Every day, many Americans wake up and contemplate how to keep a roof over their head, pay bills and ensure they feed themselves and their families. Such a mode of thinking is more common in 2020 when COVID-19 dominates every headline. Americans are praying for themselves, their families, their friends and the nation, which is stricken w COVID-19, and growing debates over racial justice in America. In many ways, Americans are living on a prayer. And in some ways, Bon Jovi returns to answer it.
Bon Jovi became a household name in the ’80s with anthemic songs like “Living on a Prayer,” “Wanted Dead or Alive,” “Bad Medicine,” “You Give Love a Bad Name” and many more. However, in “2020,” Bon Jovi does not harken back to an already cemented legacy but instead addresses topics bigger than themselves that affect America. The band does so with a surprising amount of style and old-school American flair reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen. In many ways, “2020” is something of a miracle album, reflecting today’s turmoil and using it to form Bon Jovi’s strongest work in years.
Perhaps the best part about the album stylistically is that it does not try to adapt to a changing rock atmosphere but remains faithful to the sound Bon Jovi pioneered in the ’80s. Fans are sure to be grateful for this choice. Songs like “Limitless,” “Story Of Love” and “Blood In The Water” all stick to the formula that made Bon Jovi chart crushers in the ’80s — they are high in spirit, conviction and passion. As the years pass by for many bands, it is hard to maintain this level of passion, which eventually leads to fading relevance, sub-par albums and diminishing returns in terms of content. However, in these songs, the band sounds more energized than in prior releases from the 2000s and onwards.
Perhaps what keeps Bon Jovi so motivated and impassioned are the circumstances addressed in the album. Bon Jovi pulls no punches in “2020” as the band discusses the effects of the pandemic on the American way of life, calling on people to help one another on “Do What You Can.” The band also addresses mass shootings on “Lower The Flag” and the death of George Floyd on “American Reckoning.” When Jon sings, “God damn those eight long minutes / Lying face-down in cuffs on the ground / Bystanders pleaded for mercy / As one cop shoved a kid in the crowd / When did a judge and a jury / Become a badge and a knee / on the streets?” it forces listeners to soberly reflect on where we stand as a nation. These profound moments on “2020” show that Bon Jovi no longer cares about making head-bangers but rather using their platform to send a greater message. “2020” sent this message and it deserves to be read.
“Limitless” is a highlight on the album, giving old-school fans what they want: ’80s Bon Jovi with fist-pumping conviction and energy. Jon delivers with pumping drums, a sly guitar and spirited vocals when he sings, “Wake up everybody wake up / Here we go, it’s just another day / Another buzz another beep / Scrub your face and brush your teeth.” This opening track wakes listeners who may have slept on Bon Jovi for many years. However, Bon Jovi does more than wake listeners up; it drags them out of bed and gets them excited for what is a surprisingly smooth ride from the band’s 15th album.
However, if there is a pandemic anthem, “Do What You Can” is it. The song epitomizes life in the pandemic with lyrics like, “The chicken farm from Arkansas / Brought workers PPE / Not before 500 more / Had succumbed to this disease / Honest men and honest women / Working for an honest wage / I got a hundred point one fever / And we still got bills to pay.”
Bon Jovi has returned with an album high in purpose, and it sounds like the band is just getting started on its comeback. With “2020,” they’re halfway there.