The November 2010 release of Bon Jovi's Greatest Hits collection brought attention to the large catalog of songs that Bon Jovi has released over the past three decades. In honor of their longevity, here is a list of ten of the best Bon Jovi songs.
10. "Runaway" (1983)
It seems appropriate that the first of this top 10 list is their first ever hit, but "Runaway" set the stage for Bon Jovi's rise to superstardom. From the opening synths to the surprising harmonies on the chorus, you got a sense that Bon Jovi wasn't just another 80s hair band. It took them another four years to hit the Top 40 again, but when they did, they did it in a big way, with back-to-back number one records.
"Born To Be My Baby" originally appeared on Bon Jovi's fourth album New Jersey, following up their #1 "Bad Medicine." Songwise, "Born To Be My Baby" is miles away from "Bad Medicine," and you can possibly see the band's frustration to be taken seriously in the video for "Born" through their recording process. A highlight of this track is the one-two punch of drummer Tico Torres's driving percussion and Richie Sambora's blistering guitar solo.
"I'll Be There For You" is notable because it became Bon Jovi's last number one hit, although they still collected another 10 Top 40 hits over the next 20 years. While their other three number ones were stadium anthems, "I'll Be There For You" is a power ballad in the best sense of the term, with great harmonies and lyrics that are romantic without being too sappy. The song structure prefaces the direction that Jon Bon Jovi would head with his songs for the movie Blaze of Glory.
One thing that has helped Bon Jovi survive while almost all of their contemporaries have hung up their guitars and headed home is that they have been able to evolve their sound over their years. Their last Top 20 hit "This Ain't a Love Song" has a much more blues/R&B vibe than any of their previous hits, and Richie Sambora's guitar work, while still impressive, shows a subtlety that suits the song well.
It is doubtful that anyone in 1987 at the height of Bon Jovi's popularity would have pictured the band releasing a song as understated and mellow as "(You Want To) Make a Memory." The song is a slow burning ballad about a relationship on the verge of ending, and it is a highlight of the Jon Bon Jovi/Richie Sambora songbook, reuniting the writers with legendary writer/producer Desmond Child. "(You Want To) Make a Memory)" became a worldwide hit, with Top 10 placings in ten countries, and a slightly retooled country version even made the Country Top 40 in the United States.
The most remarkable thing about "Never Say Goodbye" is that it was never released as a physical single in the United States, keeping it from charting on the Billboard Hot 100 back in 1987. Despite the lack of official release, this power ballad still became a hit at pop radio and helped Slippery When Wet continue to sell well past its last official single release.
With a shouted opening like "shot throught the heart and you're to blame," was there any question that "You Give Love a Bad Name" would shoot to the top of the pop charts? After having their sophomore release 7800 Degrees Farenheit not produce any Top 40 hits, Bon Jovi came back in a big way with their third album Slippery When Wet. Songs like "You Give Love a Bad Name" solidified Bon Jovi's reputation to rock arenas and radios alike.
This may be the most controversial song on the list, but at face value "Who Says You Can't Go Home" is a great pop song from start to finish. In its original form, "Who Says You Can't Go Home" provides a perfect vehicle for the tight band that Bon Jovi has evoled into from their stadium anthem days. However, add in a fiddle and Sugarland frontwoman Jennifer Nettles and you have a fun, upbeat number one Country song that shows the versatility that Bon Jovi has grown into.
If one Bon Jovi video stands out above all others, it would have to be the iconic black and white performance video for "Wanted Dead or Alive." The Western sound and feel of the song stood out at the time of its release, and the song has become a fan favorite at concerts. In 2007, the song returned to the sales charts based on its use in American Idol.
"Livin' on a Prayer" marked the band's only one-two punch of back-to-back number one songs in the US, following "You Give Love a Bad Name" to the pinnacle of the Billboard Hot 100. The song's tale of a couple struggling to make ends meet while keeping their relationship together has transcended any cliches attached to it when it was released, and for many fans this is the pinnacle of the Bon Jovi sound. Somewhere in America tonight, someone will play "Livin' on a Prayer" on a jukebox, and the whole bar will end up singing along.