Disclaimer: I’m not here to start any drama between Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, nor am I here to make their fans turn against me. These are just my opinions. Though, I apologize if some of my words are a bit harsh!
It’s about time we do another Richie Sambora appreciation post because why not? Plus, I’ve heard rumors that he has a new studio album that has yet to be released. Whether he releases the album this year or not, who knows!
But anyways, for this post, we’re going to do things a bit differently. We all know Sambora is an unbelievable guitar player, but a lot of casual fans seem to underestimate his singing abilities. Most Bon Jovi fans are like, “wow, Jon Bon Jovi is such a great singer and he’s so amazing!” That’s bogus, man! So, we’re going to put that to the test; we’re going to see who was really the best singer of Bon Jovi.
Similar to my Songs with the Same Title posts, I’ll do six rounds and in each round I’ll compare two performances of a Bon Jovi song (one sung by Jon and the other sung by Sambora). Then, I’ll pick my favorite vocal performance from each round and after the final round, I’ll pick the winner of the overall battle. I’ll try not to be as biased with my picks, but we’ll see. Without further ado, let’s get on with the music!
“Livin’ on a Prayer” sung by Jon Bon Jovi in 2003 (released in 2004 on This Left Feels Right Live)
“Livin’ on a Prayer” sung by Richie Sambora in 2005
This is a tricky one because when I first heard the acoustic version of “Livin’ on a Prayer,” I was bored to tears! I hate when people (even the original artists) change upbeat songs by making it into a more mellow ballad or acoustic track. But overtime, I grew to appreciate the acoustic version of this song, especially Sambora’s version with the African drums and to be honest, the best part about Jon’s version was Sambora’s backing vocals. Sambora brought more life to the acoustic version and especially for the performance that I chose, the song had more meaning to it since it was for the Marine Corps. So, with Sambora’s growls and powerful voice, he takes the win for round one.
“These Days” sung by Jon Bon Jovi in 1996
“These Days” sung by Richie Sambora in 2008
I mentioned in my album review for These Days (1995) that I’m not a fan of the song “These Days.” I only like it when Sambora sings the song because it just sounds more heartfelt and passionate. Jon’s voice sounds a bit strained in this particular video, but he certainly had the energy to entertain the audience, that’s for sure. But come on, Sambora was sick during his performance and he still outsung Jon! Because unlike Jon, Sambora knows his limits and he doesn’t push his vocals, if it’s not necessary. In the words of Simon Cowell, “sometimes less is more!” Sambora takes the win for round two.
“Never Say Goodbye” sung by Jon Bon Jovi in 1995
“Never Say Goodbye” sung by Richie Sambora in 1998
I’m also not really a fan of “Never Say Goodbye” because it’s a cheesy ballad that high schoolers can slow dance to at a prom. However, I do enjoy Sambora’s guitar parts and licks he throws into the song, so it’s kind of growing on me. Lyrically, it’s not the best Bon Jovi song ever written, but it does have a pretty melody. I love the passion that Sambora delivers in his performance, but Jon was not bad either. Actually, I was going to use a video of Jon singing an acoustic version of “Never Say Goodbye” from 2011, where Jon sounded pretty good, but I wanted the comparisons to be fair. So, both videos have Sambora on the electric guitar. I do think Sambora’s version of this song sounds a bit stronger, therefore, he takes the win for round three.
“Homebound Train” sung by Jon Bon Jovi in 1988
“Homebound Train” sung by Richie Sambora in 2010
The problem is, once I hear Sambora singing a Bon Jovi song, I can’t imagine anyone else singing it. It happened with “I’ll Be There For You” (spoiler alert) and it happened with “Homebound Train.” I didn’t even know Bon Jovi performed “Homebound Train,” yet alone on The Circle tour, which I could’ve seen since they came to Hawaii. But, I saw Justin Bieber instead, which I don’t regret, but dang it! Plus, Sambora was so good on “Homebound Train” and those growls gave it the right amount of edge it needed. Jon’s harmonica bits were cute, but Sambora put a modern take on the song with his voice and tasteful guitar playing, so he takes the win for round four.
“Lay Your Hands on Me” sung by Jon Bon Jovi in 2003
“Lay Your Hands on Me” sung by Richie Sambora in 2011
The thing that irritates me the most about Jon’s performances is that he sucks the fun out of his songs with these long jam sessions, paused moments, useless speeches, and annoying intros. I know “Lay Your Hands on Me” has a gospel feel in a way, but does he really have to do the “amen” and “my brothers and sisters, we are gathered here tonight” stuff? When I listen to rock music, I want to rock, not go to church! Sambora mentions going to church in his performance too, but afterwards, he goes straight into the song, no long pauses or dramatic speeches. That’s the way it should be: rocking, loud, upbeat, energetic, and unbelievable vocals! Sambora takes the win for round five.
“I’ll Be There for You” sung by Jon Bon Jovi in 2000
“I’ll Be There for You” sung by Richie Sambora in 2008 (released in 2009 for Live at Madison Square Garden)
The first time I heard Richie Sambora’s voice was two years ago; I watched Bon Jovi’s 2008 Madison Square Garden concert on YouTube. I thought Sambora was just a pretty face, so I was expecting more of a soft spoken voice, but I was pleasantly surprised when I heard that growl come out of his voice. Jon’s version of “I’ll Be There For You” is very soothing, sometimes a little too soothing. Once again, Sambora brought more life to this Bon Jovi classic and I love the bluesy vibe he gave it, as well. Plus, that scream Jon does after the line, “I wish I’d seen you blow those candles out,” is very painful to listen to. Sambora, of course, takes the win for the final round.
Can you guess who the winner of this battle was? Maybe I was a bit biased with my picks, but I can’t help that I’m a huge Sambora fan! Everything about him immediately drew me in. As far as comparing Jon and Sambora goes, both guys have different singing voices, so it’s really based on preference. They even have different performance styles: Jon is more about the moves and entertaining the crowd, while Sambora focuses on the emotion and pouring his heart into the songs he sings. I prefer Sambora’s voice more obviously, but there’s no denying that he and Jon’s voices blended so well together.
Unfortunately, the chances of those two reuniting again seems like a long shot. I don’t want to make assumptions, but I wouldn’t be surprised if another reason why Sambora left Bon Jovi was because of Jon’s big ego. Jon basically killed his own band, but that discussion is for another time. I just hope that Sambora is doing well and that we’ll be able to hear new music from him really soon!
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Comment below your pick for each round!
Take care and see ya real soon!