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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Bon Jovi: This Left Feels Right


1) Livin' On A Prayer; 2) Bad Medicine; 3) It's My Life; 4) Lay Your Hands On Me; 5) You Give Love A Bad Name; 6) Bed Of Roses; 7) Everyday; 8) Born To Be My Baby; 9) Keep The Faith; 10) I'll Be There For You; 11) Always; 12) The Distance.

Oh my sweet Jesus. I get shivers all over trying to reconstruct, step by step, the abominable logic behind this album. Because the optimal reconstruction goes something like this:

«I (we) feel tremendously dissatisfied with myself (ourselves), the way the world thinks about me (us) and my (our) music. Yes, the superstardom, yes, the money, yes, the admiring fans, yes, the ability to make it onto the front cover of Rolling Stone without sarcasm. But does the world really get Bon Jovi? Does the world really feel the depth, really suck in all the potential concealed in those Bon Jovi songs? Can't it simply be that the world loves a steady rock'n'roll beat and loud distorted electric guitars? Could it be that the world dances like crazy to ʽLivin' On A Prayerʼ just because it is being seduced by the talkbox effects? What about the message? The bitter inner truth? The emotional angst? The religious connotations? That ain't a world livin' on a prayer — it's a world livin' on a talkbox and a chuggy bassline. No, really, it's high time that something should be done about this! So maybe we have cut our long hair and began dressing in T-shirts and wor­king class jackets — that ain't enough. Too superficial. Something from the heart!»

This Left Feels Right is a wicked affair — a complete deconstruction and reconstruction of most of the band's major hits in what could only be called «Heart-On-Sleeve Remixes». Not really «unplugged» as such (although many of the guitar parts are, indeed, acoustic), the album stakes it all on the «melodicity», «emotionality», and «spirituality» of these songs, as they are rearranged with soft, sometimes electronic, drumming, folk/country guitar overdubs, mellow keyboards, and almost angelic vocal harmonies (ʽLivin' On A Prayerʼ is reconceived as a Tommy/Gina duet with Mike d'Abo's daughter Olivia — curious that Jon was not able to find anybody of higher stature, but perhaps the addition of a superstar was thought of as incompatible with the «humble» ideo­logy of the project).

One has to admit that a lot of work went into the project: most of the time, the rearrangements are truly drastic, making the songs completely unrecognizable, especially the old-time rock hits like ʽBad Medicineʼ and ʽYou Give Love A Bad Nameʼ, both of which are redone as «country-blues-pop» numbers with slide guitars that either weep like George Harrison or go all swampy on us. The ballads, just by being ballads, stay closer to what they used to be, but with most of the elec­tricity going out of them, emphasis is also fully transferred onto the vocal harmonies.

The results are predictable: This Left Feels Right sets out to seduce you and leave you in a pool of sentimental tears, as the personal charisma of Jon Bon Jovi and the band's «heavenly» hooks climb into your brain and take control. If it works, it works; but with the overall triviality of the band's melodies and lyrics, if any of these songs made sense in the first place, it was only when they went over the top. Simply put, there is no other setting than its original drunken-swaggery hair-metal arrogance in which a song like ʽBad Medicineʼ would be acceptable. Whether you do it in this stripped-acoustic-bluesy manner, or whether you hire a full Wagnerian orchestra to per­form it, or whether you do an instrumental didgeridoo-only version, this left won't ever feel right to anybody who knows right from left.

Ultimately, This Left feels as if all the banality inherently present in Bon Jovi's work has been carefully distilled, filtered out, pressed, folded, and re-packaged for universal consumption. The basic hooks still remain (sometimes), but they have been stripped of their rocking power and relative fun quotient, and forcefully converted into «spiritual anthems». In other words — I could hardly think of a more stupid career move, that is, of course, if Bon Jovi's career ever had «musi­cally intelligent people» as part of its target audience. Much to people's honor, This Left Feels Right sold quite poorly, compared to the band's regular albums — still, the total number of sold copies is said to approximate something like a million and a half, and if this reflects the number of music buyers who are willing to take Jon Bon Jovi as their soul brother and spiritual guru, well, it may not be such a large figure, but still, walk carefully out there, and don't let just about any­body know that you, too, would award the record a thumbs down.

1 comment:

  1. >(ʽLivin' On A Prayerʼ is reconceived as a Tommy/Gina duet with Mike d'Abo's daughter Olivia — curious that Jon was not able to find anybody of higher stature, but perhaps the addition of a superstar was thought of as incompatible with the «humble» ideo­logy of the project)

    From Wikipedia: "For the Russian and CIS release Olivia d'Abo's part in Livin' on a Prayer was recorded by Russian superstar Alsou in Bon Jovi's studio. This version was played on Russian radio stations to promote the release and got great reviews by Bon Jovi fans, but Olivia's version appeared on the Russian CD due to Universal Music Russia's decision."