If you were eagerly awaiting the promised “big rock album”, What About Now is likely to be a disappointment. Bon Jovi’s 12th studio record could better be described as a very polished production with a strong emphasis on ballads.
“Because We Can” was the first single released and not surprisingly the most commercially oriented. Perfect for the public to sing along to in the massive arenas the band will without a doubt fill in the course of their new world tour. It is an upbeat, catchy song and once is enough to memorize the chorus. Bon Jovi’s self-confessed intention to insufflate some optimism during these economically trying times is very present throughout the whole album, with motivating lyrics such as the ones written for “What About Now”. The band can only be praised for their “feel good” efforts. As for the fact that they never forgot their modest roots, actively helping people and charities, it is highly commendable too.
However, when it comes to music one wishes that the Jersey boys had also kept the rawness and edge of earlier times. Songs such as “You Give Love A Bad Name”, “Bad Medicine” and of course “Livin’ On A Prayer” still have the same power when listened to today. Alternatively Bon Jovi could have chosen the path down to a more country sound like on Lost Highway (2007). “What’s Left Of Me” is probably the most rock-oriented and refreshing track on their new album, but one would be hard pushed to find songs that really stand out.
What About Now comes in two formats: the normal edition with 12 songs and the deluxe version, which includes four bonus tracks. “Not Running Anymore” is the song Jon Bon Jovi wrote for the movie Stand Up Guys, which got him a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Original Song. The last track is “Every Road Leads Home To You”, an extract of Aftermath Of The Lowdown, the solo album the band’s guitarist Richie Sambora released in 2012. Speaking of Sambora, there is a distinct lack of real, proper guitar solos all through What About Now. Shame.
This new release seems to confirm that the band’s rock days are gone, leaving only nostalgic memories to the fans who have been there from the start. Given their position as one of the most beloved and most successful bands of all time, it would be great to see Bon Jovi take more risks. Come on, guys, do surprise us with your next album!