I was hesitant to get Bon Jovi’s New Jersey (1988) at first, since Richie Sambora isn’t in Bon Jovi anymore, therefore, I shouldn’t have anything to do with Bon Jovi, which is stupid because I previously bought 7800° Fahrenheit (1985). If you want to check out that review, click on the link here! I finally bought New Jersey on December 18, 2020 at the Book Off in Pearlridge. I did a review for New Jersey over a year ago, but I deleted it and decided to do a revamped version because I’m sure my thoughts have changed since I last reviewed it. With all that said, let’s get on with the music!
The album starts off with “Lay Your Hands on Me,” which features African-like drumming in the intro and Richie Sambora adding some flavorful guitar playing in-between. The chorus is a fun sing-along and interestingly enough, this lyric “What you get ain’t always what you see,” reminds me of when I attempted to buy Slippery When Wet (1986), but I bought One Wild Night Live 1985–2001 instead, haha! “Lay Your Hands on Me” is a great upbeat song to kick off the album and I loved Sambora’s screeching guitar solo. Then we get to my favorite song on the album, “Bad Medicine,” a fun, feel-good, 80s party, rock song. I heard that this song was about a girl that was a “bad influence” on Sambora; I’m not sure if that’s true, but I’m scared to find out. The lyrics are pretty clever in this track: “I need a respirator / Cause I’m running out of breath / You’re an all night generator / Wrapped in stockings and a dress.”
Next up is “Born to Be My Baby,” which sounds cheesy already. It’s supposed to be centered on the everyday struggles of working class people (similar to “Living on a Prayer”), but honestly, I found the whole thing to be cheesy. Jon Bon Jovi is saying the girl was born to be his baby and the guy was made to be her man. Wait, the girl was born to be his baby? That sounded less weird in my head.
It’s obviously a catchy tune, but what I hate about it is the intro when the band is singing, “Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, etc.” because it sounds stupid and childish. If I wanted to listen to a song with “na, na, na,” I’d listen to One Direction’s song called, “Na, Na, Na.” Also, performed live, it always makes me cringe when Jon sings, “Only God would know the reason,” because his pronunciation is weird either because he’s out of breath or his voice is giving out. Watch the live performance at Madison Square Garden in 2008 as proof.
“Living in Sin” reflects on Jon’s Catholic upbringing and the state of his relationship with Dorthea Hurley, who would become his wife on the New Jersey tour. It’s not a bad concept, but I found it to be very boring, slow-paced, and depressing. For those of you that like “Blood on Blood,” I don’t understand you, but I respect you. I find the concept to be lame as it’s about three brothers that will always stand by each other, no matter what happens in life, like the three musketeers. It sounds worse when done acoustically.
“Homebound Train” is much better as Tico Torres is going nuts on the drums and Sambora does a mighty, long guitar solo. I’m not sure if the chorus is as strong as the verses, but I’ve heard worse, so I’ll let it slide this time. “Wild Is the Wind” sounds like a country song title and in a way, it kind of is a country rock song. It’s rocking, yet very soothing, and it has a country flair in the chorus.
Speaking of country music, “Ride Cowboy Ride” serves as an introduction to “Stick to Your Guns.” I hate it, to be honest, but on the positive side, the vintage vibe reminds me of Woody’s Roundup from Toy Story 2 (1999). The song is credited to Captain Kidd and the King of Swing, which are the nicknames for Jon and Sambora, ha!
“Stick to Your Guns” also deals with cowboys, not surprisingly, because of what came before it. But I think, excluding the cowboy lyric, anybody can relate to the song and can be interpreted in different ways. My favorite lyrics are “And when you pray for independence / Boy, you better stand your ground.” The next song is a classic and it’s one I never get sick of (as long as Sambora doesn’t perform it with Orianthi EVER AGAIN)! That’s right, I’m talking about “I’ll Be There For You.” The chorus was very easy for me to memorize because I’ve heard it so many times, though, my favorite lyrics from this song are “I’ll be the water when you get thirsty, baby / When you get drunk, I’ll be the wine.”
One of the first times I heard “I’ll Be There For You” was when Sambora sang it at their 2008 Madison Square Garden show (I watched it on YouTube last year before the pandemic took over). Ever since then, I can only hear Sambora singing that song; Jon’s voice doesn’t even hold a candle to Sambora’s, no matter how many screams he does throughout the original version. That scream after, “I wish I’d seen you blow those candles out,” is partially the reason why Jon lost his voice (after performing it live for so many years), in my opinion.
“99 in the Shade” is another feel-good, 80s party, rock song. There isn’t a dull moment in this song from the lyrics, the melody, the drums, Sambora’s guitar screeching throughout the track, and best of all, Jon’s vocals sound great. Tommy and Gina from “Livin’ on a Prayer” are mentioned in the first verse, which was a nice touch. “Love for Sale” is a fantastic track to close off the album because as much as I don’t care for Jon, his friendship with Sambora was everything! Their chemistry on this song is infectious and I love the dialog in-between, it makes me wonder if they were drunk while recording it; the songbook does say that they recorded the track in the middle of “one hell” of a party. Now that Sambora isn’t in the band anymore, Bon Jovi can’t perform this live ever again, unfortunately.
Sorry to end this review on a sad note. I also apologize for turning this post into a rant about why Jon Bon Jovi sucks and Richie Sambora is life! But I had to speak the truth, come on! I didn’t like all of the songs, but it’s a pretty solid album for the boys. I just wish the hit singles were more spread out on the album because the album starts off with four singles and then you have the other songs, until we get to “I’ll Be There For You.” I’d give New Jersey 4.2 out of 5 stars.
Comment below your favorite song from Bon Jovi’s New Jersey album!
Take care and see ya real soon!