The second Jon Bon Jovi’s gravelly voice declares “We Weren’t Born To Follow” on the New Jersey stadium rockers’ eleventh studio album The Circle it is clear that you know what to expect. Having rarely changed the formula over their epic quarter of a century career, they have little reason to now. Fans of the super group know what they like and Bon Jovi know how to deliver. The Circle is therefore packed full of sing-along stadium rock chants that their adoring public will lap up. The distinct gravelly vocal of Jon Bon Jovi echoes earlier glories, with The Circle a distinct continuation of 2000’s massive Crush album. Bon Jovi are by no means chugging along, they are just aware that their fan base dictates a certain sound and unlike some of their contemporaries, they would rather play for the masses than battle for artistic integrity. And who can blame them?
Bon Jovi have an epic career behind them and they haven’t got one foot in the grave just yet.
As an album, The Circle gels. There are the stronger, more memorable moments and the expected fillers but Bon Jovi have by no means released an album of mere pleasers. Opener “We Weren’t Born To Follow” kicks proceedings off on the right foot, whilst “When We Were Beautiful” is an insight into the ageing rockers mind frame. “Work For The Working Man” gives us the first filler, a lacklustre effort which has little to say and is unlikely to be heard outside of it’s album context. The slow burning “Superman Tonight” ticks the box for lighter waving gig moment, followed by the typical foot stomping “Bullet”. With all the essential boxes ticked by halfway through, The Circle proves a surprisingly pleasing listen.
Yet, The Circle is devoid of any career defining moments. Bon Jovi boast a back catalogue of unforgettable classics, but The Circle simply ticks boxes without ever fully wowing. They do come close, once, on the heartfelt ballad “Live Before You Die”, but even that doesn’t quite tick the ‘classic’ box. Bon Jovi have an epic career behind them and they haven’t got one foot in the grave just yet, The Circle is good just not great.