Love them or hate them, throughout Bon Jovi’s career this band has been very consistent in keeping their core sound while slightly embellishing it with different colors and styles to keep the band ‘relevant’ as the music scene changed over time. The way I look at it, you can evenly divide these guys catalog into 5 different eras:
“Bon Jovi” and “7800 Farenheit” -
The beginning of their career. At times struggling to find their own sound but showing signs of potential through what was mostly weak songwriting…these albums did have some high points but they were few and far between.
“Slippery when Wet” and “New Jersey” –
Their rise to superstardom. Yeah they were lumped in with the hair band scene (and why not? Big hair, Power Ballads) but never really sounded like any of the bands from that era. Both of these albums are landmarks of the 80’s and the songwriting was so strong you couldn’t deny their talent.
“Keep the Faith” and “These Days” –
Their break into the 90’s music scene. Same core sound used for Slippery and NJ…but changed ever so slightly to appeal to a broader audience. “Faith” showed the band could still write irrisistable hooks and excel at many different styles of music while “These Days” showed a darker more somber side of the band, yet the songs remained memorable.
“Crush” and “Bounce” –
Their attempt to stay on top in the new millenium. “Crush” showed the band at their most mature and introspective…again, same core sound…yet modernized with new age production and more variation in the instrumentation of the song arrangements…and, once again, strong and memorable songs. “Bounce” was a natural progression of “Crush” yet contained a number of lackluster songs that sounded ‘thrown together’…but overall a solid release.
“Cross Roads”, “One Wild Night Live”, “This Left Feels Right”, and “100′000′000 Bon Jovi Fans Can’t Be Wrong” -
The odds and ends they’ve released over the years…a greatest hits album with 3 new cuts, a live record, a collection of reworked/rearranged classics, and a 5 disc box set of B sides and rarities. (the first two being very good releases while the latter two mainly just for the die-hards).
Now as far as me personally, I feel “New Jersey” is the bands best work yet ironically “These Days” is actually my favorite album (go figure). After 100 million albums sold, countless #1 hits, sold out tours around the world…you have to ask…what else is there to prove? The answer….nothing. There is nothing this band can do that they haven’t already acheived so when a new Bon Jovi release arrives I find it hard to believe its just a quick cash grab or an attempt at commercial success.
So now…after the previous 5 eras of the bands career comes “Have a Nice Day”…the new chapter so to speak. As soon as the title track “Have A Nice Day” opens the album…I’m thinking…this a killer old school rock n roll Bon Jovi song. I don’t think any Bon Jovi fan can listen to this song and not be reminded why they fell in love with this band in the first place and sing a long to the chorus…classic Bon Jovi song…but…it is also the only track that has that ‘familiar’ sound on the entire album…getting worried? Well, let me finish.
It becomes readily apparent that this album follows the same trend the band has used in the past…the core sound is still present…yet there are new elements added. The song arrangements favor the ones from “Crush”, the tones and guitar work favor “Keep the Faith”…yet the melodies, vocal harmonies, and overall feel of the album is very diferent from anything the band has done in the past. Jon Bon Jovi’s vocals are surprising strong throughout the record, often using the full range of his voice most thought was long gone. Richie Sambora’s trademark vocal harmonies are much more prominent than they were on the last couple of studio efforts and his guitar work is as tasteful as ever (with over half of the tracks contaning solos). The production is very ‘rock’ sounding with a nice low end and exceptional clarity. And of course…the most important thing…the songs are very memorable and well written with really no filler at all. Heres a track by track review:
“Have a Nice Day” –
As I stated above, this is just a straight up rock anthem. Very guitar driven with an irresistable hook in the chorus. Just a great song with a driving groove and uplifting lyrics that are slightly tongue in cheek. Great way to start an album.
“I Want to be Loved” -
Another guitar driven song with the verse containing Sambora’s trademark “Talk Box” work. This is a departure from the usual Bon Jovi formula and is actually refreshing to hear the band try something with a modern rock vibe.
