The Worst Song From Every Bon Jovi Album
Bon Jovi has had no small amount of success, including six chart-topping albums and four No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100.
Unfortunately, not every song can match the heights of "You Give Love a Bad Name" and "Livin' on a Prayer" – even on the three-times platinum Slippery When Wet. In some cases, sheer ambition may be to blame. At different points along the way, Bon Jovi has touched on everything from pop and hard rock to adult contemporary and country. Not everything clicked.
UCR's list of worst songs from every Bon Jovi album includes all of the group's canonical releases, as well as a pair of compilation albums that included unheard or new songs. Also surveyed were the original Power Station recordings where Bon Jovi's breakout single "Runaway" first emerged, as well as Jon Bon Jovi's solo work since latter-day band albums were likewise recorded without Richie Sambora.
In an interesting twist, some of the "worst" songs on these albums weren't so bad after all.
"She Don't Know Me"
From: Bon Jovi (1984)
Mercury Records wanted a surefire second single for Bon Jovi's debut album and required the band to include this song, which dates back to Jon Bon Jovi's Power Station era. "She Don't Know Me" is the only song in their official album discography that doesn’t have a Jon Bon Jovi co-write. Mark Avsec, best known for work with Wild Cherry and Donnie Iris, provides this workmanlike number that reached No. 48 on the pop chart. Despite not being an original composition, Bon Jovi would roar through "She Don't Know Me" in performances through 1986.
"King of the Mountain"
From: 7800° Fahrenheit (1985)
Bass and drums kick this off with a humdrum riff but listen to a brief Jon Bon Jovi wail at 2:10 and the following 33-second guitar solo by Richie Sambora. What the band lacked in experience, they more than made up for in resolve.
From: Slippery When Wet (1986)
"Ride Cowboy Ride"
From: New Jersey (1988)
It started as a song Bon Jovi and Sambora couldn’t complete, so "Ride Cowboy Ride" was recorded in mono with the static sounds of a record player to serve as a segue between “Wild Is the Wind” and “Stick to Your Guns.” Incomplete or not, it’s a delight to sing and hear in concert. "Ride Cowboy Ride," also contributed to the emotional arc on Side 2.
"Billy Get Your Guns"
From: Blaze of Glory: Inspired by the Film 'Young Guns II' (1990)
The only other song from Young Guns II to appear in the movie, aside from “Blaze of Glory,” this barn-boogie rocker kicks off the album.
"I Want You"
From: Keep the Faith (1992)
"I Want You" is a paint-by-numbers song that sounds like every other power ballad. What differentiated Bon Jovi’s ballads is they were always dissimilar and better than their contemporaries.
"My Guitar Lies Bleeding in My Arms"
From: These Days (1995)
Created during a bout of writer’s block. Instead of putting the pen down, Bon Jovi and Sambora began scribbling words, collaborating on one of Bon Jovi's most ingenious compositions. “I had these visions of the scene in Tommy where he walks in and there are posters of him all over the wall," Jon Bon Jovi told Kerrang! before These Days arrived. "I had visions of me walking into a nightmare like that, posters of me staring at me going ‘Well, well, go on then, write a record!’”
"Cold Hard Heart"
From: Destination Anywhere (1997)
One of two bonus cuts for Japan, this 1996 demo is from London, where Bon Jovi began to write and record songs during the downtime on his first film as a leading man – appropriately titled The Leading Man. Often forgotten for its downbeat nature, it’s a treasure of ambiguity and solemnity.
"Gimme Some Lovin' Charlene"
From: The Power Station Years, The Unreleased Recordings: 1981-82 (1998)
Jon Bon Jovi's 1993 interviews with Bob Costas on NBC's Later were among the most revealing he's ever done. Costas asked about Bon Jovi's work at the Power Station, and he told a story that involved paparazzi trying to steal a picture of Mick Jagger in 1981 when the Rolling Stones were touching up what would become Tattoo You. Jagger grabbed Bon Jovi and his bandmates, who were paying for a taxi, and told the photographers that these were the guys in his new band, the Frogs. We would have liked to have seen Jagger's mythical side project inject some swagger into this unremarkable number.
