Bon Jovi – The Circle (2009)


Bon Jovi – The Circle (2009, Universal/Island)

  1. We Weren’t Born To Follow
  2. When We Were Beautiful
  3. Work For The Working Man
  4. Superman Tonight
  5. Bullet
  6. Thorn In My Side
  7. Live Before You Die
  8. BrokenPromiseLand
  9. Love’s The Only Rule
  10. Fast Cars
  11. Happy Now
  12. Learn To Love

Band Lineup:
Jon Bon Jovi – Lead Vocals
Richie Sambora – Guitars & Backing Vocals
Tico Torres – Drums & Percussion
David Bryan  – Keyboards

Additional Musicians:
Hugh MacDonald – Bass
Charlie Judge – additional Keyboards & Strings

Produced by: John Shanks, Jon Bon Jovi & Richie Sambora

Country: USA

Total Time = 52:49

Bon Jovi
Bon Jovi MySpace page

I’ve been a Bon Jovi fan from way back in ’83 but I haven’t really been into the band for a few years now. Back when I was a kid, I was into the debut album and 7800° FAHRENHEIT (1985) right away with hard Rock songs like ‘She Don’t Know Me’, ‘Runaway’, ‘Tokyo Road’ and ‘In & Out Of Love’. Of course I followed the band through SLIPPERY WHEN WET (1986) and NEW JERSEY (1988), even catching both tours when they came through Rhode Island. The I lost touch of Bon Jovi. It wasn’t until their comeback album CRUSH (2000), and the hit single ‘It’s My Life’, that I bought a new Bon Jovi album. Since CRUSH, I haven’t really bothered with the band anymore due to the changes in their sound. Gone are most of the Hard Rock trademarks that made the band the success it is today and in are more Pop, Country and singer/songwriter influences…..a more mature sound for a more mature audience. I’ve let the last three studio albums pass by despite a couple of catchy single but, for some strange reason, I wanted to pick this album up right away!

THE CIRCLE opens with the ‘We Weren’t Born to Follow’, a song that has that big Arena Rock sound but it sounds very similar to ‘It’s My Life’ from 2000 with some similar parts of ‘Born To Be My Baby’ on the chorus. It’s a very catchy song, uptempo and melodic with that feel good vibe that Bon Jovi does so well. Same thing goes with ‘Work For The Working Man’, it has that classic sound that mimics the mega-hit ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ especially on the bass line! Another big song for the concert circuit and possible radio single that channels fellow New Jersey resident Bruce Springsteen’s working class songwriting. I have always wondered what would happen if The Boss, JBJ and John Mellencamp would come up with if they sat in a room together and write a song, they all follow the same pattern. Sandwiched between these two rockers is the light ballad ‘When We Were Beautiful’ (also the title of the accompanying DVD). I’m not really sure what to make of this song, its definitely a radio song because it’s very Pop and pretty and Jon’s vocals are pretty good… has a big/full sound but it’s way too light for my tastes. I feel the same way about ‘Superman Tonight’, it has a big sound and there are some Rock flashes there but it sounds too mainstream, too Pop Rock, as if the band is going out of there way to get radio and VH-1 airplay. It’s not a bad song, the chorus saves it, but it’s not something I like.

The opening guitar of ‘Bullet’ signals a Hard Rock tune and this is the closest we’re going to get. The guitars and drums make the song and I am waiting for the harder edge to prevail but it’s more melodic and contemporary overall. The guitar solo is one of the best on the album and the harmonies are spot on, I think the lyrics and the arrangement waste the solid riffs. ‘Thorn In My Side’ starts off very ballad-like but it picks up steam and become a solid rocker. I like this one, it keeps an edge to the album and shows that Bon Jovi can still Rock a bit. Ballad time comes in with ‘Live Before You Die’ complete with emotional singing from Jon and perfect harmonies on the chorus. The orchestration and keyboards are well done and the song does build up harder in spots…’s not a bad song at all and the lyrics tell a story, something this band has never had a problem doing. ‘BrokenPromiseLand’ sounds pretty much like the rest of the other songs on the album and the song title bugs me, not one of my favorites. If you think that Bon Jovi copying their own songs is a problem then the opening to ‘Love’s The Only Rule’ sounds like a keyboard loop of Neil Diamond’s ‘Coming To America’…..and it annoyingly runs through the entire song. The song isn’t too bad at all, it actually has some rocking moments but David Bryan’s keyboards are a little overbearing.

I’m not really sure what the band is attempting with ‘Fast Cars’. The song title had me hoping for a Hard Rock song but it’s more like a Pop Rock song with plenty of keyboards that some band half their age would release. I read many reviews online that compared this song to Coldplay. Having never heard any Coldplay songs, I can’t confirm that but it can’t be good either. ‘Happy Now’ follows the rest of the uptempo songs on the album but it really doesn’t resonate with me, it sounds like everything else and doesn’t have much impact. The last song is ‘Learn To Love’ and it’s another ballad with some excellent harmonies and a big sound on the chorus but it kind of ends THE CIRCLE on a down note. Not that it’s a bad song but it just slowly ends, i’d rather end on a high note with an uptempo rocker.