“Welcome to Wherever you Are” -
A ballad of sorts, with great vocal harmonies and again uplifting lyrics. This song is very catchy and the chorus will stick in your head for days. I’m pretty sure this is scheduled to be the next single and rightfully so. Great song.
“Who Says You Can’t Go Home” –
You think the last song was catchy? This song upon first listen has a very modern country feel to it (which of course was intentional). Most of todays country artists should take notes because this song is just one huge hook. Again, a departure from the normal formula but it works so damn well.
“Last Man Standing” –
This was a song written for the “This Left Feels Right” album but was pulled at the last minute and later resurfaced on the box set. If you are familiar with the box set version you will be surprised…its been given a full on rock makeover, driving drums, tons of guitars, and a different arrangement on the backing vocals with Sambora singing much more than on the original version. Great song with a great message.
“Bells of Freedom” -
Another near-ballad. Great vocal hooks, gentle acoustic guitar/piano arrangement and a great chorus. Even though there are some slower ballad type songs…the overall ‘rock’ feel is apparent in every song.
This song reminds me of “Mystery Train” from “Crush”. Smooth arrangement and great lyrics. Again, the words memorable, catchy, hooky come to mind when listening…good song.
“Last Cigarette” -
The biggest departure on the album. It took a couple of listens to wrap it around my head and after that I realized its so damn catchy it really stands out. I cant really explain the sound of the song but I’ve never heard a Bon Jovi song sound exactly like this…it almost sounds like a pop song from the early 70s…but unmistakably Bon Jovi.
“I Am” -
Another of the standout tracks. Incredible melodies and just overall a great well written anthem. Jon’s vocals in the chorus are especially strong. One of the best on the disc.
Similar to “I Want to be Loved” but a little more catchy in the chorus. Very guitar driven with a good beat and of course great hooks.
One of my personal favs on the album. The chorus has a great 3 part vocal arrangement and a great rockin beat and once again the lyrics really shine. Nice short and sweet slide solo by Richie too.
“Story of my Life” -
Another straight up memorable rock tune. Strong lyrics, strong melodies, strong song. Another nice solo by Sambora on this one (like all the leads on the disc they are short and tasteful…sure I love to hear Richie rip, but his lead work on this album is very good…lyrical, soulful, trademark Richie).
“Who Says You Can’t Go Home” -
An additional version of this song closes the album as a duet between Jon and Jennifer Nettles of country act Sugarland. It just adds to the overall country feel of the song and Nettles vocals work very well with Jons.
To be completely honest, alot of the songs on here took at least 2 or 3 listens to really stick in my head. Alot of Bon Jovi’s albums had alot of really great songs but also had some filler tracks (mainly Bounce and the latter half of Keep the Faith)…”Have a Nice Day” differs in the sense that every song is memorable. Instead of having 5 or 6 or whatever number of great songs then having tracks that basically just fill up space on the album…everything is evenly spaced into 12 well written memorable songs…so after 2 or 3 listens to the album in its entirity…the individual songs begin to standout more and thats where this record truly shines.
The Dual Disc version of the record contains the video for “Have A Nice Day”, An EPK containing interviews with the band about the album, and a live footage performance from Nov 2004 in Atlantic City containing 5 songs, “Everyday” “Miss Fourth of July” “I Get A Rush” “These Arms are…” and “The Radio Saved my Life Tonight”.
“Have a Nice Day” is a great memorable album written by some guys from Jersey who have conquered the music industry and have stood the test of time. Theres no need to compare this album to any of the previous releases…this is the next era in Bon Jovi’s career. You can wish all you want for another “New Jersey” or what not…but it aint gonna happen…they’ve been there, done that, and have moved forward. The core sound is still here and the songwriting is still here…what more could you ask for. Love it or hate it…”Have a Nice Day” proves that no matter what happens in the music scene…Bon Jovi will always be here and if they keep releasing quality albums like this…they will at least help one fan have a nice day.