All 346 Bon Jovi Songs Ranked Worst to Best
Whenever I hear Bon Jovi, I often think about a Mark Twain quote: “I have never tried, in even one single little instance, to help cultivate the cultivated classes. I was not equipped for it, either by native gifts or training. And I never had any ambition in that direction, but always hunted for bigger game – the masses.”
Jon Bon Jovi has never denied that every time he released a new album, he viewed it as walking up to the plate with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning during the seventh game of the World Series. He didn’t want to bunt, sacrifice or even just get a single: He was swinging for a grand slam. From the Asbury Park bar scene in the late '70s through the new century, Jon has aimed for the fences — and it's paid off.
Despite this level of success, few acts have been as disdained and dismissed as this New Jersey pop-metal outfit. Is it Bon Jovi's good looks, their ability to hop genres, their blatant commercialism or their music? Regardless of what anyone thinks, they have been prolific and at different points in their career, they’ve flirted with genres as disparate as hard rock, light metal, pop-metal, classic rock, pop, adult contemporary, country and adult alternative pop/rock. With an approach that broad and wide, it's easy to understand how Bon Jovi grossed more than a billion dollars just from ticket sales between 2003-13.
Still, they're not often discussed in critical circles and, when they are, the focus is solely on the mega hits that dominated radio starting in 1984; a spotlight isn't typically given for the deep cuts, which surpass many of the singles. I've always felt the deck was stacked against Bon Jovi because they weren’t as good as those that came before when in reality they created a world of their own. That's how one should view the list below, under the umbrella of their world. We're less concerned if Bon Jovi wrote a song as good as Bob Dylan, but whether it’s as good as their own best work.
To complete this list, we've surveyed every original studio recording Jon Bon Jovi has released – including his solo work, notably 1990's Blaze of Glory and 1997’s Destination Anywhere. While his two solo albums veer off course from the core Bon Jovi sound, Jon eventually decided to record without Richie Sambora, resulting in pseudo-solo albums that don’t touch his best and strongest work.
To provide the most comprehensive overview, we traced back to Jon Bon Jovi's first demos with the Rest. We have also included the original Power Station recordings that birthed “Runaway.” While some may take issue since Jon Bon Jovi was between 18 and 20 when he wrote and recorded the majority of these songs, they received an official release in the late '90s (by a distant cousin who owns the master tapes) and they’re surprisingly strong.
Solo David Bryan and Richie Sambora cuts from 2004's 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong box set, and their respective solo albums, don't appear since Jon Bon Jovi wasn't involved. On the other hand, Tico Torres' song from 100,000,000 does, since "Only in My Dreams" was written by Jon Bon Jovi. Our focus is on original material, so the Power Station demos count, but holiday songs – including Jon Bon Jovi’s recording of “R2-D2 We Wish You Merry Christmas” – didn't make the cut.
Ranking every Bon Jovi song from worst to best is not for the faint of heart. Even if you are a die-hard fan, it forces you to make hard choices. Here are ours.
346. “Save the World,” Crush (2000)
It’s peculiar that we start our journey with a song written during Bon Jovi's most fertile decade, and recorded for their commercial comeback album. After 1997’s Destination Anywhere, Jon Bon Jovi continued to write and record songs for an undetermined project. In the summer of 1998, there was a 10th-anniversary party for his fan club, Backstage with Jon Bon Jovi. At the party, fans listened to these demos and ranked them. One of those demos was “Save the World,” a song that Jon had submitted to Michael Bay and John Kalodner for inclusion in the 1998 film Armageddon. Kalodner settled on “Mister Big Time” for the soundtrack, while this ballad was shelved temporarily. Crush was supposed to be co-produced by the Slippery When Wet and New Jersey team of producer Bruce Fairburn and then-engineer/mixer Bob Rock, who also produced Keep the Faith. It would be the first co-production the two men took on, but sadly in May of 1999, as Jon Bon Jovi was walking in the door from the U-571 film shoot, he received a call that Fairbairn had died unexpectedly at the age of 49. This left the band without a plan and they began auditioning for producers. One of them, Luke Ebbin, took home the demo Jon had made. Recalling the moment to Bryan Reesman, he said “I chose one of the songs that I knew would be my strong suit, which is orchestral arrangements.” Ebbin re-worked the song on his Pro Tools rig and won the gig of the producer. It stuns me that this much work and energy went into a song that is overwrought musically, featuring the most cringe-worthy lyrics in Bon Jovi's discography. Ben Affleck’s fake tears at the end of Armageddon are more believable than this throwaway that never should have made it to demo form, let alone to an album.
345. "Work for the Working Man," The Circle (2009)
Revisiting the bass groove from "Livin' on a Prayer," Bon Jovi delivered a mouth-gaping faux pas in a song meant to show their blue-collar roots which ultimately came off like a creepy sales pitch. Jon Bon Jovi provided a copy of the lyrics to Barack Obama's advisor David Axelrod, who had them hanging on his wall in the White House. If the chanting “work” chorus didn’t make your eyes roll, then the prices for their tour in support of their album would. At the time, The Circle dates were the most expensive in the history of concerts, and they were peddling a song about men and women who have lost their jobs in the worst recession in more than 65 years. How did someone not stop Jon Bon Jovi from writing this song, recording it, putting it on the album and touring behind it? In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, you forfeit your right to pretend to care about your audience when tickets for a pair of seats up close cost $3,500. A more appropriate title would have been “Let Them Eat Cake.”
344. "We Got It Going On," Lost Highway (2007)
There’s been a longstanding rumor that the reason that Jon Bon Jovi negotiated to have Mercury Nashville market Bon Jovi’s foray into country music was that the band promised a star-studded effort that would be easy to sell to the one genre of music which still buys compacts discs en masse. This cut featured Big and Rich, and LeAnn Rimes appears on another song, but what about the other 10? Rumor has it that many Nashville artists felt Bon Jovi was stepping on their home turf in a flagrant effort to sell records, and declined to be a part of this project. If the Big and Rich collaboration is any indication, this was a blessing in disguise. Diving into lowest-common-denominator waters, Bon Jovi humiliated themselves with some of the most mindless lyrics ever committed to tape: “Is there anybody out there looking for a party / Shake your money maker, baby, smoke it if you got it.” Yes, they wrote "We Got It Going On," and they recorded it and to this day, the song’s greatest sin and legacy is it has remained a staple of their live show.
343. "Joey," Bounce (2002)
In 1991, Jon Bon Jovi covered Elton John's “Levon” for the tribute record Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin cracked the Top 30 on the Billboard rock chart, and 11 years later, Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora mostly plagiarized it on an album cut that would have been completely forgotten except for its concert appearances. A rote video made to play on screens behind them told the story of the song scene for scene, leaving no ambiguity.
342. "Everybody's Broken," Lost Highway (2007)
Speaking to NPR in 2010, Jon Bon Jovi said “I didn't jump on the fads and the fashions, both in the boy-band crazes or the grunge phase or the rap phase. We just stayed true to who we were. And like I said, growing up, you change the parameters of the songwriting, but it doesn't mean that it's any less true.” Notice how he mentions grunge and rap, but not modern country music?
341. "I Love This Town," Lost Highway (2007)
It's another Lost Highway cockroach that won’t die. This song often closes shows, allowing fans to leave the show early and beat the traffic. The jingle was crafted to be all things to all people.
340. "Knockout" / 339. "Born Again Tomorrow," This House Is Not for Sale (2016)
“Born Again Tomorrow” and “Knockout” are paint-by-numbers songs, with the latter including bottom-of-the-barrel eye-rolling lyrics of "I'll be giving you the finger, sticking out my chin.”
338. "Put the Boy Back in Cowboy," Lost Highway (2007)
Slippery When Wet was originally titled Wanted Dead or Alive, and photographer Mark Weiss took extensive photographs of Bon Jovi in cowboy gear for the album cover and inserts. Then former manager Doc McGhee laughingly reminded them that they were from New Jersey. I wish McGhee was still around when "Put the Boy Back in Cowboy" was written and added as an international bonus track.
337. "Scars on This Guitar," This House Is Not for Sale (2016)
The country-influenced “Scars on My Guitar” was co-written by Brett James, who is best known for Carrie Underwood’s hit “Jesus, Take the Wheel.” This follow-up trips over itself with obvious lyrics where the narrator professes his love for a guitar that's always there for him: “She’s the one I hold where I hold when there’s no one to hold onto.” The band covered the same territory on better songs.
336. "Bells of Freedom," Have a Nice Day (2005)
Better songs were left off Have a Nice Day in favor of this overwrought moment which finds the band swimming in a sea of cheese.
335. "Come on Up to Our House," This House Is Not for Sale (2016)
Rock n’ roll should not sound like a commercial jingle for IHOP pancakes, butter or your first cup of coffee in the morning.
334. "Live Before You Die," The Circle (2009)
A father advises his son with earnest lyrics, sagging vocals and a swell of orchestral instrumentation that tries everything to manipulate emotions without stimulating them.
333. "Walls," This House Is Not for Sale (2018)
Bon Jovi recorded two new songs in honor of their Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction, to be included on a digital reissue of This House is Not For Sale. Bon Jovi’s politics and heart are in the right place, but the lyrics are too basic; they're also paired with a rare lifeless performance by the band.
332. “Born Again,” Hillbilly Jedi (Big and Rich, 2012)
This Big and Rich song is included since it features Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora. Jon encouraged Big and Rich to use this title, saying "I'd buy that shirt." They secured permission from George Lucas to use the word "Jedi" just weeks before he sold Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise to Disney. In truth, this story is far more interesting than "Born Again."
331. "Till We Ain't Strangers Anymore," Lost Highway (2007)
LeAnn Rimes takes pity on the Jersey boys, offering a lovely vocal on an otherwise inconspicuous song.
330. "All About Lovin' You," Bounce (2002)
The two worst songs on Crush were the syrupy ballads; Bon Jovi then proceeded to fill half of their follow-up studio album Bounce with much of the same. The demo and final studio versions both pale in comparison to the import-only acoustic version, which still suffers from one too many uses of the word “baby."
329. "I'm With You," What About Now (2013)
What About Now never should have existed. A rushed collection of songs, the album was meant to promote a final big pay-day tour before Jon Bon Jovi made a bid for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. One song after another proved to be inconsequential, with the mid-tempo proclamation of love being completely unremarkable. He was also passed over for the team.
328. "Seat Next to You," Lost Highway (2007)
Lost Highway found Bon Jovi making an all-out effort to remain at the top of the pop heap. They succeeded but also relinquished any rock credibility they still had in the process.
