Bon Jovi’s ‘New Jersey’ Album Review

I only wanted to review this album as an excuse to sing-along to “I’ll Be There For You,” can you blame me? But Bon Jovi’s New Jersey (1988) album had other hits as it produced five top ten hit singles, with “Bad Medicine” and “I’ll Be There For You,” reaching number one. As the follow-up to Slippery When Wet (1986), the album earned the number one spot on the Billboard 200 chart in its second week of release, after debuting at number eight. It remained number one for four consecutive weeks and was the last Bon Jovi album to do so, until Lost Highway (2007).  

The opener, “Lay Your Hands On Me,” appears to be a worship song with the synchronous harmonies in the chorus and the use of African drums giving it a gospel feel. Of course, the lyrics say otherwise. I’ve heard “Bad Medicine” a billion times, and I learned the chorus by doing so. It’s tongue-in-cheek and is one of those songs that represents the fun-loving and feel-good vibes of the 80s. Even if you don’t care for the other songs on this album, “Bad Medicine” is the one to give a listen to!

“Born To Be My Baby,” like “Livin’ On A Prayer,” serves as an anthem for everyday people working to get by in life. We can all relate to the lyrics, “We both got jobs ’cause there’s bills to pay,” right? “Living In Sin” depicts the situation of living together before marriage. The song reflects Jon Bon Jovi’s relationship with Dorothea Hurley; they later married in April 1989 during the New Jersey tour. Though I wasn’t a fan of the writing, the chorus is catchy and really beautiful if you think about it. A couple’s relationship being judged by society because they’re not following the rules (or so-called rules, it was the 80s, after all). 

Richie Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi have called “Blood On Blood” their proudest accomplishment as songwriters, and quite frankly, it sounds so much different live than in the studio version. For one, the band makes more use of acoustic guitars when performed in concert. Honestly, though, the highlight of it was the drum fills done by Tico Torres. “Homebound Train” was off to a good start with the heart-pounding drums, but the chorus made me lose interest. I enjoyed the opening and closing guitar parts, though.

It seems like the New Jersey album was hinting that Bon Jovi was going to make a country album sometime in the future, which they did with Lost Highway. “Wild Is The Wind” sounds very country rock, and it’s a perfect song to listen to in the car while taking a long road trip. The cowboy obsession continues with songs such as “Ride Cowboy Ride” and “Stick To Your Guns.” The latter has a similar vibe to “Wild Is The Wind” with the melodic guitar parts, big drums, and tight harmonies. I always thought Jon Bon Jovi had a little country twang to his voice too. 

I always picture Sambora singing “I’ll Be There For You,” but Jon Bon Jovi does a good version too, that screeching note he sings at the end of the bridge scares the heck out of me, but made great for entertainment! Sambora plays my favorite riff in this iconic Bon Jovi song and sounds way better live, especially with the crowd singing along. The harmonies of Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi are just pure magic! 

Bon Jovi makes references to a couple named Tommy and Gina a few times throughout their career. The first being “Livin’ On A Prayer,” second being “99 In The Shade,” and the third being “It’s My Life.” Besides the high-pitched guitar work played throughout the song, there are the lyrics, “I’m gonna see those sons of beaches / Out there living it up the surf,” which hinted at a possible name for the album. The band wanted to name the album Sons of Beaches, but they decided to name it after their home state instead.

“Love For Sale” had me shook because I’ve heard Bon Jovi perform it live (I’m not sure if they did when Alec John Such was still in the band), but I thought it was a cover song. The song is very playful, has a bluesy acoustic vibe to it, and the talking bits in-between made it more memorable. “Jon and I just sat down with a bottle of wine, a harmonica and just started to wail,” said Sambora. 

Overall, I thought most of the songs sounded very similar, but I like this album more than Slippery When Wet because there were more hits on it that caught my attention. Nonetheless, both albums represent the classic Bon Jovi and never failed to disappoint me. You can expect me to be blasting this album sometime in the future! 

From left to right: Richie Sambora (former guitarist), Alec John Such (former bassist), David Bryan (keyboardist), Jon Bon Jovi (lead vocalist), and Tico Torres (drummer)

Let me know your favorite song from Bon Jovi’s New Jersey album in the comments down below!

Take care and see ya real soon!

Lana

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