"Rock songs, power ballads, it’s a big-sounding record designed to be played to big rooms": Bon Jovi fight for their future on Forever

Following Jon Bon Jovi's vocal surgery, the band are back, and it's about time

Bon Jovi: Forever cover art
(Image: © EMI)

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It was difficult not to notice that something was amiss when Bon Jovi played at Wembley Stadium in 2019. That something was Jon Bon Jovi’s voice – top notes went awry, melody lines fell flat. Not always, but often enough to be unsettling. The girl next to me - who would have once forgiven Jon if he'd accidentally driven his motorbike into her as long as she’d got an autograph – suggested we leave before the end. 

Jon, who doesn’t talk much, and says even less when he does, has been surprisingly candid of late: Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story, a four-part documentary airing on Disney + and Hulu, charts his journey to combat his atrophied vocal cord and the major surgery to fix it. As he told The Sunday Times recently: “If the singing is not great, if I can’t be the guy I once was, then I’m done… I don’t ever need to be the fat Elvis.”

Time will tell how arena shows around the world will treat one of the best rock stars of the past few decades (argue among yourselves), but at least latest album Forever is pointing him and his band in the right direction again. 

After the woeful, and pretty much solo, 2020 record, Forever sounds like a Bon Jovi album. Rock songs, power ballads, it’s a big-sounding record designed to be played to big rooms. Admittedly it’s no New Jersey, but that’s like expecting to still fit into the T-shirt you bought on that late-80s tour. Time has moved on for all of us.

We Made It Look Easy, a thrumming Bon Jovi staple-type track, charts the band’s rise from New Jersey clubs to stadia status, and has heartfelt appeal. Bon Jovi has an ear for a nagging hook, and this one is into you before the first chorus has even faded away. Ditto the bubbling Living Proof, with its familiar, if extraneous, talk-box guitar intro, and an iron-clad chorus that hits like a linebacker at full tilt. 

Especially good, and probably the best track here, is Waves, which has the hallmark Bon Jovi cues, acoustic guitars, reflective lyrics, and a rousing chorus that builds to a dizzying, raise-your-fist hook that will translate into any language live. As always, the Bon Jovi ballads - Kiss The Bride, My First Guitar - underwhelm, but once you get to Living In Paradise, which is one big chorus with some song parts bolted to it, you won’t care and, like Jon, you’ll be racing forward to the future.

Philip Wilding

Philip Wilding is a novelist, journalist, scriptwriter, biographer and radio producer. As a young journalist he criss-crossed most of the United States with bands like Motley Crue, Kiss and Poison (think the Almost Famous movie but with more hairspray). More latterly, he’s sat down to chat with bands like the slightly more erudite Manic Street Preachers, Afghan Whigs, Rush and Marillion.