarist. Phil X, called “This House Is Not For Sale” and I listened to some of it thanks to YouTube and nothing really connected with me, probably the best song of the bunch was “Born Again Tomorrow.” We could start this list with any of these albums so let me do this:
15. What About Now
14. Burning Bridges
13. This House is Not For Sale
12. The Circle
At 11 I will declare the new album “2020” is actually surprisingly better than expected. “Beautiful Drug” is one of Jovi’s more rocking songs and I call attention to it because so much of the recent song writing has been stuck in mellow adult contemporary style and has little in common with the Bon Jovi songs of the past that I love. I understand if he’s “outgrown” writing hard rock music, if he is not inspired to write like that and it’s just not in his soul I can’t fault him for pursuing a different musical path in the last 10 years. I’d rather hear music that’s true and from the heart than a half assed attempt to recreate the past. Having said that, even the mellow songs, and there are plenty to choose from, are more interesting than other recent Jovi songs, “Story of Love” is a really sweet song. Then there’s “Blood In The Water” a lyrically deep musically heavy hitting song about recent chaotic political events in the USA and the devil. Now comes the hard part, ranking the rest of the Jovi catalog…
10. “Lost Highway” although I could swap out “Crush” here. The “Lost Highway” album in 2007 was born out of the fact that a country rock single on the previous album turned into an unexpected radio sensation going all the way to the top of the charts (Who Says You Can’t Go Home) and that song propelled big sales that just would not have been there for the band if it wasn’t for this country rock cross over song that was sort of thrown onto the album as an experiment and the success of that one song led to the band writing an entire album of country flavored Jovi rock. The album works for me.
It’s different, it’s fun, there’s maybe one or two forgettable clunkers but overall, a winner. The last real winner in the catalog for me.
Favorite songs: “Till We Ain’t Strangers Anymore”& “Lost Highway”
9. “Crush” which came out in 2000 at a time where American audiences had largely written off the band as a “has been” act. Bon Jovi was not ready to retire. They teamed up with Max Martin who had co-written hits for Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears previously and the result of this collaboration was one of the most catchy pop rock songs of that year, “It’s My Life” and outside of that the rest of the album is mostly an insider effort with seven of the 14 songs written only by Jovi and Sambora. There are four songs I skip over when listening to this album and out of 14 that’s a good ratio.
Favorite songs: “Just Older” and “Thank You For Loving Me”
8. “Bounce” came out a few months after the 911 tragedy and that event produced one of Bon Jovi’s heaviest songs in “Undivided” that starts the album.. The pace continues with a solid positive rocking uplifting song called “Everyday” and “The Distance” – in fact this might be the best 3 song opening to any Bon Jovi album. The trouble with the album is that they start to veer off into mellower directions with songs that sound like uninspired attempts to replicate Bruce Springsteen. To be fair, Springsteen is an influence and that has come across in Jovi past but not to such a huge extent as in “Joey” or “You Had Me From Hello” both songs I can totally live without.
Favorite songs: “Everyday” and “The Distance”
7. “Bon Jovi” – ahhh the beginning, the youth, 1984, the harder hitting style than what the band developed into over time. It’s a special album and maybe some songs have not aged so well but there’s a real timeless quality about this album. This is “pop metal” or at least that’s how it was marketed in the day. There’s a bombastic quality that gets your feet tapping and it’s hard not to love most of these songs.
Favorite songs: ”Roulette” and “Love Lies”
6. “Keep The Faith” was released in late 1992 when Bon Jovi’s style of music was falling out of favor with the general American record buying public but let me not talk about the circumstances and focus on the music and the music on this album was mostly brilliant. At the time of its release I might have said it was my 2nd favorite album in his catalog, but with time comes a different perspective. I really enjoyed the fact that they wrote songs that were more centered on social crisis (“Dry County”) and believing in a higher power, God, you can interpret the lyrics however you want (“I Believe” and “Keep the Faith”)
Favorite songs: “In These Arms” and “Keep The Faith”
5. “Slippery When Wet” If you’ve been exposed to Bon Jovi music chances are pretty good you heard a song from this album. The biggest selling album in the catalog with three Top Ten hit singles. I am a hesitant to rank it higher than “Keep The Faith” but when I consider the power of songs like “I’d Die For You” “Let it Rock” or the huge hit “Livin’ On A Prayer” I feel it edges out “..Faith” just a weee bit.
Favorite songs: “I’d Die For You” and “Living on a Prayer”
4. “7800 Fahrenheit” The 2nd album in the catalog where the band was still developing in its style and finding itself. I will go out on a ledge here and declare this is almost a perfect album. “King of the Mountain” is the only song I’d edit off of it if I were sitting in the producer’s chair. It’s a very upbeat in your face hard pop songs that still hold up today, 36 years later. It’s chock full of so many memorable songs that bring a smile to my face that it’s hard to narrow down my favorites.
Favorite songs: “The Hardest Part Is The Night” and “Always Run To You” or “To The Fire” ?
3. “These Days” This album inspired me to write today. I listened to it in the gym and came home wanting to write about this album. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I haven’t visited these songs in a long time. Whatever, a blog about one Bon Jovi album seems silly so born was the idea to rank their catalog. It’s probably their most darkest introspective album. The songs are all pretty deep lyrically speaking and the best way to describe this album is to say Bon Jovi fully grew up on this album. It’s serious music and it’s damn good. I am tempted to declare it my second favorite in the catalog.
Favorite songs: “Hey God” and “These Days” although “Diamond Ring” is a strong contender too.
2. “Have A Nice Day” What I like about this 2005 album is that once again Bon Jovi dug deep and wrote really powerful lyrics to match excellent musical arrangements diving into topics such as the shallowness of the music industry to politics to holding on to optimism in difficult times. Of course I can’t not comment on their experiment to record a country music influenced song that resulted in them having their 1st number one hit single on the country charts. A first for any traditional hard rock band. The song hit the top 40 in 7 other countries. “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” is pure gold. A charming song for the ages.
Favorite songs: “Welcome To Wherever You Are” and “I Am”
1. “New Jersey” From 1988 this album marks the 1st time I saw Bon Jovi in concert and they put on a truly bombastic hyper energy fun entertaining show while showcasing many of the songs that are included in this set. That could be part of why I cling to this album. I have listened to it more than any other Jovi album. I think it’s filled with fantastic songs. One after another. The last song on the album, “Love For Sale” feels like a throw away and I don’t agree with it being included as it sounds out of place but that’s a small criticism. Fun trivia, in 1989 it became the first official American rock band album to be released in the Soviet Union. What makes the songs so good is that Bon Jovi grew and progressed. They kept the vibe from the successful “Slippery When Wet” and expanded on it.
Favorite songs: “Born 2 Be My Baby” and “Blood on Blood” with honorable mention to “Wild Is The Wind”
Listen to My Best of Bon Jovi on Spotify here.
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