327. "Real Love," This House Is Not for Sale (2016)
“Real Love” (not to be confused with the Ed TV soundtrack contribution “Real Life”) is a restrained piano-driven ballad that covers familiar ground for the band.
326. "This Is Our House," Greatest Hits (2010)
An incomplete thought included in international and digital editions, "This Is Our House" was designed as a sports anthem for the NFL. It's the New England Patriots touchdown song for home games, replacing U2's "Elevation." Give me the Tomb Raider song every day of the week. The song has an eerie similarity to "Rock and Roll Part 2" by Gary Glitter, which Bon Jovi used as intro music on the second half of the Keep The Faith tour.
325. "Thank You for Loving Me," Crush (2000)
Lifted from the Brad Pitt film Meet Joe Black, where the lead character utters this ill-fated song title, on record, "Thank You for Loving Me" is delivered in a swelling arrangement that can’t disguise its hollowness. Elsewhere on this list, Bon Jovi used films to inspire his writing, but “Thank You” smells of desperation in the hopes of a hit that ultimately never was. Following negative American reaction to this song, Bon Jovi compiled One Wild Night Live 1985–2001, their first live album, to tide fans over until the band's next proper studio effort.
324. "Blind Love," Burning Bridges (2015)
Rob Garratt of The National summed it up best: “Piano ballad 'Blind Love' sounds like it was written on a napkin, with the help of a copy of Harmony for Dummies.” The irony of this comment is that Bon Jovi's No. 1 hit “Blaze of Glory” was written on a napkin in a diner on the set of Young Guns II. (Emilio Estevez has it framed on the wall at his home.) I guess the moral of the story is not that all napkins are created equal.
323. "Amen," What About Now (2013)
In a Spotify commentary, Jon Bon Jovi said “Amen” was "a little bit of an homage to Leonard Cohen. … I was in a poet's frame of mind when I wrote it. ‘Amen’ is my kind of love story." I admire acts pushing their boundaries but the similarities with “Hallelujah” are too evident and in-your-face to take this one seriously.
322. "Color Me In," This House Is Not for Sale (2016)
This Walmart-only bonus track is not worth the trip or lines required for purchase.
321. "Bounce," Bounce (2002)
The song is dedicated to Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots, and includes the lyrics: “Bounce, bounce, nothing’s gonna keep me down / Bounce, bounce, standup shout it out.” The band was drunk on optimism while living in the shadow of “It’s My Life.”
320. "Fast Cars," The Circle (2009)
It’s always frustrated me when artists like Peter Gabriel and Pete Townshend went years and decades between releasing original material. I listen to a song like “Fast Cars” and realize what I mistook for idleness was rather an acknowledgment of knowing when to stop because the gas tank for inspiration is empty.
319. "Army of One," What About Now (2013)
“Never give up, never give up, never / Never give up, never let up, never.” I think a more suitable title would have been "Never."
318. "Labor of Love," This House Is Not for Sale (2016)
The languid guitar of “Labor of Love” resonates with shades of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game,” but does not fulfill its promising start.
317. "Wildflower," Have a Nice Day (2005)
Have A Nice Day was written and recorded in record time in the fall of 2004, then handed into the label for a 2005 release. Over a Christmas break, Jon Bon Jovi went back to the studio and began tweaking songs, then re-grouped and recorded a handful of new songs with producer Rick Parashar (best known for working with Temple of the Dog and Pearl Jam). The new batch of songs was surprisingly refreshing, and improved on many of the songs they replaced – except for this one, a throwaway only performed twice.
316. "Summertime," Lost Highway (2007)
The song has a good beat, a catchy chorus and undemanding lyrics, but it’s hard to listen to and not think of the much better Kenny Chesney song of the same title from The Road and the Radio, which was released as a single around the same time “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” was topping the country chart. The question is whether it is flattery or flat-out imitation. My vote is for the latter.
315. "What About Now," What About Now (2013)
It’s a paint-by-numbers rocker that pales in comparison to their first two decades, and also the name of a song Daughtry released as a single in 2008.
314. "Thick as Thieves," What About Now (2013)
Interesting tidbit of trivia about this album: The original March 2013 release date was unveiled in December 2012. In early January, Justin Timberlake announced his first studio album in seven years would be released on the same day. Knowing they couldn’t compete with Timberlake, Bon Jovi moved What About Now up only to find out a week later that this new date coincided with David Bowie's first album in a decade – his sublime The Next Day. Bon Jovi outsold Bowie to achieve their fifth No. 1 album in America, but it is Bowie’s album that will most likely endure. “Thick as Thieves” isn’t anything more than the eighth song on the album.
313. "No Apologies," Greatest Hits (2010)
Likely expecting some insight into Bon Jovi's inspiration and creative process, the Guardian asked Jon if this compilation represented "a creative pause, an opportunity for reflection [or] a celebration of the past 25 years?” Jon Bon Jovi responded: "A commitment – nothing more than a commitment." Make no mistake, the over-the-top “No Apologies” sounds just like that: nothing more than a commitment.
312. "Gimme Some Lovin' Charlene," The Power Station Years: The Unreleased Recordings (1981-82)
In 1993, Jon Bon Jovi spent two nights discussing stories with Bob Costas on his NBC program Later, in one of the more revealing interviews he's ever done. Costas asked about Jon's work at the Power Station and he told a story that involved paparazzi trying to steal a picture of Mick Jagger in 1981 where they were touching up what would become Tattoo You. Jagger grabbed Jon and his bandmates, who were paying for a taxi, and told the photographers that these were the guys in his new band, the Frogs. I would have liked to have seen Jagger's mythical side project inject some swagger into this unremarkable number.
311. "Take Back the Night," Burning Bridges (2015)
A bonus song for certain retailers and the Japanese market, "Take Back the Night" is another track that would have forever remained in the vaults if not for the contractual commitment.
310. "Into the Echo," What About Now (2013)
A bonus track from the album that broke the band apart, "Into the Echo" makes you wonder if it was worth it. “Into the echo, we shout our dreams / Into the echo, we throw our hearts / Into the echo, we send our love” ... I’ll leave the rest for you to fill in.
309. "Bobby's Girl," The Power Station Years (1981-82)
Jon had a friend from high school named Bobby who joined the Navy and left behind a girlfriend named Dorothea. Young John Bongiovi pursued her during his senior year of high school and, rumor has it, “Bobby’s Girl” was the first song Jon wrote when he was a member of the Rest. (That group also included Jack Ponti, who would co-write “Shot Through the Heart” on Bon Jovi's debut.) The song was eventually recorded at the Power Station, a legendary Manhattan recording studio owned by a distant family relative, Tony Bongiovi. Bobby would return to Jon’s songwriting years later on “Blood on Blood.”
308. "Don't You Believe Him?" The Power Station Years (1981-82)
Another John Bongiovi demo from 1981 about a love triangle, "Don't You Believe Him?" was written around the same time that Jon formed a short-lived all-original group called Johnny and the Lechers.
307. "Don't Do That To Me Anymore," The Power Station Years (1981-82)
Here Jon is working through his craft in a better-than-average song with a run-of-the-mill chorus.
306. "All Hail the King," This House Is Not for Sale (2016)
There’s a bit of irony in crafting a guitar-heavy track on the first Sambora-less studio album with the lyric “poor man has his money, rich man has his gold / All hail the king whose fortune is his soul.” It's long been acknowledged by many that the heart and soul of the band was Richie Sambora.
305. "Do What You Can," 2020 (2020)
Jon Bon Jovi had his heart in the right place at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. He wanted to be inclusive during a trying time and solicited fans to submit lyrics to a song he wanted to write about the perseverance of the human condition. The overall sentiment is admirable, but the final product is an off-the-cuff song designed to be a well-intentioned novelty single. However, never underestimate Bon Jovi — not only is he going to make sure you remember it, but he's also going to add it to the new album, make it the lead single, mix a country version of the song for crossover appeal and even invite Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland (who helped make "Who Says You Can't Go Home" the first No. 1 song by a rock band to top the country singles chart) to sing and promote the track. The music video is one of their best, paying tribute to those who have lost their lives, and livelihoods, and those essential workers who have kept the wheels moving in New York City (and around the world), but these poignant images deserve a better soundtrack.
304. “In America,” New Jersey outtake (1988)
A pre-production demo with a firecracker guitar riff that ranks low since it’s a crude 4-track demo where the vocals are indecipherable. Sadly omitted from the 2014 reissue of New Jersey
303. “Heartbreak Eyes,” Power Station-era outtake (1981-82)
“Heartbreak Eyes” is one of the few widely available bootleg demos from this period that somehow never saw the light of day on any of the official 1997-2000 Power Station releases. It's probably been kept in the vault because the vocals may have been a bit out of Jon's range at the time.
302. "What Do You Got?" Greatest Hits (2010)
One of four new songs on this compilation, "What Do You Got?" floundered as a first single because of lopsided production by Howard Benson, best known for his work with All American Rejects and Daughtry. This song would rank higher if they had kept the original version, which was infused with soulful gospel tinges. Instead, Bon Jovi took a song that didn’t sound like anything else in their catalog and transformed it into something that sounded like everything else on the radio.
301. "Touch of Grey," This House Is Not For Sale (2016)
A bonus song for Target and the Japanese market that’s sincere, featuring a strong – though hardly novel – mid-tempo performance from the band. This one should have made the final album.
300. “Burn With Me,” What About Now outtake (2013)
Given to Juliet Simms, formerly of the band Automatic Loveletter and one-time runner-up on the U.S. version of The Voice, “Burn With Me” is better than most of what wound up on What About Now. Even so, the song's inclusion would not have been enough to tip the scales.
299. "Walk Like a Man," Lost Highway (2007)
It's a father-son relationship song, with the lyrics “He said sit down son, we've gotta talk / I said, "it's my life, I'm gonna do what I want / I'm not gonna crawl, I'm gonna walk / Walk right out that door." This Target bonus track goes downhill from there while name-checking their biggest post-2000 hit.
298. "No One Does It Like You," The Power Station Years (1981-82)
John Bongiovi’s experience at the Power Station can’t be overemphasized as he was allowed to refine his craft with each song and each recording. “No One Does It Like You” isn’t a great song, but it shows his promising growth.
297. “Right Side of Wrong” Bounce (2002)
Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Gavin Edwards called “Right Side of Wrong” “howl-worthy” and “unintentionally hilarious,” and that was before the launch of a tour where Jon Bon Jovi’s onstage theatrics took a forgettable song and made it unforgettable for all the wrong reasons. During the guitar solo, Jon would offer an over-the-top reaction to the mini-movie occurring on the screens above the stage. No live performer has ever made me more uncomfortable. It can’t be unseen.
