COLUMN: Bon Jovi, Hall of Famers

Harry Caines contributes a weekly column to CacheValleyDaily.com. Harry is a resident of Logan and an alumnus of Utah State University. He can be reached via email at hacaines@gmail.com. His column is a work of opinion, and does not reflect the views of Cache Valley Daily, the Cache Valley Media Group, or its employees. 

<em>“Whoa! We’re halfway there.</em>

<em>Whoa! Livin’ on a prayer.”</em>

— Bon Jovi, from one of the worst songs ever recorded.

December and January are often referred to as “Awards Season”. Along with the usual lists reviewing the best and worst of the past year on a variety of subjects, awards shows in the realms of television, film and music litter these winter months.

Another notable event that takes place in December is the announcement of the new inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This year, one of those inductees is the band Bon Jovi.

Bon Jovi? Really? I suppose there is now hope for Warrant, Poison and Cinderella. As if I needed more indicators about my unstoppable aging, hair bands of the late 1980’s are now eligible for monument status.

The decision to put Bon Jovi in the Hall has met with some controversy. Many have suggested that the artistic quality of Bon Jovi’s body of work is underwhelming. I have two responses to this claim.

Response #1:

It is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, not the Rock and Roll Hall of Snobby Music Critics that Immediately Hate Any Singer that Becomes Popular (Except Taylor Swift). Bon Jovi has had a worldwide following for three decades and has left an indelible mark in modern music history. Bon Jovi belongs in the Hall as much as anyone else.

Response #2:

Does it really matter who is in the Hall? If any musician was forever snubbed from induction, would it take away from the impact their songs had on those who heard them?

To elaborate on that point, that is my main problem with music award shows and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. To a certain extent, you can measure the artistic quality of books, films, and television shows. Music is nearly always appreciated on an emotional level. The artistic merits can be debated; but, when a song ends, it is what music does for the listener’s soul that determines its’ worth.

So, let Bon Jovi in and let the debate over their worthiness continue in all its’ magnificent irrelevance.

To me, Bon Jovi brings up conflicting memories. During the apex of their popularity, Bon Jovi was, arguably, the premiere “hair band” that dominated MTV in the late 80’s. Back then, MTV actually played music videos.

During that time, fans of hard rock usually had an adversarial reaction to Bon Jovi. Enthusiasts of metal bands like Metallica, Slayer, Megadeath and Anthrax would use language I would not dare share here to disparage Bon Jovi…and their fans. The only word I can use on a family website like CVDaily is “posers”.

For metal fans, a poser was a guy who played the part of a rocker with long hair, black attire and a love of cheap beer. However, the songs by their favorite bands were too catchy, poppish and popular to be legit. Many of these fans had their own crisis of identity when Metallica started releasing softer songs that seemed to pander to commercial interests.

Fans of bands like Motley Crue tended to dislike Bon Jovi because they had more hit songs. Again, music usually extracts an emotional response. Why did Bon Jovi sell more records than Motley Crue? In my biased opinion, Crue was a better band. Crue was huge, but Bon Jovi was, inexplicably, bigger.

Growing up in South Philly, there was a third group of kids that hated Bon Jovi. The guys who had way too much gel in their hair, wore Fila sweat suits and generally hated anything out of the norm. Referred to as Guidos, these guys could little differentiate between any rockers. We all looked alike to them.

Of course, the Guidos have their own late 80’s skeleton in the closet. They all used to get testosterone highs listening to “Hangin’ Tough” by New Kids On The Block.

Where I came from, no one liked Bon Jovi; or, more accurately, no one admitted to it.

Many times in the late ‘80’s and early 90’s I would sit in my basement with my then girlfriend and watch Bon Jovi music videos. But when I was with my guy friends? Nope. I would have rather taken my chances being in North Korea openly criticizing the (Blaze of) Glorious Leader.

The barbaric rules of South Philly masculinity back in 1989 prevented men from admitting to three things: being gay, having a mental disorder and liking Bon Jovi.

For many back in those dark days, all three were pretty much the same thing.

Thankfully, we evolve as time marches on. I am now a 47-year-old man who raised three kids. The unfortunate rules regarding manliness no longer apply in 2017. As I get older, I gleefully am turning into the “Get Off My Lawn!” guy. I say what I want and do not care an iota if people disagree with me. With these facts established, I say now what I could not say then:

I like Bon Jovi songs.

Correction. I like most Bon Jovi songs. “I’ll Be There For You”, “Bad Medicine” and the little known “Stick To Your Guns” are particular favorites of mine.

But then there was “Living In Sin”. This rancid song extolls the virtues and laments the problems of having sex with your girlfriend. And then there was one of the worst songs ever to invade the human ear, “Livin’ On A Prayer”.

This song, with it’s torturous refrain, has cursed my life for 30 years. The lyrics are a subtle ripoff of a much more prominent New Jersey native, Bruce Springsteen. But that damn hook!

<em>“Whooooooooooa! Livin’ on a prayer!”</em>

I hate humanity every single time that song comes on the radio. How did “Prayer” become the adopted signature Bon Jovi song with Millenials? This is the same group of intelligent kids that know every word to (2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees) Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’”. Today’s kids have a great ear for the music of my youth. Except for Bon Jovi. It makes no sense.

One final point to Bon Jovi’s eclectic legacy.

As mentioned above, Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen both come from New Jersey. Whenever there is a statewide election in the Garden State, it is obligatory for each candidate to announce their favorite Bruce song. To balk at Bruce’s greatness in New Jersey could lead a political candidate to not only be thrown off the ballot, but they may well have their dead body discarded in the Pine Barrens…no better than an out-of-favor Italian Mafioso.

No one ever asks a candidate for their favorite Bon Jovi song.

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