"Save the World"
From: Crush (2000)
Crush was supposed to be co-produced by the Slippery When Wet and New Jersey team of producer Bruce Fairbairn and then-engineer and mixer Bob Rock. Then Fairbairn died unexpectedly at age 49. Bon Jovi began auditioning producers, including Luke Ebbin. He took home a set of demos that included "Save the World," reworked the song and won the gig of the producer. It's difficult to believe that so much work and energy went into a song that is overwrought musically and features the most cringe-worthy lyrics in Bon Jovi's discography. This throwaway never should have made it to demo form, let alone to an album.
From: Bounce (2002)
Jon Bon Jovi covered Elton John's "Levon" in 1991 for the tribute record Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin, cracking the Top 30 on the Billboard rock chart. Eleven years later, Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora mostly plagiarized it on an album cut that would have been completely forgotten except for its concert appearances. A rote video made to play on screens behind them told the story of the song scene for scene, leaving no ambiguity.
"These Arms Are Open All Night"
From: 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
The band’s box set of 50 outtakes and rare songs is full of gems deserving of wider acclaim. This 1998 leftover isn’t one of them.
"Bells of Freedom"
From: Have a Nice Day (2005)
Better songs were left off Have a Nice Day in favor of this overwrought moment which finds the band swimming in a sea of cheese.
"We Got It Going On"
From: Lost Highway (2007)
Recorded in Nashville, Lost Highway marked Bon Jovi's foray into country music. Unfortunately, this collaboration with Big and Rich dives into the lowest-common-denominator waters. Bon Jovi humiliate themselves with some of the most mindless lyrics ever committed to tape: "Is there anybody out there looking for a party / Shake your money maker, baby, smoke it if you got it." Yes, they wrote and recorded "We Got It Going On" – but the song's greatest sin is that it remained a staple of Bon Jovi's live show.
"Work for the Working Man"
From: The Circle (2009)
Revisiting the bass groove from "Livin' on a Prayer," Bon Jovi delivered a mouth-gaping faux pas. This song was meant to show their blue-collar roots but ultimately came off like a creepy sales pitch. If the chanting “work” chorus didn’t make your eyes roll, then the prices for their tour did. At the time, The Circle dates were the most expensive in history, and they were peddling a song about those who lost their jobs in the worst recession in more than 65 years. A more appropriate title would have been "Let Them Eat Cake."
"This Is Our House"
From: Greatest Hits (2010)
An incomplete thought included in international and digital editions, "This Is Our House" was designed as a sports anthem for the NFL. Mission accomplished: It became the New England Patriots touchdown song for home games, replacing U2's "Elevation." But the song also has an eerie similarity to "Rock and Roll Part 2" by Gary Glitter, which Bon Jovi used as intro music on the second half of the Keep the Faith tour.
"I'm With You"
From: What About Now (2013)
What About Now never should have existed. A rushed collection of songs, the album was meant to promote a final big pay-day tour before Jon Bon Jovi made a bid for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. One song after another proved to be inconsequential, with this midtempo proclamation of love being completely unremarkable. He was also passed over for the team.
From: Burning Bridges (2015)
Rob Garratt of The National summed it up best: “Piano ballad 'Blind Love' sounds like it was written on a napkin, with the help of a copy of Harmony for Dummies.” The irony of this comment is that Bon Jovi's No. 1 hit “Blaze of Glory” was written on a napkin in a diner on the set of Young Guns II. (Emilio Estevez has it framed on the wall at his home.) I guess the moral of the story is not that all napkins are created equal.
From: This House Is Not for Sale (2016)
"Knockout" is just a touch worse than the equally formulaic "Born Again Tomorrow," if only because "Knockout" included these eye-rolling lyrics: "I'll be giving you the finger, sticking out my chin."
"Do What You Can"
From: 2020 (2020)
Jon Bon Jovi had his heart in the right place at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. During a trying time, he solicited fans to submit lyrics for a song about perseverance. The overall sentiment is admirable, but the final product is a well-intentioned novelty single. An accompanying video would become one of Bon Jovi's best, paying tribute to those who lost their lives and livelihoods and to essential workers who kept the wheels moving. But these poignant images deserved a better soundtrack.
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