296. "You Had Me From Hello," Bounce (2002)
The failure of “Thank You For Loving Me” didn't keep Jon Bon Jovi from lifting movie dialogue for another lifeless song. This time, he builds off a heartfelt line from a pivotal moment in Cameron Crowe’s Jerry Maguire, turning into an eye-rolling ballad.
295. "Open All Night," Bounce (2002)
The band teased this title for nearly a decade before it appeared as the closing cut on Bounce. A different song was demoed for These Days; "Open All Night" was also a tentative title (along with Stripped) for that 1996 release. Along the way, Jon Bon Jovi claimed it to be one of his favorite songs, but "Open All Night" ultimately emerged as one of Bon Jovi's dullest, ending the troubled Bounce with a whimper.
294. “When We Were Us,” This House Is Not for Sale (2018)
This is the musical equivalent of movies like Last Vegas and The Bucket List. You don’t expect them to be good, but you watch anyway because you love Morgan Freeman. Fans listened to “When We Were Us,” with its ludicrously horrible video, because of a deep love for the band and not out of desire.
293. "Unbroken," 2020 (2020)
The first song released from 2020 came in late 2019 with "Unbroken," which was used in the documentary film To Be of Service about soldiers who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and how their service dogs help heal them. A special edition of the song featuring Prince Harry of the British Royal Family and the Invictus Games Choir was released in March 2020 and benefitted the Invictus Games Foundation, which supports military personnel who have been injured in the course of their duties. It is one of the longest songs the band has recorded in the John Shanks era and the message is a courageous decree for a subject that is not discussed enough. However, the song plods along without anything distinctive to make it stand out. The intentions and story (once again) are remarkable, but they are percolated through an entirely unremarkable song.
292. "Limitless," 2020 (2020)
"Limitless" opens 2020 with a buoyant arena-rock chorus, but it is too paint-by-numbers to be notable. Co-written with producer John Shanks and longtime collaborator Billy Falcon, it is only one of two co-writes on the proper 10-track album.
291. "Fingerprints," Burning Bridges (2015)
Striking acoustic guitar work accentuates this underrated song.
290. "Life is Beautiful," Burning Bridges (2015)
A pedestrian lyric with an otherwise stunning arrangement, "Life Is Beautiful" would have fit nicely on Lost Highway.
289. "You Can't Lose at Love," B-side to “It's My Life” (2000)
Foreshadowing their foray into country music, this somber song was recorded in 1998 and released in 2000 as a B-side in Europe.
288. "Room at the End of the World" What About Now (2013)
Here is a frivolous ballad that shares the title with a brilliant barnstorming song by Matt Nathanson released in 2011.
287. "The Fighter," What About Now (2013)
One of the better songs from What About Now is weighed down by Spotify commentary by Jon Bon Jovi. “I initially sat down to write it as a letter to my kids," he said, "so that if anybody were to ever wonder what it is I tell my kids about who I am and what I have done … it was that their Dad had to work hard to continue to do what he did.” Why the chip on his shoulder after more than 30 years and success?
286. "These Arms Are Open All Night" 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
The band’s box set of 50 outtakes and rare songs is full of gems deserving of wider acclaim; this 1998 leftover isn’t one of them.
285. "Maybe Tomorrow” The Power Station Years (1981-82)
"Maybe Tomorrow" was written during the John Bongiovi and the Wild Ones era in 1981, and later recorded at the Power Station. Jon was a gofer and a janitor and wore any hat asked of him by a distant family relative, Tony Bongiovi. This enabled him to work at his craft writing and recording with top-tier musicians, laying down professionally recorded versions of his demos during off-hours.
284. "Goodnight New York," This House Is Not for Sale (2016)
Jon Bon Jovi pens a love letter to New York, which for a guy who named his fourth album New Jersey feels like a betrayal.
283. "Burning Bridges," Burning Bridges (2015)
On the one hand, this rugged and organic campfire sing-a-long isn't overproduced or slick and makes for a fascinating study of what Bon Jovi are capable of when they go with their instincts. On the other hand, it's one of the most vitriolic songs any act has written about a label that helped make them a star and a multi-millionaire. The greatest irony in this tale is that Bon Jovi re-signed with Universal a year later.
282. "Brokenpromiseland," The Circle (2009)
A grim picture of the American landscape is hindered by clunky lyrics but a surprisingly strong arrangement and dynamic harmonies.
281. "We Weren't Born to Follow," The Circle (2009)
This is Bon Jovi's weakest choice for a lead single ever, as they play it safe trying to be all things to all people. "We Weren't Born to Follow" is pleasant enough but it's suffocated by overproduction. Earlier material simply said it better.
280. "Who Would You Die For," Burning Bridges (2015)
Burning Bridges was designed to finish the band’s longstanding contract with Universal. The label had originally planned a trio of releases in 2014 to celebrate the band’s 30th anniversary: The first was a deluxe edition of New Jersey which featured the infamous Sons of Beaches demos, the second was a vinyl set that was postponed and eventually released in 2017, and the last item was a live album. For a brief period, the legendary Hammersmith Odeon concert from January 10, 1990, was being strongly considered for release, but it ultimately got nixed at the last minute. All of this was occurring at the same time as Jon Bon Jovi’s unsuccessful bid for the Buffalo Bills. Most fans would have traded every song released between 2007-17 for the Hammersmith show – and “Who Would You Die For” is no different.
279. “Do It To Ya,” Crush Outtake (2000)
An unreleased demo that leaked, “Do It To Ya,” is believed to be from the Crush recording sessions when the album’s tentative title was Sex Sells.
278. "This Woman Is Dangerous," The Power Station Years (1981-82)
Here the apprentice is getting up to speed with one of his best Power Station vocals.
277. "For You" The Power Station Years (1981-82)
A proclamation of commitment, this title was lifted from another singer-songwriter from New Jersey.
276. "Every Beat of My Heart," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
A treacly mid-tempo 1992 number, it's one of the few missteps from the box set.
275. "Beautiful World," What About Now (2013)
Dear Jon, Matchbox Twenty want their song back.
274. "All Talk, No Action," The Power Station Years (1981-82)
There should be a television movie about Jon Bon Jovi’s love life during this era, created with dialogue exclusively from the Power Station tapes.
273. "This Is Love, This Is Life," Greatest Hits (2010)
One of four new songs in this collection, "This Is Love, This Is Life" comes off like a lower-tier copy of “Livin’ on a Prayer” with lyrics like “We ain't got much but what we got is all that matters” – not to mention the return of Sambora’s infamous talk box; it's his guitar solo that stands out.
272. "Reunion," This House Is Not for Sale (2016)
The band encouraged fans to post #JBJReunionContest on social media in 2017 for a chance to have Bon Jovi speak and perform at their commencement ceremony. New Jersey’s Fairleigh Dickinson University won the contest, and the event was held in MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., a stadium Bon Jovi opened in 2010.
271. "Old Habits Die Hard" / 270. "Not Running Anymore," What About Now (2013)
These are a pair of solo acoustic songs inspired by the Fisher Stevens film Stand Up Guys, starring Al Pacino and Christopher Walken. "Not Running Anymore" was later nominated for best original song at the 70th Golden Globe Awards.
269. "The Devil's in the Temple," This House Is Not for Sale (2016)
“This is my viewpoint on what's happened to this business of music and the love I had and the dreams I had as a kid," Jon Bon Jovi said in a YouTube commentary. Looking at the dreams of music as a church, he takes issue with the current state of the business. Again, this is rich coming from a guy with $1,000 concert tickets.
268. "Open Your Heart," The Power Station Years (1981-82)
Jon Bon Jovi is selling the power of his love to a heartbroken woman. Saying he can bring them both back to life, he pleads “Let me in” in a song that bops and grooves with a strident saxophone.
267. "Good Ain't Good Enough," outtake (1998)
This sulky and meditative mid-tempo demo was played only once for the fan club.
266. "Social Disease," Slippery When Wet (1986)
The live version from 1990 which segued from a cover of Bob Dylan's "Seven Days" is definitive. Otherwise, this complete throwaway keeps Slippery When Wet from being an unspoiled album.
265. "Let It Rain," 2020 (2020)
This cheery composition is welcomed on an album dominated by moodier and midtempo songs, but it feels like a retread of former and better glories. Not to be confused with the 1998 Jon Bon Jovi solo song of the same name he wrote for the Pavarotti & Friends for the Children of Liberia performance and album.
264. "Thief of Hearts," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
Patrick Leonard, best known for his work with Madonna and Leonard Cohen, helps out on this jaunty acoustic number from 2003. Originally recorded for This Left Feels Right, a misguided project where Bon Jovi re-worked their classics into unlistenable new renditions, "Thief of Hearts" eventually found a home on their box set a year later.
263. "Kidnap an Angel," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
Co-written by Billy Falcon, whose 1991 album Pretty Blue World was produced by Jon for his Jambco label, and demoed during 1998 recording sessions.
262. "We Don't Run," Burning Bridges (2015)
Staying in their post-2000 comfort zone, Bon Jovi delivers a bombastic arms-to-the-air anthem.
261. “Pretty Girls” / 260. “Telephone Line” (The Rest, 1980)
Jon Bon Jovi’s most popular high school band was Atlantic City Expressway, which morphed from the Raze. A.C.E. had future Bon Jovi keyboardist David Rashbaum (before he changed his last name to Bryan) as well. Eventually, Jon sought a new outfit that played originals and he approached fellow Jersey Shore rocker Jack Ponti. “One thing led to another," Ponti recalled, "and he wedged his way into the band.” Later in 1980, they recorded a two-song demo, both written by Ponti and produced by Southside Johnny and E Street Band bassist Garry Tallent. “Pretty Girls” is a high-octane rocker and “Telephone Line” is notable for its jaunty bass groove. Neither would have sounded out of place from the late '70s post-punk/early new wave movement that pledged their allegiance to the Knack.
259. "We All Fall Down," Burning Bridges (2015)
I often wonder how Bon Jovi has managed to go decades without releasing a song called “Hope.”
258. “Stringin' A Line" The Power Station Years (1981-82)
A sulky organ and finger snaps are featured on this workmanlike mid-tempo number.
257. "Life’s Too Short For Days Like This," live performances (1998)
A crunching and full-fledged rocker, "Life's Too Short For Days Like This" was performed in concert on European tour dates in 1998.
