Ready-made, not very rock-oriented: Bon Jovi, always questioned, always on top

If there's one thing Jon Bon Jovi has wanted in this life, it's success. In a cover story for Rolling Stone magazine in 1987, Derek Shulman, vice president of Polygram, the record label that signed the group, points out what most enticed him to hand the singer a favorable contract Lay: “I felt like I had an appetite for the incredible of being a star. “He exuded a burning desire to be huge.” The day Richie Sambora met Bon Jovi, he said, “This guy is going to be huge. “This is my place.” They were together for 30 years until the guitarist left the group in 2013.

When Rolling Stone dedicated its coveted cover to Bon Jovi, they had just released their third album, Slippery When Wet (1986), the best-selling work to date and still the most popular today, with FM rock classics like You Give Love a Bad Name and Livin' On a Prayer. To select the songs for this album, Bon Jovi organized a meeting with about a hundred teenagers. He played the 30 songs he had recorded and kept the top ten songs rated by the children. In the music industry, Bon Jovi has always stood out as a great strategist, an essential quality to succeed like a beast. It's been 40 years since the New Jersey band's first effort and they're still at the top. The group is preparing a new tour that may see Richie Sambora return. Additionally, Jon Bon Jovi (he alone) will receive the 2024 Person of the Year award next Friday, February 2nd, in Los Angeles at the pre-Grammy Awards ceremony (Sunday 4th). And all of this with a voice that has recently become so fragile that some experts do not understand how much so much is coming to light.

Jon Bon Jovi led the group at a concert in Japan in 1984. Jon Bon Jovi led the group at a concert in Japan in 1984. Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music (Getty Images)

“This is indeed a rare case,” says César Martín, director of Popular 1 magazine and dean of rock in Spain (he turned 50 in 2023). “His voice has been bad for many years, but not only that: he starts songs at the wrong time and you can see his suffering on stage.” In any case, he has always been more of an entertainer than a professional singer in the style a Bruce Dickinson or Ronnie James Dio. At first, Jon overcame these vocal deficiencies with the verve of his youth. Not now. On the other hand, he has every right to continue to act. And I don't think he does it for the money, but because he likes touring. And it fills stadiums.”

The aesthetic of Jon Bon Jovi (New Jersey, USA, 61 years old) is so relevant that many experts and followers believe that his stylistic choices have been able to determine the group's development, for better or for worse. In the '80s, her bouffant hair was synonymous with good rock songs; his haircut coincided with his musical decline. Pablo Mayoral, co-host of the radio show and podcast Corsarios del Metal: “In the nineties, classic heavy metal hardened. Judas Priest release Painkiller and Iron Maiden Fear of the Dark: both are very aggressive works. And in that context, for the heavy metal fan, Bon Jovi is no longer in the game.”

Bon Jovi's story will always be about questioning his rock pedigree. The group began in the '80s in a scene called hair metal or glam metal: musicians with voluminous, teased hair, colorful clothing and rock songs adorned with sparkling choruses. Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Poison, Dokken, Quiet Riot… and Bon Jovi. “Bon Jovi's first four albums (until New Jersey, 1988) are fantastic. And above all, they had great songs, that is the basis of any genre, whether you play thrash metal, pop or punk,” says the head of Popular 1, the MTV music channel founded in 1981, he acted as a gigantic loudspeaker for these bands: The videos of the songs were spinning non-stop. In his book Fargo Rock City, American writer Chuck Klosterman defends Bon Jovi as follows: “We may remember Bon Jovi as the least risky of all metal bands, and certainly the most stereotypically commercial, but they were true songwriters who just… have achieved.” strings. Heartstrings instead of brains.”

Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora in Detroit, 1986. Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora in Detroit, 1986. Symbol and image (Getty Images)

Jon Bon Jovi loved Van Halen, an older group that all the boys with short hair noticed, but also Bruce Springsteen. Therefore his ambition expanded. Mayoral: “There was a lot of saturation within hair metal and bad groups began to emerge, covering up the good ones. In the 1990s, this genre began to become outdated. Bon Jovi commercialized his sound, losing the heavy and rock fans, but was rewarded with a different audience. Make the leap to the mainstream, a place that accommodates all types of audiences. These are people who will one day see U2, another Madonna or Coldplay or Bon Jovi. It’s about having the experience of a huge show, regardless of who is on stage.”

César Martín remembers that in the nineties, when they interviewed him, Bon Jovi always rejected the hard rock scene “where he came from”. “It was inevitable to compare them to Gun N' Roses, who released their debut in 1987 [Appetite for Destruction] and it was a band that projected risk, danger and rock 'n' roll. “Obviously Bon Jovi lost,” says the head of Popular 1.

There is some controversy over the group's formation. John Francis Bongiovi Jr., a working-class boy from New Jersey, began working as a teenager at his cousin, Toni Bongiovi's, recording studio: the Power Station in New York. His first songs were written there, with musicians passing by in the studio and with the help of his cousin. The song “Runaway” emerged from these sessions. A DJ from New York programmed it and it was a success. Then the record deal came about and the band began to form. “In that sense, I think it’s a ready-made group. It's not like Metallica, for example, or other big bands who were friends since childhood. “Here he builds on Jon Bon Jovi after he wrote the hit Runaway,” says Mayoral. After the success of this first album, the singer's cousin sued them, claiming that he contributed significantly to the sound of the album. Before the trial, the group agreed to a financial settlement with Toni Bongiovi.

Jon Bon Jovi in ​​September 2019 at Rock In Rio, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Jon Bon Jovi in ​​September 2019 at Rock In Rio, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. MAURO PIMENTEL (AFP via Getty Images)

Jon Bon Jovi has always maintained a good guy image and participated in numerous charitable causes. During the tough weeks of the pandemic, she went into the kitchen of a restaurant, put on an apron and cooked for poor people for days. He is a close friend of Al Gore, the former US Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize winner, and has participated in Democratic Party campaigns in support of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and, most recently, Joe Biden. “And he’s been with the same partner for 40 years.” [Dorothea Hurley]“This is something absolutely unusual in rock,” emphasizes César Martín.

Pedro Armas is the president of the largest Bon Jovi fan club in Spain. Around 30,000 fans follow the information on Spain Bon Jovi's social networks. They regularly organize parties with performances by tribute groups. Pedro is a 32-year-old from Tenerife who was hooked by those from New Jersey after hearing “It's My Life.” “I still consider them a rock group on the same level as Guns N' Roses, Mötley Crüe or Aerosmith. At least until 2010. Since then they have concentrated more on pop-rock. I look forward to confirmation that Sambora is returning to the band as he makes up almost 50% of the group,” he says. 70% of Spanish Bon Jovi members are women. One of them is Sara Abad, 27 years old: “Why do women like them more? I hadn't thought about it. Maybe it's because of the theme of the partly romantic lyrics. And for the ballads, which are very beautiful. I think Bon Jovi was able to adapt a lot to different eras, although I like the first one better.”

Without a voice, without hair, without relevant albums for years. Regardless of whether the winner is on stage: thousands of supporters will continue to fill the stadiums.

All the culture that goes with it awaits you here.

Subscribe to


The literary news analyzed by the best critics in our weekly newsletter