“It’s an interesting question to ask: Is that a fair dose of motivation or is that a chip on your shoulder?” Jon Bon Jovi posed that question to himself, and it’s worth pondering. You might think that a man whose band has sold more than 120 million records and played before tens of millions of fans in the course of an illustrious 26-year career would be content to rest on his considerable laurels, at least for a while.
You might think that, but you’d be wrong, and the new Bon Jovi album, The Circle, provides irrefutable proof. As its title suggests, The Circle marks a powerful reassertion of Bon Jovi’s commitment to the hard-hitting, uplifting rock & roll that has been the band’s indelible signature since it began. The band share an abiding bond that informs and defines their music. It is a circle that remains unbroken.
“The album title,” Bon Jovi explains, “has several meanings. Some may say that with this album we have come full circle. Others may see The Circle as never ending. I see it as very hard to get in to and even harder to get out of,” the singer says with a laugh. Having had 5 studio records in this decade, there are songs on each record that represent the world around us. And while they don’t always like what they see, they try hard not to see the cup as half empty. From the new single “We Weren’t Born To Follow” to the powerful “When We Were Beautiful,” the songs are as uplifting and anthemic as anything Bon Jovi and Sambora have ever written.
Another reason for the anthemic sound of THE CIRCLE is the re-emergence of Richie Sambora. “This is meant to be a stadium, turn-the-guitars-back-up record, and that’s a testament to having Richie at my side,” Jon says. “I can’t tell you how much that’s meant. With me and Richie, one and one makes three.
That flame burns at the heart of The Circle. “When We Were Beautiful” shares its title with the superb Bon Jovi documentary by filmmaker Phil Griffin. Like the film, the song is atmospheric and haunting. It opens with a sense of crisis: “The world is cracked/The sky is torn.” Jon Bon Jovi hears the song as a true departure for the band. “That’s a unique song,” he says, “We’ve written hits, but this is something more, this is something different. I didn’t want to sugarcoat things. Those lyrics are factual. As a country and as people, we hit a wall. But the idea is to try to get back to ‘when we were beautiful.’”
The new studio album, The Circle, was produced by John Shanks, who also worked with the band on the two preceding Bon Jovi albums, Lost Highway (2007) and Have a Nice Day (2005). The album has an underlying positive theme that is apparent throughout the songs. Whether it’s questioning your vitality in “Fast Cars,” or asking what the future holds in “Work for the Working Man,” the songs are about the prospect of people having to find new directions in their lives. In these trying times every word relays the truth.
So The Circle, then, like all of Bon Jovi’s best music, stares down the troubles that afflict our lives, and offers a bracing vision for overcoming those obstacles. It’s stirring, and it’s an emotion that, strong as the album is, will find its most convincing expression on the concert stage. And this is why Bon Jovi have managed to play over 2600 concerts to over 34 million fans in over 50 countries. “I can’t believe I’m even saying this, but I can’t wait to go on the road again,” Jon Bon Jovi exclaims.