256. "I Could Make a Living Out of Lovin' You," Crush (2000)
This trivial rocker with a Godzilla guitar riff courtesy of Richie Sambora was released as a bonus cut on the international editions of Crush.
255. "Roller Coaster," This House Is Not for Sale (2016)
A lively rocker, it's powered by inspiring performances by keyboardist David Bryan, drummer Tico Torres and bassist Hugh McDonald.
254. "I Got the Girl," Crush (2000)
This is a sweetly saccharine pop ditty about a girl who has stolen the narrator’s heart. In the final verse, she turns out to be his daughter – inspired by Jon Bon Jovi's then-five-year-old Stephanie.
253. "We Rule the Night," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
A gem from 1985 where Jon Bon Jovi channels Rob Halford of Judas Priest in one of his highest-pitched vocal performances, the unfinished song is notable for its use of a drum machine as well.
252. "She's a Mystery," Crush (2000)
Written on a songwriting retreat in a castle in the south of France, this moody and meditative track is an anomaly in Bon Jovi's catalog. "She's a Mystery" has never been performed live.
251. "God Bless This Mess," This House Is Not for Sale (2016)
The album's title track is a well-known Ryan Adams song, while this song shares the name of a 2008 Sheryl Crow song. It's hard to determine if they consciously lifted these titles, or if they were merely not scratching past the surface of their writing.
250. “Call a Different Lady” / 249. “Other Side Of the Night” (The Rest, 1980)
The second set of demos for the Rest was produced by Billy Squier. “Call a Different Lady” houses a haughty chorus accentuated by handclaps and a mean strut courtesy of Jack Ponti’s lead guitar, while “Other Side Of the Night” – with superb rhythm section interplay during the chorus, and some nice six-string fireworks from Ponti – is the best song from the Rest.
248. “The Ballad of Alice Cooper,” live performance (1990)
Bon Jovi's partnership with Desmond Child proved to be so fruitful that Jon and Richie Sambora began contributing songs to other artists including Cher, Kane Roberts and Alice Cooper. “Hell Is Living Without You” made Cooper’s comeback album Trash in the summer of 1989; Jon Bon Jovi also provided some salacious background vocals on the title cut. A new song called “The Ballad of Alice Cooper” didn’t make Trash, however, and it remains a curiosity. Bon Jovi performed the first verse while discussing the song on Rockline, and they still ask Cooper about recording it one day.
247. "Living With the Ghost," This House Is Not for Sale (2016)
This song alludes to the absence of Sambora and, in a devilish twist of irony, it would sound better if his guitar were present.
246. "Luv Can," 2020 (2020)
The minimalist composition and Bon Jovi's sturdy lead vocal on this curiously titled love song elevates it above most of their contemporary offerings. Initially slated as the fourth song on 2020 it was regrettably jettisoned to bonus track status when the album was delayed and Bon Jovi wrote "American Reckoning" and "Do What You Can."
245. "New Year's Day," This House Is Not for Sale (2016)
On “New Year’s Day,” one of this album's better songs, Bon Jovi croons: “I'm singing hallelujah / Amen, the angels say / Let’s hope tomorrow finds us / It's New Year's Day.” While U2 doesn't have a patent on the title, one wonders if Bon Jovi deliberately fell into a trap. After all, they were confirming mainstream criticism of the band as derivative. (Jon Bon Jovi also had a bit role in Garry Marshall’s rom-com “New Year’s Eve.”) The band has continually returned to the same barren well for inspiration – and it becomes more glaring, with every album casting a shadow over their underrated first two decades.
244. "With These Two Hands," What About Now (2013)
The punctuating Richie Sambora guitar riff that opens this song is a perfect slice of pop that should not have been relegated to bonus-track status.
243. "Hush," B-side to “It’s My Life” (2000)
Recorded as part of 1998 solo sessions and considered for Crush, "Hush" features a delightful organ and Bobby Bandiera, best known for his long stint with Southside Johnny, delivers some perfectly understated guitar work.
242. "I Want To Be Loved," Have a Nice Day (2005)
Dense guitars and the return of the talk box embellish an even heavier lyric concerning someone lacking parental love.
241. "Ain't No Cure For Love," B-side to “Say It Isn’t So” (2000)
The big bluesy riff is simultaneously ridiculously and goofy, but also hard evidence that this band, when not overproduced, is an utter joy to listen to.
240. "I Want You," Keep the Faith (1992)
"I Want You" is a paint-by-numbers song that ironically sounded like every other power ballad released. What differentiated Bon Jovi’s ballads is they were always dissimilar and better than their contemporaries.
239. "Breathe," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
"Breathe" is a nice, breezy little number from 2002, with a harmony that would have fit nicely on Bounce.
238. "Postcards from the Wasteland," Bounce (2002)
A great title whose unadorned arrangement is illuminating.
237. "The Last Night" / 236. "One Step Closer," Lost Highway (2007)
“The Last Night” and “One Step Closer” are virtuous songs that would stand out on a box set or as B-sides, but due to the sequencing on Lost Highway, they are lost without proper context.
235. "These Open Arms," Have a Nice Day (2005)
"These Open Arms" is a Japan-only bonus track that was never intended for the album, but one that is surprisingly hypnotic as Jon Bon Jovi delivers the lyric in a lower register that's surprisingly effective. The song was later given to former American Idol contestant Clay Aiken for his 2006 album A Thousand Different Ways.
234. "Welcome to Wherever You Are," Have a Nice Day (2005)
This is an incredibly well-intentioned arms-across-the-world anthem that ultimately didn’t draw a larger audience. It may potentially have been a bit too obvious for seasoned listeners. It also served as the title for a West Wing episode in 2006 where Jon Bon Jovi joins Matt Santos (played by Jimmy Smits) on the campaign trail. The song’s failure to connect didn’t dissuade the band from revisiting this theme continually over the next decade.
233. "That's What the Water Made Me," What About Now (2013)
A vibrant arrangement overcomes deficient lyrics for a song that opened a large portion of the 2013 tour. Not to be confused with the Florence + the Machine song “What the Water Gave Me” from their 2011 debut.
232. "Someday Just Might Be Tonight," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
This is a pleasant mid-tempo number with some prodigious organ and slide guitar from 1996 solo sessions.
231. "King of the Mountain," 7800° Fahrenheit (1985)
Bass and drums kick this off with a humdrum riff but listen to a brief Jon Bon Jovi wail at 2:10 and the following 33-second guitar solo by Richie Sambora. What the band lacked in experience, they more than made up for in resolve.
230. "Two Story Town," Crush (2000)
This is a testament to survival in a small town taken over by corruption, and quite possibly inspired by Asbury Park in the '90s.
229. "Head Over Heels," The Power Station Years (1981-82)
Here is a sharp, bustling performance that Jon thought enough of to perform at a special set of concerts at the Starland Ballroom in February of 2009.
228. “Cold Hard Heart,” Destination Anywhere (1997)
One of two bonus cuts for Japan, this 1996 demo is from London, where Jon began to write and record songs during the downtime on his first film as a leading man – appropriately titled The Leading Man. Often forgotten for its downbeat nature, it’s a treasure of ambiguity and solemnity.
227. "Shut Up and Kiss Me," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
This is a catchy little number co-written by longtime collaborator Desmond Child that showcases a mean rhythm and blues groove, demoed in 1997.
226. "Don't Keep Me Wondering," The Power Station Years (1981-82)
There's some fine accordion and guitar work around the minute mark of this lovelorn rocker.
225. "Undivided," Bounce (2002)
A heavy-handed album opener inspired by 9/11, "Undivided" worked well in concert but always felt a bit ham-fisted on the album. Bounce suffered from wanting to be all things to all people, with songs created from the widest possible brush strokes.
224. "Crazy Love," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
This song showcases Jon Bon Jovi in full-on pop mode. Co-written by Dave Stewart of Eurythmics, it was most likely recorded between 1996 and 1998.
223. "Shine" 2020 (2020)
Included in the original version of the album planned for release in May 2020, "Shine" is a well-executed love song. Its best surprise is John Shanks' sparse guitar work – he utilizes both acoustic and electric guitars into a wall of sound that never overwhelms and yet, makes it memorable.
222. "Story of Love" 2020 (2020)
Jon Bon Jovi gets sentimental on this pleasing ballad dressed up in a waltz arrangement. "I wrote 'Story of Love' with my family in mind and I think all of them like it," he explained of the track. "I hope it's a song your family and others can use." The personal nature of the song along with the heartfelt vocal and an arrangement highlighted by a lovely string section embroiders "Story of Love" and infuses it with just the right amount of charm.
221. "Woman in Love," Keep the Faith (1992)
“Woman in Love” houses a curious arrangement for a song that came late in the recording process. Richie Sambora and producer Bob Rock talked Jon into rewriting the song at the last minute, according to a Kerrang! interview in late 1993. It's a decision he'd come to regret a year later. Despite the misfire, the song shows Bon Jovi reaching and flexing their musical muscle in innovative ways.
220. "Outlaws of Love," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
Jon Bon Jovi has confessed: “I don’t remember writing this song, I don’t remember it at all.” Recorded somewhere in 1985-86, "Outlaws of Love" houses a rather inspiring, if commonplace, performance from the band.
219. "Maybe Someday," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
Richie Sambora’s background vocals are the highlight of this 1999 demo.
218. "Whole Lot of Leavin'," Lost Highway (2007)
One of the last songs written for the album is a strident number. One has to wonder if Jon Bon Jovi purposely wrote this without Sambora so he would have an avenue to market Sambora’s recent divorce to Heather Locklear as a part of the album promotion, giving Lost Highway a layer of depth it was missing. Things were further complicated when Sambora entered a rehab facility right before the promotional cycle for the album was set to kick off. "Whole Lot of Leavin'" is pleasant enough, but you can’t help but feel that this song may have potentially led to a shake-up in 2013 that the band has never recovered from.
217. "Neurotica," Crush (2000)
Bon Jovi interlocks, making you feel as if you are on a rock n’ roll rollercoaster with unexpected twists and turns as they attack their instruments as if their lives depended upon it. For a band often criticized for being glossy, it’s disappointing that their heavier and musically challenging cuts wind up on import singles and bonus tracks for international markets.
216. "Out of Bounds," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
A guitar-heavy outtake from the Slippery When Wet era, "Out of Bounds" was written in 1986 for an Anthony Michael Hall movie of the same name but went unused. Discussing this song on the DVD that accompanies the box set, Jon confesses that he almost named the album Guns and Roses to play off the Mark Weiss cowboy photo shoot – and how the title would pair perfectly with many of the songs on what eventually became Slippery When Wet.