Bottom Line:
I really wanted to pick up this new Bon Jovi album and I definitely wanted to give it a fair shot because the last few songs I’ve heard on the radio from previous releases were pretty good. The band has shown flashes of their ’80s success recently with catchy melodic rockers ont he radio, I was hoping for a lot of that on THE CIRCLE. The band delivers some but not a lot. There is a more contemporary sound, a lighter sound, that seems like the band is more concerned with the more commercial Pop Rock style of today rather than the Hard Rock style that put them on the map. Bon Jovi has always been about the songs and the JBJ/Sambora writing team has done a good job in creating songs with good melodies, insightful lyrics and trademark harmonies…’s just that after a while all the songs start to sound the same. I understand the band has long since removed itself from writing party rock anthems like ‘Bad Medicine’ and ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ to go in a more mature and sincere direction but I kind of hoped that a little more fire would be lit into the songs. Long time fans of the band will really enjoy this album and I can see a lot of these songs getting some time on stage during the band’s upcoming tour but fans of the ’80s Hard Rock style will be disappointed. There are some songs that lean back into that ’80s style but THE CIRCLE as a whole is directed more to contemporary Pop Rock with flashes of a harder edge mixed in. This definitely isn’t the worst Bon Jovi album but it also isn’t their best. I’d call it an average album for me, nothing to get too excited about and nothing overly surprising.

Favorite Songs:
‘We Weren’t Born To Follow’, ‘Working For The Working Man’, ‘Thorn In My Side’, ‘Live Before You Die’

6 comments on “Bon Jovi – The Circle (2009)

  1. I had bought “Have A Nice Day” a few years back and man, it is more than a decent Hard Rock album. I had “The Circle” in my hands the other day, then I put it back down. I didn’t buy it. Now I have no regrets about not buying “The Circle” due to your Metal insight… good review.

  2. Most boring album of the year. Keep The Faith was the last B.J. album i liked. I don’t know why, but i can’t stand his voice anymore.

  3. I bought this album first day, because although, true, they’re not their AOR metal they were in the 80s, they’ve had some great hard rock hits since then. ‘Have A Nice Day’ was a great hard rock album, about half of the songs were really great.

    They lost me on the last album – the country soaked ‘Lost Highway’ (which is what I’d suggest you do with the CD if you’re travelling – toss it into a recycling bin on the side of the ‘lost highway’).

    ‘The Circle’ has several songs that I really liked (most of which grew on me after repeated listens). Songs I loved were: ‘We Weren’t Born To Follow’ (which sounds A LOT like ‘You Were Born To Be My Baby’), ‘When We Were Beautiful’ (I hated this song at first and wondered why they arranged to have it 2nd instead of near the end of the track listing.), ‘Superman Tonight’ and ‘Love’s The Only Rule’.

    In general, it’s a great return from the ‘oh-my-gawd-tell-me-they-didnt-just-do-that’ CD ‘Lost Highway’. They’ve got some new age guitar/keyboard (yes, you’re reading this right) that actually sounds good (ok, I enjoy New Age music, maybe it’s me) and kinda sounds U2 in some ways (a la ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ guitar).

    The guitarwork saves whatever low-points the CD has. The guitarwork, while occasionally dips into the ‘New Age’ feel, is undoubtedly metal. Yes, metal. Brilliant guitarwork. I’ve forgotten how Sambora can shred. And yes, boys and girls, Sambora can shred!

    I think that Jon’s become a little too aware of his importance in the band, because sometime in the 90’s, Bon Jovi’s albums started to sound like Jon + his rock band in the background, rather than in the 80s, when his voice was part of their sound, without being overly prominent.

    Still, all in all, Bon Jovi shows that they still remember how to rock.
    Although it seems that they’re embarrassed of their Metal roots, thanks to Sambora and Torres, they haven’t completely forgotten their roots either.

    Definitely worth the purchase, but bring a pillow and a lava-lamp for some of the mid-CD fillers.


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  5. I’m the New Jersey’s album generation, I was 14 years old in 88’s . I love heavy & rock n roll since then. What happened to all the heavy metal bands ?! Sad to say it all disapear slowly in the 90’s. I was suprising disapointed when the band change singing style and cut their beautiful long hair except David. I’m same, I did not follow Bon Jovi band due to it’s not longer hard rock band as in the 80’s.
    When they announced new album and going to do The Circle Tour, I tell myself this my chance to see my favorite 80’s rock band live in concert. Hoping they will sing their 80’s hits. I bought the album “The Circle” as soon it came out. I was really happy that the album has some rock style. I love these songs “working for the working man”, “bullet”, we’nt born to be followed”. Finally this is a great album after 21 years, the last great one was “New Jersey”. Any albums that they did between 88’s to ’08 were too soft for me and what’s all that about country singing style and country hat?!
    For the first I wen to Bon Jovi’s concert “The Circle Tour” at Honda Center, CA ,02.2710. I got great seat inside the VIP’s Circle seating. Fours rows from the stage. It was the most amazing concert I have ever attended. Guess what ? he sang most of the hits from the 80’s. I even got chance to shook hands with Jon twice and he gave me
    very genuine sweet smile too. Richie. Tito, David were super great too. The concert was so energetic with hard rock style. I loved so much that I had to go to next concert in five days, I went again Thrusday 03.04.10 at Los Angeles. On this tour, the last song of each concert end with “Living on Prayer”. The 80’s hits include in this “The Circle Tour” are “you give love bad name, born to be my baby, bad medicine, I’ll be there for you, runaway, living on a prayer”. If you like Bon Jovi in the 80’s, definetly this “The Circle Tour” is for you. The tour just started, you still have a lot chance to get to see Bon Jovi live. This could the last type tour with a lots 80’s hit. The band’s members are in their late 40’s & early 50’s. So they won’t be around much longer. OMG the time go by so fast, I was 14 years rock n rock girl back then, now I’m in my mid 30’s . I can’t believe Jon getting older but looking young and good heart helping the homeless. Bon Jovi’s band definetly bring a lots of my teenager’s memories.

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