1986, Music

Slipper When Wet (1986) by Bon Jovi

Bon Jovi broke when I was too young to really be aware of them – I was not yet five when this album came out. And they had peaked before I was really conscious of the music on mainstream radio – my family listened to oldies stations – and before I was conscious of my friends’ tastes. That’s important because, had I been born 5 years earlier or this album come out 5 years later (maybe even 3) I might be super motivated to denigrate it. If these songs – which I do not enjoy – had been everywhere at some point in my life, I can imagine I would have similar ill will to them like I do with some other pop hits of my formative years. (Though I have absolutely softened on that stuff as I’ve got older – see my mild reviews of boy band albums from the ’90s as evidence.) For me, the insufferable Bon Jovi song is “It’s My Life” because of my first year roommate. I don’t have the same negative feelings to this music that was super popular before I knew what was popular.

The three biggest hits are insanely catchy, it’s true. Two of them are also their biggest hits ever, which suggests they broke and peaked at basically the same time. (They continued to peak of course, just not into my frame of reference.) I have heard these hits millions of times, mostly in arenas and in other places where I couldn’t avoid them. I do not like this kind of music but most other people do. I’m less mad about these songs only because I don’t have any particular memory of them being ubiquitous. If I did, I might feel differently.

The rest of the material – including the final single – is just not as catchy. (With the exception of “Raise Your Hands” which seems to have gotten some airplay since as I’ve heard it before.) That’s pretty typical, of course, but it’s also notable given how unbelievably successful this album was. Does anyone listen to the whole record? Probably. But I think they’re the diehards.

The lyrics are perfectly adequate, actually. I was expecting them to be terrible but they’re, you know, pretty average for this kind of music. I can’t say I’m bothered by them.

Bon Jovi are less offensive to me than real “hair metal” or “glam metal” bands because there’s zero pretense to “metal” in their sound. They are absolutely mainstream pop rock with hard rock trappings (the distortion of the guitars, Sambora’s solos). They are transparent about what they are up to. That’s less of a problem for me than the bands who wanted you to think they are “metal” even though they’re clearly pop.

And the production, though slick, is less offensive than, say the production on a Def Leppard record. Sambora has a little grit in his playing, a little blues, and Bon Jovi himself at least sings like he is a rock band. The shout-along choruses are really annoying if you don’t want to shout along to them, and the keyboards and fake horns don’t belong. But, honestly, it could be worse. Trust me, I know. I’ve been listening to a lot of 1986 albums this year.

Better than I thought it would be.


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