215. "Complicated," Have a Nice Day (2005)
One of the reasons Have a Nice Day is often viewed as the best post-Crush album is that it was the last sweltering guitar record by the band, evidenced by this showy rocker.
214. "Beautiful Drug," 2020 (2020)
The song recalls the band's first collaboration with John Shanks on Have a Nice Day in 2005 with squealing guitars and a booming chorus and was initially planned to be the album opener. In a Sirius XM town hall discussion, Jon Bon Jovi provided insight into the evolution of "Beautiful Drug": "It was just a simple rock song to be bluntly honest, not a lot of depth to it but it was something you would play in the arena." But when the album was delayed, Jon Bon Jovi revamped the lyrics in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. "I rewrote the lyrics and I thought it would be much more fitting if they were more topical," he said. "In this moment in time, while we are looking for a vaccine, my substitution was love."
213. "This House Is Not for Sale," This House Is Not for Sale (2016)
The overriding metaphor of this album is an impenetrable house that still stands, overlooking the past with an emphasis on the future. Band members may come and go from that house, slightly altering the chemistry of the family, but the house is Jon Bon Jovi’s way of telling the world he is here to stay – with or without former inhabitants of the four walls. The only thing he seems to have forgotten is that a house does not make a home.
212. "Learn to Love," The Circle (2009)
Heavily influenced by Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” this album closer was uplifting musically and simultaneously a bit too heavy-handed lyrically.
211. “We Can Dance," B-side to “Everyday” (2002)
The songs for Bounce can be divided into responses to 9/11 and an appreciation for the modest aspects of life and love. The B-sides and bonus cuts tended to be less heavy-handed, such as this mid-tempo number with shimmering acoustic guitars.
210. "A Teardrop to the Sea," Burning Bridges (2015)
Press was limited for the Burning Bridges album and session information was scant, leaving fans to determine how, where and why songs were recorded. The album opener defies the standard norms of how a Bon Jovi song should sound. "A Teardrop to the Sea" is a standout in the modern era of the band, as it is an evocative mood piece that doesn’t sound like anything Bon Jovi has ever recorded.
209. “Game of the Heart” / 208. "Deep Cuts the Night," Slippery When Wet outtakes (1986)
A pair of unreleased demos from the Slippery When Wet that is steeped in the hard rock of their earlier 7800° Fahrenheit era. As before, lust, love and surrendering to the night are prevailing themes.
207. "Pictures of You," What About Now (2013)
One of the few Richie Sambora co-writes on What About Now, it showcases the band at the peak of their performing powers with hall-of-fame-level performances elevating the song.
206. "All I Wanna Do is You," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
This bluesy R&B number, recorded in 1997, is driven by the piano and organ, as Bon Jovi tips a hat to musical hero Southside Johnny.
205. “The Soul Truth,” live performance (1991)
Performed one time in December 1991, this earnest piano song was stoic and serious and pointed to the direction the band would be taking on a forthcoming album that would eventually be titled Keep the Faith. It has never been played again, and no recording of it is known to exist.
204. "Fear," Keep the Faith (1992)
A howling and succinct rocker tucked away on the second side of Keep the Faith, "Fear" finds Bon Jovi tackling societal injustices highlighted by the Rodney King verdicts in the spring of 1992. It also has a gem of a line in “surviving is living to die in fear.”
203. "What's Left of Me," What About Now (2003)
Highlighting a series of individuals who are broken, beaten but not quite yet defeated, the song channels some of the band's stronger work and includes this standout line: “They called us 'Dirty Harry,' we're a punk rock band / Why they sold old CBGB's, I don't understand / All that’s left now are the t-shirts and they come from Japan.”
202. "I'm Your Man," Burning Bridges (2015)
The lively rocker would not have been out of place on Destination Anywhere, with a title courtesy of Leonard Cohen.
201. "No Regrets," Bounce (2002)
This time, the Japanese bonus track is worthy of inclusion on the misguided and confused Bounce. As “thunder cracks, the sky is crying,” the narrator has a conversation with God about living life as he wanted. "No Regrets" is completed with a mystic, guitar-heavy arrangement.
200. "Lonely," Lost Highway (2007)
A somber and solemn acoustic number that stands as one of the best cuts from Lost Highway. There’s an undercurrent of vulnerability that would have been welcomed on an album that veered toward over-production. Sadly, the session was relegated to a retailer exclusive. Jon Bon Jovi has occasionally pulled this one out for solo performances.
199. “Last Chance Train," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
Here is a 1998 recording with Joe Perry of Aerosmith on guitar, highlighted by a killer chorus ready-made for radio.
198. "The One That Got Away," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
Originally written for the 1999 Kevin Costner film Message In a Bottle, "The One That Got Away" is a reserved and soulful love ballad that would have fit well in the context of the film.
197. "Welcome to the Good Times," B-Side to “Say It Isn’t So” (2000)
Richie Sambora teases his guitar as drummer Tico Torres hits a chime like a countdown clock for a trashy garage-rock epic. Slide, crashing cymbals and a guitar solo are sent from south of heaven.
196. "Blame It on the Love of Rock & Roll," Keep the Faith (1992)
Taking a page from the Rolling Stones, Keep the Faith was where Bon Jovi shed their hard rock/hair band image and became a full-on rock band steeped in the classic-rock era. While this song is never going to change the world, "Blame It on the Love of Rock & Roll" is Bon Jovi's “It’s Only Rock N’ Roll.”
195. "Only Lonely," 7800° Fahrenheit (1985)
I can understand why Jon Bon Jovi tries to distance himself from his past, especially when you watch this train wreck of a music video with a fictional story that defies any logic. (There are nine shots of the video director’s relative and only two of Richie Sambora.) Nevertheless, this David Bryan co-write has a stirring dramatic effect, particularly in the middle breakdown and Sambora’s looping six-string solo.
194. "Superman Tonight," The Circle (2009)
With a heavy-handed love song made worse by an insufferable music video, and the fact that Jon Bon Jovi’s first tattoo was the Superman logo on his upper arm, "Superman Tonight," has nevertheless remained a fan favorite, even if it never ignited the singles chart.
193. “Gimme Some,” Crush Outtake (2000)
Big boisterous horns, an impassioned vocal and a shredding guitar solo can all be found on this unreleased Crush-era song. Despite hailing Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes as an influence, Bon Jovi rarely embraced their R&B tendencies – which is a shame, because they’re often fantastic.
192. "Billy," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
This Keep the Faith demo of a song about a relationship fueled by drama and lust showcases how creative and potent Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora were when they worked as a united front.
191. "Love Me Back to Life," Bounce (20023)
One of the few love songs from Bounce that work, "Love Me Back to Life," features an explosive chorus paired with Creed-like guitar crunches and a swirling string section that manipulates your emotions for all the right reasons. Sadly, this song has never been performed live.
190. "Love Lies," Bon Jovi (1984)
There's more to Bon Jovi’s early material than anyone ever gives it credit for. “Love Lies” is a dark-noir mystery that ends in murder from a “heart on a bullet.” Originally recorded during the Power Station years, this version is more chilling as Jon Bon Jovi’s distressing falsetto fades out on Side 1 of the band’s debut album.
189. “Let It Rain,” Pavarotti & Friends for the Children of Liberia (1998)
From films to band albums to solo projects, Jon Bon Jovi was never more creative than in the '90s. In the summer of 1998, he wrote “Let It Rain” with Michele Centonza specifically for the Children of Liberia concert in Pavarotti’s hometown of Modena, Italy. The song is remarkably beautiful and the performance, directed by Spike Lee, is deeply affecting.
188. “House of Fire,” New Jersey/Sons of Beaches demo (1988)
One of a handful of songs on this list that doesn’t feature a Jon Bon Jovi co-write, “House of Fire” was the second single released in America for Alice Cooper’s comeback album Trash which Bon Jovi and Sambora contributed to. Since these sessions were held early in 1988, it’s believed that Desmond Child had the band demo the song for submission to Cooper. A surprise inclusion of the 2014 deluxe edition of New Jersey, “House of Fire” is included here since it was recorded before Cooper’s definitive version.
187. "Love is War," B-side for “Living in Sin” (1989)
Guitar riffs ricochet like firing bullets, keyboards give the essence of rising smoke and the band plays out of their skin on a song that would potentially be laughable by one of their contemporaries. The harmonies, persuasive chorus and an off-the-charts guitar solo by Sambora elevate this memorable B-side.
186. "Stay," B-side to “Say It Isn’t So” (2000)
"Stay" is a pleading and passionate ballad demoed as part of 1998 Jon Bon Jovi solo sessions, with a top-tier vocal that should have supplanted “Save the World” or “Thank You For Loving Me” on Crush.
185. "Without Love" Slippery When Wet (1986)
The only song from Slippery When Wet to never be performed live is a serviceable pop ballad co-written by Desmond Child. "Without Love" is simple, sweet and a sentimental delight.
184. "I Will Drive You Home," This House Is Not for Sale (2016)
Self-possessed emotions are buried in a mysterious production with layered backing vocals. The result is possibly the most exploratory song Bon Jovi has ever recorded with producer John Shanks.
183. "More Than We Bargained For," The Power Station Years (1981-82)
A love that wasn’t fully realized until it was too late is explored in a song with a madly effective chorus.
182. "Because We Can," What About Now (2013)
Steve Leftridge of PopMatters summed this one up the best: "'Because We Can' is the band’s biggest, glossiest, easiest fist-pumper in 25 years. The lyrics are still full of high-school-assembly self-empowerment prattle, which doesn’t matter when the chorus is this insanely catchy."
181. "She Don't Know Me," Bon Jovi (1984)
Mercury Records wanted a sure-fire second single for Bon Jovi's debut album and required the band to include this song, which dates back to the Power Station era. "She Don't Know Me" is the only song in their official album discography that doesn’t have a Jon Bon Jovi co-write. Mark Avsec, best known for work with Wild Cherry and Donnie Iris, provides this workmanlike number that reached No. 48 on the pop charts. Despite not being an original composition, Bon Jovi would roar through "She Don't Know Me" in performances through 1986.
180. "Everyday," Bounce (2002)
Bon Jovi made the curious decision to write with Swedish pop songwriter Andreas Carlsson on Bounce. Partnering with Max Martin, Carlsson co-wrote colossal hits for Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and NSYNC. The lyrics to “Everyday” are solid, but the issues lie within the arrangement which hits all the same beats as “It’s My Life,” beginning a lengthy trend where the band tried to re-create that song's success using the same template. The best versions of “Everyday” were acoustic, at a handful of concerts in the summer of 2003.
