‘2020’ album review: Bon Jovi finally gets political in his music and it’s brilliant

Jon Bon Jovi is a political animal.

The rocker has campaigned and held fundraisers for numerous Democrat candidates, he’s served on President Obama’s White House Council for Community Solutions and he worked with Gov. Chris Christie on Superstorm Sandy relief.

Yet to this point, Bon Jovi’s immersion in politics has not translated to the music of his band Bon Jovi.

Until now. Bon Jovi’s “2020” is due Friday, Oct. 2 from Island Records.  

The album’s “Unbroken” examines the silent suffering of soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder; the toxic mix of populist politics is stirred up in “Blood in the Water”; and “American Reckoning” signifies the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement. Bon Jovi expresses empathy in the poignant and moving ballad, saying he’ll never “have to have the talk” Black parents have to have with their children so what happened to Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis “don’t happen to you.”

Bon Jovi

Family comes up several times in “2020,” as Bon Jovi makes references to his own family, wife Dorothea Bongiovi, one daughter and three sons. Family is depicted nowhere as beautifully as in the album’s in “Story of Love,” a waltz-like ballad that’s absolutely exquisite.

So what kind of world are we leaving our children? If the year 2020 has been a year like no other, perhaps Bon Jovi could not let this moment pass without having his say on record for the things that matter to him.

“2020” was originally going to be released on May 15, but was delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak. Two songs have been added, the aforementioned “American Reckoning” and “Do What You Can,” a country-ish call for solidarity, and a salute to frontline workers, in the time of COVID-19.

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If passion stirs the artist, then Bon Jovi’s passion for the political, or as press materials call it, the “socially conscious,” is good for the music. “Brothers in Arms” is a rocking call for unity. Oh, what a hook “Let It Rain” has, and you’re going to love the crunchy guitar chords and raw-boned intensity of “Beautiful Drug,” even if the chorus seems overly familiar with the Monkees’ (and also Sex Pistols’) classic “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone.”

Bon Jovi "2020"

From a gun control perspective, “Lower the Flag” is brilliant. The ballad argues that the rash of multi-fatal school shootings diminishes the country, thus dinging the guns rights crowd’s argument that guns elevate Americans.

Bon Jovi fans will notice that “2020” bears little distinction between a Bon Jovi band album and Jon Bon Jovi solo album. Jon Bon Jovi wrote eight of the band’s songs, with Billy Falcon and John Shanks getting credit with Bon Jovi on two songs, and it’s Jon alone on the album cover.

Shanks is a co-producer with Bon Jovi.

Granted, former Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora, as far as the band is concerned, is ancient history, but wouldn’t it be interesting to have keyboardist David Bryan lend a hand with the songwriting chores. After all, he has a few Tony Awards on his resume.

There may be some Bon Jovi fans who would rather the rocker eschew the political stuff. We have a feeling when the time comes, when bands can play in front of crowds again, they’ll be singing, and rocking, along with the new songs.

It’s that good.

Chris Jordan, a Jersey Shore native, covers entertainment and features for the USA Today Network New Jersey. Contact him at @chrisfhjordan; cjordan@app.com.

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