|By Charlie Goodrich||Thursday, 3 May 2007|
What do “Livin’ on a Prayer”, “Wanted Dead or Alive”, and “You Give Love a Bad Name” all have in common other than being Bon Jovi songs? All of these songs are found on one album, Slippery When Wet. These three songs form the foundation of one of the greatest albums to emerge from the decade of the 1980′s. Because of Slippery When Wet, Bon Jovi rocketed onto the music scene and is often given credit for paving the way for other pop metal bands like Poison, Warrant, and Cinderella. While I feel this statement is exaggerated, Bon Jovi was definitely one of the first mainstream pop metal bands.
Commercially they were able to sell the genre to just about everyone that listened. The radio friendly lyrics, pretty boy look, and catchy songs propelled Bon Jovi to stardom with an assist to MTV for taking advantage of the bands physical appeal. But saying that Bon Jovi launched pop metal is lunacy. Bon Jovi just emerged at the right time when that genre of music was becoming popular. It is similar to Nirvana. They were not the first grunge band; they just showed up at the right time. Regardless of their place in music history, Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet is still an amazing album.
Hair bands love rock and roll, and they like to prove their devotion by singing about it. Slippery When Wet begins with “Let it Rock” and later in the album we find “Raise Your Hands” both of which are anthems to the power of rock. Describing a typical weekend of going to a club where you finding girls dancing on tables, and hearing rock blasting from the radio, “Let it Rock” is an awesome song. It is a precursor to the amount of rock you are about to experience. Ironically it also filled with foreshadowing. The title, “Let it Rock,” is the first example that informs listeners to the amount of rock they are about to hear. “You can’t stop a fire burning out of control” is another example of how addictive this album is, and it is Bon Jovi’s cry about how rock spreads. “Raise Your Hands” is probably the most underrated song on the album. It is catchy, fun to listen to, and will get you pumped. It reminds people to let loose when they listen to a good rock song.
Next we have the Bon Jovi song that got me hooked on this band, “You Give Love a Bad Name.” Everyone knows this song as soon as it begins with that roaring line, “Shot through the heart and you’re to blame, darling you give love a bad name.” The amazing thing about this song is that everyone can relate to it. It is about a woman is innocent and seems to be the one for the person in the song. However, things go a rye when she does something to him. It is never stated what, but there is the implication that she manipulated him or led him on in some way. The wonderful thing is that women can also relate to this song. Another perspective one could take away from this song is that men get attached too quickly and move too fast into relationships. Either way people can relate. It is intriguing to hear a song that both men and women could apply to themselves in the same way.
Third we have the song that should have been my class song, but nooooo some worthless Three Doors Down, or Third Eye Blind, or Thrice, or Three Dog Night song was voted to be our class song. I put down “Livin’ on a Prayer” and it made it to the final ballot. Then loses! What crap is that?! It was rigged I tell ya, rigged! Anyhoo, “Livin’ on a Prayer” is the most popular song from the album and has become a rock anthem. “Livin’ on a Prayer” describes Tommy and Gina. Both are struggling in their careers and can’t make enough money. But Gina proclaims that they’ve “gotta hold on to what they got. It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not. We’ve got each other and that’s a lot for love, we’ll give it a shot.” Let the inspiration flow forth. This is definitely one song that is designed to uplift people, or motivate a group of college kids to break out in song at the most inappropriate time.
One of the more compelling tracks is “Social Disease.” It seems to refer to any number of STD’s a person can contract from nights of promiscuity. The promiscuity comes in the form of prostitutes and unsafe encounters. The songs talks about infections that appear on the body and how people are not able to get away from the infections. It is the deepest song on the album and the one that has the most to say.
Another staple of many rock albums is a song that refers to touring and being on the road. “Wanted Dead or Alive” performs this function. It isn’t a song about touring stadium after stadium; it’s about a band that is beginning their career. The band plans venues where people may not be welcoming to them, but they still have to play there to make money. As the song progresses so does the band. They were determined to make it and by the end of the song they talk about rocking millions of people. It is a great song that builds from the beginning to a quality rock song.
Of course an 80′s pop metal album needs a ballad or two. “Without You” and “Never Say Goodbye” are the two ballads on Slippery When Wet. “Without You” is a song about searching for love and how life feels so empty without loving someone. “Never Say Goodbye” is about memories and not wanting the best times of your past to go away. However, it is impossible to hang on to all the people in your life. People move on and grow apart emotionally or physically. This is one of the best singing performances by Jon because you can hear the anguish in his voice. Anguish created by having to let go of the past and even people you may have loved. Both are great ballads.
Rounding out the album is “I’d Die for You” and “Wild in the Streets.” These songs are more keyboard driven than the rest of the album. This creates a much more pop-like sound. “Wild in the Streets” is about kids growing up in a small town and how they are in control of the town. They were bad boys who corrupted girls and drove around recklessly. “I’d Die for You” is a rocking love song. It is a song that speaks of the power of love and how they don’t need anything else but each other. Both of these songs are fast paced and complete the album nicely.
Slippery When Wet has something for everyone. Ballads, anthems, songs that analyze society, all-out rock songs, and catchy pop songs are all on this album. The combination of Bon Jovi’s sound and the variety of songs makes this a must have album. There is diversity but it all has a similar quality that brings this album together. This is a classic album, and regardless of when it was made or by who, it deserves a listen.