179. "(I Don't Wanna Fall) to the Fire," 7800° Fahrenheit (1985)
Electronic drums are overlaid with Torres’ bass drum beats, then paired with the most reserved yet effective guitars to construct a one-of-a-kind song that works as a prayer to an unknown power. Most impressive is the second verse: “When you're a part of society / You know, the heart of your innocence dies.”
178. "The Price of Love," 7800° Fahrenheit (1985)
A manic and unrelenting drum roll opens this spiritual sequel to “Love Lies.” A mid-song breakdown beginning at 2:24 leads to Sambora’s bleeding solo through 3:17, reflecting the heated passion of the affair. Writing about the shadowy and complex corners of the world, Jon Bon Jovi shows how far he'd come from his Power Station days.
177. “Heart of America,” live performance (1985)
Written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora specifically for the first Farm Aid performance on Sept. 22, 1985, at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill., this buoyant anthem with its “sha la la la la” sing-a-long may be a little raw around the edges, but it ranks high for its genuineness.
176. "Dirty Little Secret," Have a Nice Day (2005)
On "Dirty Little Secret," a magnetic guitar groove drives a full-tilt rocker that features some of the most sensually arousing lyrics the band ever wrote. I’ll never understand why Jon Bon Jovi doesn’t perform "Dirty Little Secret" in concert. He hits the stage, smiles and shakes his booty, but the most heated songs often end up on the cutting-room floor. He does realize that the men’s rooms at his concerts are empty, right?
175. “Rosie,” New Jersey outtake (1988)
“Rosie” started as a demo about a guy who discovers his first love has become an exotic dancer. Originally demoed for the New Jersey album and co-written with Desmond Child, Jon Bon Jovi passed it over. Richie Sambora later returned to “Rosie,” recording it with Tico Torres and David Bryan for his 1991 debut solo album Stranger in This Town. Sambora’s version is more up-tempo and dynamic, making it definitive. The New Jersey demo was conspicuously left off the 2014 deluxe edition.
174. "Prostitute," B-side to “This Ain’t a Love Song” (1995)
Often viewed as the weakest song to emerge from the These Days writing sessions, "Prostitute" is notable for its grungy arrangement and the chanting “hey hey hey” chorus. Still, I'd give a limb to hear the band sound like this one more time.
Hey, guess what?
173. "Secret Dreams," 7800° Fahrenheit (1985)
Bon Jovi has never been comfortable with the rushed nature of this album, and the sterile production from Lance Quinn. Because of this, 7800° Fahrenheit is an anomaly in their catalog. Still, Jon Bon Jovi has never sounded as despairing as he does on "Secret Dreams," offering a series of evoking images of a barren summer night with unspoken desires spilling over into these bare confessionals. There’s a veiled, uninhibited passion in these under-appreciated songs, where the night gets the best of us and our thoughts.
172. "Gotta Have a Reason," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
An unreleased song written with orchestrator Michael Kamen, "Gotta Have a Reason" was originally meant for the 1993 film The Three Musketeers. "We were on the road and Danny Kortchmar … did a track of it without the band, ‘cause we were in the Far East somewhere," Jon Bon Jovi said in 2004. "I didn’t like the way it turned out, so we scrapped it. We pulled it from the movie."
171. "Lucky," B-side to “Everyday” (2002)
The band mines their Beatles influences on a charming tale of good fortune and gratification that was tragically left off of Bounce. As with the majority of these import-only B-sides, "Lucky" wasn't immediately made available on Spotify or Apple Music.
170. “Naked,” Destination Anywhere (1997)
This flirtatious rocker from Jon Bon Jovi's solo album urges the listener to “just get back to basics.” “Naked” was co-written by Mark Hudson, a frequent collaborator with Aerosmith and Ringo Starr, and features Aldo Nova on guitar.
169. "Another Reason to Believe," B-side to “Everyday” (2002)
The B-side demos from Bounce give incredible insight into Bon Jovi's writing process, and how the album could have gone in a different direction. Another inspired 9/11-themed cut, "Another Reason to Believe" is more gripping, cataclysmic and gut-wrenching than “Undivided.” Listen to the third verse, where Jon Bon Jovi’s vocals are unhinged.
168. "River Runs Dry," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
Written during Jon Bon Jovi’s solo period of 1996-98, "River Runs Dry" encapsulates wrecking balls that decimate dreams. This Desmond Child co-write is squarely at the intersection of the acoustic vibes of Led Zeppelin and the straightforward storytelling of Garth Brooks.
167. "Standing," B-Side to “Everyday” (2002)
One-dimensional lyrics are paired with a forceful, upbeat and rather exuberant performance from the band. The demos pulsate with a throbbing heartbeat missing from the slick production of the Bounce album.
166. "Why Aren't You Dead?" 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
This amusing straight-ahead rocker was recorded for Keep the Faith but “after we wrote and demoed it … you’ll realize it wasn’t where we were going," Jon Bon Jovi recalled in 2004. "It was more about where we had been, and for that reason alone it didn’t make the record. We had grown out of this stage of writing that kind of fun clichés and moved on.”
165. "One Wild Night," Crush (2000)
Richie Sambora called this “a fun, classic Bon Jovi track" in an interview around 2000. While it’s mostly been retired since 2001, the inclusion of "One Wild Night" on Crush signaled that the band could still embrace their rock 'n' roll roots with a hand-clapping, show-opening foot stomper.
164. "In and Out of Love," 7800° Fahrenheit (1985)
Decades later, "In and Out of Love" can feel slight, but it prompted the most lighthearted and enjoyable video from their first two albums. Listen to the machine-gun drum opening, courtesy of Tico Torres, and you’ll be won over. It’s also important to note the fireworks Bon Jovi brought to the stage while playing this song every night between 1985-87.
163. "Little Bit of Soul," Keep the Faith (1992)
Shedding their pop-metal skin for a more organic classic rock sound, the band returns with a bar-room romp very much in keeping with “Love For Sale,” the album closer on New Jersey. One of the few live performances of "Little Bit of Soul" was on the MTV special An Evening with Bon Jovi, and they played it with gusto.
162. “Little City,” Destination Anywhere (1997)
A morose acoustic number, and the penultimate song on Destination Anywhere, "Little City" has an undercurrent of tension where a cab driver feels lost and alone, yet believes salvation can be found not far off. The song was born out of yet another movie Jon appeared in, with the same title. Little City, co-starring Josh Charles, Penelope Ann Miller and Annabella Sciorra, was filmed in late 1996 and distributed by Miramax.
161. "Don't Leave Me Tonight" The Power Station Years (1981-82)
An affair is in full bloom when the narrator makes an insistent plea for his lover to stay with him for fear of a domestic squabble once she returns to her husband. (“Tommy's home and waiting up for you / And if you leave, he'll make you black and blue.”). The agonizing vocals are paired with a “Tumbling Dice”-style riff and piano boogie jam. Jon thought enough of "Don't Leave Me Tonight" to perform it during a special hometown show held in February 2009 at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, N.J.
160. "Flesh and Bone," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
A bluesy-rocker co-wrote by David Bryan, who found his writing groove with Jon and Richie in 1995, though none of his songs made the final These Days track listing. Even when something doesn’t necessarily work and wouldn’t fit on a studio album, like “Flesh and Blood,” you hear a band at the peak of their powers pushing the material as far as they can.
159. "Last Man Standing," Have a Nice Day (2005)
Inspired by the passing of Johnny Cash in 2003, "Last Man Standing" was initially recorded for This Left Feels Right as an acoustic number, before being pulled and later released on the box set. The song was then re-recorded as a muscular, guitar-heavy anthem, and used as the opener for almost every stop on their 2006-07 tour.
158. “Mister Big Time,” Armageddon: The Album (1998)
The heaviest solo song Jon ever released was found on the soundtrack for this 1998 Michael Bay film. It's also an enormous improvement over “Save the World,” the other song he wrote for Armageddon. “Mister Big Time” was a collaboration with longtime friend Aldo Nova, who assisted on the band’s debut and later on the Young Guns II soundtrack. As usual, Jon Bon Jovi is often at his best with big, loud and rowdy guitars.
157. "Hollywood Dreams," The Power Station Years (1981-82)
The narrator loses his love while chasing his dreams and when he returns to her, it’s to someone who doesn’t recognize him. The song is notable for the saxophone solo, something that would never appear on any official Bon Jovi albums.
156. “Talking In Your Sleep,” The Power Station Years (1981-82)
Unrequited love has a murky underbelly on a track punctuated by protracted piano chords and a synthesizer that conjures desperation.
155. "Bullet," The Circle (2009)
Richie Sambora was writing songs with Jon Bon Jovi on Oct. 24, 2008, when they learned Jennifer Hudson's mother, brother and nephew had been murdered in her hometown of Chicago. They decided to tackle the larger topic of gun violence. "Instead of sitting down and writing a song with his name in it or hers, with a specific day and date, you make your case because this same situation is going to happen again in five years somewhere else," Jon told the Chicago Sun-Times. "You speak to the larger issues. You ask whether the song will stand up 20 years from now and if the message going to be clear." “Bullet” is a tidal wave of force led by the rhythm section of drummer Tico Torres and bassist Hugh McDonald, and features Sambora’s heaviest guitar work since Have a Nice Day.
154. "Happy Now," The Circle (2009)
Inspired by the election of Barack Obama, Bon Jovi discusses the hangover from the Bush era and the need and desire to dream big again. The band occasionally used the song as an opener on their 2010 tour, to great effect.
153. "Lower the Flag" 2020 (2020)
Inspired by the 2019 Dayton, Ohio, shooting that injured nine people and left 17 others dead, "Lower the Flag" is a somber prayer. Highlighted by stark instrumentation and a strumming acoustic guitar, its sparseness gives this solemn topic an emotional heft missing from recent albums. Jon Bon Jovi's writing is more meticulous and intuitive than it has been in decades, which he spoke to UCR about: "That song came to me on a weekend when I went to bed knowing about [Aug. 3, 2019, shooting at a Walmart in] El Paso and was moved by it. When I woke up in the morning, there was a shooting in Dayton, Ohio, and I thought, 'No, no, no, it was in El Paso, I went to bed thinking of El Paso.' I came to find out there was another one just in the time while I was sleeping. And if you remember the summer of ‘19, they were coming often. Orlando, El Paso, Vegas — they all seem to be back-to-back-to-back. And the story is between sports and the weather on the news, and it kind of moved me in such a way that we were becoming numb to it. People have empathy, but they could turn off the channel and get on with their lives and not have to address it."
