Review Summary: "Fueled by an emotional theme, Bon Jovi end up making their best album of the millennium era."
After the unfortunate events that occurred on September 11, 2001, many flocked to help their fellow Americans in any way they could. Many ordinary citizens gave their time, many celebrities gave their money, and many artists created hope through the best way they know: music. Being from New Jersey, the disaster hit very close to the homes and hearts of Bon Jovi. Having just finished their One Wild Night Tour in August of 2001, the band had planned for some time off before writing their next album. After the aforementioned national tragedy however, the band soon busied themselves with various fundraising concerts, PSA's, and volunteer work for victims and their families. Witnessing and participating in the direct aftermath would play a huge role in the band's next album.
Just over a year later in October of 2002, Bon Jovi released their eighth studio album Bounce. After hearing their previous release, it was evident that the days of hair metal were long gone, so what direction was this album going to take" The answer is surprising from the start of the first track, Undivided. We are met with a crunchier and lower sounding riff than we're used to hearing from Richie, as it is backed up by some slow and heavy pounding of the drums. Frontman Jon soon comes in with the distorted vocals of "That was my brother lost in the rubble, That was my sister lost in the crush". These and other lyrics such as "Where we once were divided, now we stand united. We stand as one... undivided." make it plain to see where the angst in his voice is coming from. The chorus serves as a perfect anthem for the spirit of America after this tragedy. It is a truly underrated song for its lyrics and emotion that can be felt throughout. Especially as the song begins to fade out and features only Jon singing the chorus softly over a violin. While the first track offered some of the group's new sound, the next track begins with Richie using his trademark talk box, and then transitioning right into a heavier riff that mimics it. Everyday's lyrics pay homage to survivors and family members of 9/11 by saying I won't let this keep me down forever, and "I'm gonna live my life everyday". A fairly nice bridge and guitar solo tie in nicely with the chorus to form a strong ending.
The next song breaks the trend of patriotism, but still has to be my personal favorite on the album. The Distance takes what could have been a cheesy love song, but structures it well enough to make it stand out. The best riff of the album opens the track, as a symphony then comes in to accompany it, which leads to a vast and beautiful soundscape. Bon Jovi has always been known for their clever metaphoric lyrics in their slower, more meaningful songs. Here, Jon talks of a train out in the distance with an unknown destination, and that "like that long train whistle blowing, I keep on going". Saying he'll keep on pursuing his love even though he may not know where it is going, just like the train. While singing to his lover, he compares their love to a rose outside the window in the snowfall. Obviously, the beauty of a rose cannot survive the snowfall, so he tells her not to let the beauty of their love die just like the flower will. With the snow representing the obstacles in the way of love, Jon says "he'll never give up the fight" and always "go the distance" to save it. The three songs mentioned above are the best on the album, and the remainder of it does not have much to offer for the most part. The Distance acts as a perfect transition point into the next few songs, as they are much lighter than the album openers. Joey opens with a soft piano riff, and Jon talking about an eponymously named neighborhood friend who was kind of slow and troublesome. Regardless, he wanted to help Joey achieve his dreams. Their friendship is threatened when a girl comes into the picture that doesn't like Joey. Out of loyalty for his friend Joey, he ditches the girl. It's never been confirmed, but the lyrics seem like they are coming from personal experience. While it may be a heart-warming story with personalized lyrics, that's about all it can be taken for. Next on tap is the album's second single, Misunderstood. A pretty generic radio rock hit about a man regretting all the mistakes he made in his relationship, the song still does have a very catchy chorus, mainly due to the way Jon elongates the I's throughout the chorus stanza. Not only being next to each other on the tracklist, the song's music video also ties directly into the next one (All About Lovin' You)'s video. It of course is another one of Bon Jovi's many slow love songs. However, it is actually executed nicely enough to make it not only bearable, but good. It features very sincere lyrics, and a chorus that is upbeat enough to sing along with and keep the song moving forward.
Once the track fades out, Hook Me Up comes completely out of left field with a heavy riff opening. Not only is it the abruptness of it, but the fact that it sounds too similar to Undivided's opening riff that ruins it. On the contrary, the verses of the song are better, as over some ambient synths, Jon lays down the distorted and echoing lyrics of "Hello, is there anybody out there" I'm alone hanging by a thread". I always pictured someone floating around alone in space trying to get in contact with Earth, but the true concept of the song is actually better. On the Bonus CD Edition, Jon explains that it's about a kid in Palestine trying to tell what was going on via ham radio, looking for somebody to "hook him up" to the outside world. As random as this may seem, in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, the year this album came out saw the greatest number of civilian casualties on both sides, with many of them being children. This sort of protest for world peace, if you will, is unfortunately the last notable part of the album. The only interesting thing about Right Side of Wrong is the story the lyrics tell, and I do not know what the hell they were thinking with Love Me Back To Life. It sounds like a carbon copy of The Distance, only this one falls flat on it's face due to the overly cheesy lyrics and so much more. In fact, the same exact symphony background that worked so well IN The Distance can be heard here. You Had Me From Hello is just another generic love song (if you couldn't tell by the title) that features only Jon and a guitar. While the ladies will go crazy for it, it's really unimpressive to anyone else. As we FINALLY reach the title track, Bounce, the pace picks up again with the anthemic chorus of "Bounce, bounce nothing's gonna keep me down. Bounce, bounce stand up, shout it out". Due to its energy and the fact that many thought of this as a representation of America's resiliency, this would have been a perfect album closer. As if FOUR love ballads was not enough, Open All Night gets thrown on at the end and ultimately ruins the chances of a solid finish.
Just about every Bon Jovi album features one or a few good songs and then a lot of love ballads and fillers. Though the album started out strong, it was the last half that kept it from being a complete success. However, the highlights of the album are good enough to outweigh the generic moments it also showcases. This was the only Bon Jovi album that did not have a review, and that perfectly personifies how underrated this album is. Though many don't really care for the band since it's not 1988 anymore, like it or not they are still making music, and this is their best work of the millennium era.