152. “Drive,” B-side to “Midnight in Chelsea” (1997)
Focusing on the desire for the open road, "Drive" is genius in its delivery. They use a languid and unassuming arrangement to complete a memorable song that's lost to time.
151. “Lonely in the Night,” Slippery When Wet outtake (1986)
The song begins with a thrusting Sambora guitar riff then moves into a killer chorus, with gloom around every corner. It's the familiar territory from their first two albums but amplified this time to perfection. If an anniversary collection for Slippery When Wet is ever compiled, the band should strongly consider recording this gem properly.
150. "Too Much of a Good Thing," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
A superb Crush outtake with some heady guitar work by Richie, "Too Much of a Good Thing" was co-written by Richie Supa, who collaborated on Aerosmith's "Crazy" and on most of Sambora's second solo disc, Undiscovered Soul.
149. "Sympathy," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
Written and recorded during the Keep The Faith sessions in Vancouver, as the band watched a video of the Rolling Stones from their Steel Wheels tour. They knocked this one out as an homage to the Stones.
148. "Thorn in My Side," The Circle (2009)
No other song from Bon Jovi's post-2000 discography sounds like this vulnerable rocker. A simple chord progression is accentuated by fist-pumping rhythm from courtesy of drummer Tico Torres.
147. "Billy Get Your Guns," Blaze of Glory: Inspired by the film 'Young Guns II' (1990)
The only other song from Young Guns II to appear in the movie, aside from “Blaze of Glory,” this barn-boogie rocker kicks off the album.
146. "I Wish Everyday Could Be Like Christmas," B-side to “Keep the Faith” (1992)
A perfect holiday original recorded during the Keep the Faith sessions. It’s rare for Christmas songs to be viewed in a positive light, but Bon Jovi’s is a moment of holiday splendor.
145. “It's Just Me,” Destination Anywhere (1997)
This tranquil, delicate and introspective song – a proclamation of love produced by Dave Stewart – is one of many standouts on Jon Bon Jovi’s 1997 solo album. He gets bonus points for name-checking the German-American poet Charles Bukowski.
144. "Letter to a Friend," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
This mid-tempo rocker is reminiscent of “In These Arms,” and was mentioned by Jon Bon Jovi in an interview during the 1994 video shoot for “Good Guys Don’t Always Wear White” as a potential song for their next album. His vocal, especially at the 1:30 mark, bleeds with zeal.
143. "Borderline," B-side to “You Give Love a Bad Name” (1986)
Originally appearing on 12-inch vinyl and later a Japanese compact-disc EP of the same name, “Borderline” was the only David Bryan co-write from this era to be properly recorded. Dealing with a relationship on the edge of dissolution, the song probably nodded to their past more than the present, but there’s genuine drama in the vocals and the keyboard flourishes – and then an exhilarating race to the finish line. Sambora was never the flashiest of guitar players or the fastest, but he was amongst the best to emerge from the '80s. The argument is bolstered by what he does here.
142. “Too Much Too Soon,” Slippery When Wet outtake (1986)
Written the same day as "Wanted Dead or Alive" and spoken about in many interviews, “Too Much Too Soon” has never appeared as anything other than a leaked demo. It has a rollicking guitar riff with biting lyrics pointed at many of the hard-rock bands they had opened for in 1983-85. This would have been a nice substitution for “Social Disease” on Slippery When Wet.
141. "Nobody's Hero," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
This 1994 recording is one of the best representations of harmony vocals by Sambora and Bon Jovi on record. They form the heart of this melodic song, which is led by David Bryan's piano.
140. "I Just Want to Be Your Man," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
This sublime, mostly acoustic song from 1994 is moody and mysterious and has a perfect execution, as Bon Jovi slowly builds until the chorus and drums kick in.
139. "Love Ain't Nothing But a Four Letter Word," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
This song about spousal abuse was inspired by the time Jon Bon Jovi spent on the road touring with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes in 1991. The original 1992 demo was reworked by David Bryan and Richie Sambora with horns and backing female vocals. It’s a shame Bon Jovi has never felt the desire to tap into their roots and do a rhythm and blues album.
138. "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead," Keep the Faith (1992)
It's overplayed in concert, but on record, it’s a hand-clapping joy. "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" is also one of the most jubilant music videos they ever made while on tour in Europe in the spring of 1993. The black-and-white clip is a tribute to the Beatles' classic film A Hard Day’s Night.
137. "Novocaine," Have a Nice Day (2005)
Led by Hugh McDonald’s surging bass line, “Novocaine” was rumored to be about keyboardist David Bryan. It serves as an inoculation to anguish brought on by a divorce.
136. "Come Back," Bon Jovi (1984)
Whatever the band lacked in lyric writing, they made up for in fervent jamming, as "Come Back" begs for a loved one to return.
135. "Burning for Love," Bon Jovi (1984)
This Sambora co-write embraced big harmonies, fast rhythm, and furious guitar work – recalling a much different time. What I miss most about the current state of Bon Jovi is the sense of drama. There were better bands and better songwriters, but few coalesced in a way that took your breath away. Bon Jovi was a gift to every band they opened for during this time.
134. "Growin' Up the Hard Way," New Jersey/Sons of Beaches demo (1988)
This track explores the stories of those who survive life, despite being dealt a bad hand. But why was a performance that boils with this much power end up unreleased? The working album title for New Jersey was Sons of Beaches, and it was envisioned as a double album before being scaled back to a 12-track recording at the request of their label. In the early '90s, a 16-song demo surfaced in trading circles that contained 10 unreleased songs. The majority of these demos wouldn't see official release, however, until 2014.
133. “I Talk to Jesus,” Destination Anywhere (1997)
A buzzing demo included as a bonus track on the Japanese pressings of the album, “I Talk to Jesus” focuses on a zealous soul who's lost in life, looking for answers and anyone to listen to him. This was an unexpected detour for Jon Bon Jovi, as he continued to improve his songwriting craft. He also hadn't lost his humor, name-checking Sambora’s new wife Heather Locklear.
132. "Who Said It Would Last Forever" The Power Station Years (1981-82)
The second best of the unreleased Power Station cuts evokes a sense of urgency sold by a gripping arrangement that's driven by the opening piano and a piercing guitar. Jon Bon Jovi matches that intensity, especially at that moment when he wails “And I would give you everything that you were missing.”
131. "I Don't Want to Live Forever," B-side to “It’s My Life” (2000)
This surging life-affirming rocker begins with the death of Frank Sinatra and leads the listener through a series of people who just want to live while they’re alive. Demoed for Crush but was ultimately relegated to the sidelines when “It’s My Life,” a song with similar themes and another Sinatra reference, was written.
130. "What You Want," The Power Station Years (1981-82)
The best Power Station recording is delivered with steely clear conviction, sharp vocals and an arms-to-the-air chorus.
128. "Ride Cowboy Ride," New Jersey (1988)
It started as a song Jon and Richie couldn’t complete, so "Ride Cowboy Ride" was recorded in mono with the static sounds of a record player to serve as a segue between “Wild is the Wind” and “Stick To Your Guns.” Incomplete or not, it’s a delight to sing and hear in concert; "Ride Cowboy Ride," also contributed to the emotional arc on Side 2.
128. "Temptation," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
This superb and shadowy track was originally released in 2000 as a demo on the European CD single for “It’s My Life.” The demo seizes a rawness seldom heard on Bon Jovi albums. The box set version was a completed recording that, while good, lacks the ghostly nature of the demo.
127. "Taking it Back," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
The closest Bon Jovi ever came to capturing the spirit of AC/DC on an album, this full-speed 1992 rocker with exciting guitar work from Richie Sambora was as fierce as anything they’ve ever committed to tape. “We knew that we had to take control of our own destiny," Jon said in 2004, "and songs like ‘Taking It Back’ were sung from the point of view of that chip’s back on my shoulder and I’m ready to launch into phase two of the band’s career.”
126. "Satellite," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
This track soars with mature lyrics and a strikingly refined guitar solo by Richie. Listed as a 1999 recording on the band’s official site, but the chorus howl by Jon Bon Jovi points towards the Keep the Faith era.
125. "Love Hurts," New Jersey/Sons of Beaches demo (1988)
Recorded a few years after “Prayer,” the band begins to tackle the darker web of long-term relationships where time occasionally deflates hope – and yet the love buried deep down still aches. The “ah-ah-ah-a” chants, paired with Sambora’s glitzy dexterity, add a true sense of theater to the opening. That carries the song all the way through, before the “ah-ah-ah-a” reprise four minutes later.
124. "Garageland," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
Written in 1999 for Crush, "Garageland" probably should have made the album. "We were reinventing ourselves," Jon Bon Jovi said in 2004, "and we would talk about where we came from and where we are going to." Even while amid those deep thoughts, this was a signal to the fans that they were still inspired to try to tear the walls down in that old garage – and in every concert hall around the world.
123. "Have a Nice Day," Have a Nice Day (2005)
The title track of Bon Jovi's ninth studio album could be criticized for sounding like a Schoolhouse Rock! outtake, but the simple-minded arrangement is bolstered by a band performance that’s off the hinges. Sambora fuels the engine with big stormy guitar chords, while McDonald works in tandem with the unappreciated Torres, whose drums splinter and spit. Leading the charge is Jon Bon Jovi, who gives a truly remarkable vocal performance. The 2004 take had a slow bridge after the guitar solo that was sadly left off the final version.
122. "Lost Highway," Lost Highway (2007)
The lead track from the band’s 10th studio album is anthemic, liberating and full of open-road romanticism. Its derivativeness is so charming that my only defense is that "Lost Highway" is everything a Bon Jovi song should be.
121. "Unbreakable," Have a Nice Day (2005)
Driven by guitar-pumping riffs, the get-in-the-ring “Unbreakable” ranks among Bon Jovi's best post-2000 recordings, yet it was relegated to bonus-track status on international editions of Have a Nice Day.
120. "Rich Man Living in a Poor Man's House," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
Played briefly during Jon's short solo tour of Europe in 1998, this song about the richness of love over material needs was co-written by Dave Stewart.
119. "Judgement Day," New Jersey/Sons of Beaches demo (1988)
This gritty after-life drama is fueled by a band swinging for the fences amidst a “na-na-na-na” chorus, which was also used on Born To Be My Baby. Confronting life’s choices in a place where “you walk through the fire [with] nowhere to run to and no one to blame,” Bon Jovi is inspired to one of their heaviest jams.
118. "The More Things Change," Greatest Hits (2010)
The song, with a winking and bustling acoustic guitar, feels like a throwback to the more earnest '90s version of the band. Hands down, the best of the new tracks from this compilation.
117. "Alive," B-side to “All About Lovin' You” (2003)
Of all the 9/11-inspired, fist-pumping songs they wrote for Bounce, this one moves me and shakes me to my core with its deafening chorus. Bon Jovi can conjure genuine chills on this raw demo.
116. "Brothers in Arms" 2020 (2020)
2020's penultimate track recalls the Keep the Faith era of the band and shares DNA with some of the demos that appear on the band's 2004 box set of outtakes, 100,000,000 Fans Can't Be Wrong. Beneath the eternally durable and underrated rhythm section of Tico Torres and bassist Hugh McDonald, Bon Jovi tackles the hypocrisy of those who don't want their friends, neighbors and athletes to rock the boat politically head-on: "But don't you step out of line, don't re-write or define / What it means to see a man take a knee." For a man who came close to owning an NFL franchise in 2014, this is a bold-faced statement in support of Colin Kaepernick. Musically, Bon Jovi does not break any new ground here, but it is deeply satisfying and a reminder they have always been a fierce bar band at their core.
115. "Ordinary People," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
Originally released in Europe as a B-side to 2000's "Say It Isn't So," "Ordinary People" was recorded in 1994. David Bryan co-wrote the song with Bon Jovi and Sambora, but it was left off These Days. Jon explained why in 2004: "'Flesh and Bone' and 'Ordinary People' were better exercises than they were contenders for the record. So, you still see the underlying threads of optimism in 'Ordinary People,' for instance, but it sounded too much like what was on the radio.”
114. “Justice in the Barrel,” Blaze of Glory (1990)
The chants from actor Lou Diamond Phillips most likely overreach their purpose, but it’s hard to resist Jeff Beck's gale-force solo.
113. "Full Moon High," New Jersey/Sons of Beaches demo (1988)
Originally titled “River of Love” on cassette demos that circulated during the '90s, the band quite possibly re-named "Full Moon High" for official release in 2014 since Richie Sambora had a song with the same name on his debut solo album. Gushing innocence and sensual passions give way to a brilliant performance that continually builds, stressing the resolution of the lyrics.
112. "Real Life," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
A mid-tempo number accentuated by a moving lead vocal, "Real Life" was co-written by Jon and Desmond Child and then demoed in 1998. In early 1999, the group re-recorded and released it as the first band recording in some four years. "Real Life" was also one of the last songs featuring work by producer Bruce Fairburn, who died a mere three months later. Chosen to be in the Ron Howard movie EDtv, this track also appeared with a U.K. mix; the box set version is remixed.
111. "Wedding Day," B-side to “This Ain’t a Love Song” (1995)
This spare demo billows with regret, as its melancholy opening gives way to a third verse when Jon Bon Jovi lets go of his inhibitions with a severely distressing vocal performance. Most notable are the lines: “And I don't know if I can take it / Should we ever meet again / 'Cause I know that we'll be strangers / Introduced as friends.”
110. "When She Comes," B-side to “This Ain’t a Love Song” (1995)
The best double-entendre this band ever wrote, "When She Comes" is disguised as a perfect and pure pop song.
109. "Does Anybody Really Fall in Love Anymore?" New Jersey/Sons of Beaches demo (1988)
Bon Jovi and Sambora wrote this with Desmond Child and Diane Warren, then demoed it for New Jersey. "Does Anybody Really Fall in Love Anymore?" was then given to Cher for her 1989 Hearts of Stone, on which future Bon Jovi member Hugh McDonald played bass. It wasn’t released as a single from Cher’s album, but rather by former Alice Cooper guitarist Kane Roberts. His first-rate version, from 1991's Saints and Sinners, ended up just inside the Top 40.
108. "You Can Sleep While I Dream," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
An unbelievably beguiling chorus full of ebullient vocals and unrestrained positivity, "You Can Sleep While I Dream" was recorded in 1999 for Crush, but held over for the box set.
107. "Blood in the Water" 2020 (2020)
Fans who didn't pay attention to Bon Jovi in the '90s missed out on some of their best and most overtly political material ("Hey God," "Keep the Faith"), so the socially conscious songs on 2020 feel refreshing and long overdue to many. It is startling to some because these themes have been in hibernation for the better part of the past two decades. "Blood in the Water" paints a picture of a polarized America consumed by rage, hate, fake news and the weaponization of words. The song has shades and hues of 1992's nearly 10-minute epic "Dry County," and while it does not reach those heights, this is a terse and terrifying picture of our future slipping through our hands. "Blood in the Water" is a sprawling epic about a country scorched to its core.
106. "Say It Isn't So," Crush (2000)
This upbeat Beatles-style track is about dreaming big and showcases a rare keyboard solo by David Bryan. The Wayne Isham-directed video is an homage to Blazing Saddles, with an all-star cast including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilio Estevez, Claudia Schiffer and Matt LeBlanc.
104. "Now and Forever," New Jersey/Sons of Beaches demo (1988)
The Sons of Beaches demos show a band who absolutely could have released a double album if their label would have let them. This track offers a glimmer of the strength of the material, which is heightened by a discreet commencement and an amplified conclusion.
104. "99 in the Shade," New Jersey (1988)
This song explores endless summer nights where the passions of youth are at their most heightened. Gathering with friends, including Tommy and Gina, makes for a lifetime of memories.
103. "Dyin' Ain't Much of a Livin," Blaze of Glory (1990)
Jon Bon Jovi convened an all-star line-up for the Blaze of Glory recording sessions – including Elton John, who provided harmonies and piano on the album closer. “He came into the control room to hear the basic track," Jon told Roy Trakin in 1990. "We were both sitting at the board and he started singing the harmony – and, of course, the truth of the matter was that more than anything I wanted him to sing on it, but I didn’t want to overstep my bounds. But when he started to sing, I asked him if he’d do the harmonies. And we cut the vocals right there, in front of everyone who had played on the track because we all wanted to see him do it. And it was fucking great. We had to filter out all the clicking from the cameras though!"
102. "Save a Prayer," Keep the Faith (1992)
It's a gritty experiment included as a bonus track everywhere around the world except America. The opening tips its hat to “Give Peace a Chance,” before Bon Jovi segues into a breathtaking, primal exposition of this troubled world. Sambora’s guitars eventually signal the morning light, as "Save a Prayer" emerges from the darkness. "We were experimenting, yet I feel that song says something lyrically," Jon told Kerrang! in 1992. "Actually, by the time we recorded it, we’d gotten tired of making the record, to be honest. The interesting thing about it is that the intro was done on the day we mixed, or very near to it was. I just had this idea come to me. Richie, Bob Rock and I must have got every pot and pan in the place to record it!”
101. "Love's the Only Rule," The Circle (2009)
The studio version of The Circle pales in comparison to their live take, which showed Bon Jovi manifesting their strength into an evocative and powerful statement. Eventually, "Love's the Only Rule" stretched to 10 minutes. The blatant optimism that suffocates most of their post-2000 songs works here, specifically because Sambora, Torres, McDonald and Bryan sound like a band of brothers leaving no one behind. The “wooooah” chants during the live version (officially available only as an Asian import) offer a brief reprieve before the band comes back to drive the message home in a glorious finale.
100. “Midnight in Chelsea,” Destination Anywhere (1997)
Created during the filming of The Leading Man in London, this Dave Stewart co-write found Jon Bon Jovi making the boldest music of his life. During his downtime on the set, Jon escaped to his trailer to compose new songs. “For the first time in my life, it was somewhere I was alone," he said back then. "My whole adult life, I’ve been married with a wife, kids and a band. Before then, I lived with my folks, so I’ve never been alone. So, those hours were precious. I’d sit in the trailer and write songs.”
99. "Hook Me Up," Bounce (2002)
Sambora’s urgent Gibson Flying V features prominently on this steely powerhouse where Bon Jovi follows the story of a young child from Palestine trying to connect with anyone via ham radio. In this way, "Hook Me Up" harkens back to the satellite dishes from the Bounce album cover.
98. "The Hardest Part Is the Night," 7800° Fahrenheit (1985)
Sambora’s slashing guitar seizes on loneliness and despair, tackling the heartless code of the streets where despondency is plentiful – and where nightmares are palpable threats.
97. "Miracle," Blaze of Glory (1990)
The Water Sisters accentuate so much here with striking background vocals that hover just beneath the lead. They also add a warmth to the chorus that makes this track singular in the catalog. An unexpected second single from the soundtrack album, "Miracle" proved to be a hit – reaching No. 12 on the singles chart. Phil Parlapiano’s accordion is also wondrous, while Jeff Beck's solo offers us another slice of guitar heaven.
96. "Staring at Your Window With a Suitcase in My Hand," Destination Anywhere (1997)
Seeking out Black Grape producer Stephen Lironi, Jon Bon Jovi had a key collaborator who would help steer the work toward experimental rock, with dashes of pop and electronic programming. This weeping, one-of-a-kind composition features Lance Quinn – producer of their first two albums – on guitar and David Bryan on keyboard.
95. "Runaway," Bon Jovi (1984)
Recorded at the Power Station with the All-Star Review consisting of E Street Band piano player Roy Bittan; drummer Frankie LaRocka and guitarist Tim Pierce (a pair of musicians from John Waite’s band), and future Bon Jovi bassist Hugh McDonald, "Runaway" was co-written with George Karak. “We worked on ‘Runaway’ a little bit over at Jon’s house in Sayreville," Karak told Bryan Reesman for the book Bon Jovi: The Story. "I had a lot of the song written, but he changed a couple of lines in the second verse." Included on the New York Rocks 1983 compilation by Long Island radio station WAPP, "Runaway" took off in multiple markets – eventually peaking at No. 39 in the spring of 1984. By then, the band had struck a deal with Mercury Records. Today, "Runaway" is one of the few Bon Jovi songs that sounds dated and truly of its time, but the band transformed it into a spectacular show-stopper in concert over the next decade.
94. "Get Ready," Bon Jovi (1984)
Guitars roar like engines in a firestorm on the closing song of their self-titled debut album. Critics of Bon Jovi look past the exuberance they brought to every song. There is a good reason why this full-fledged rocker closed many shows on the Slippery When Wet tour.
93. "Never Say Die," Blaze of Glory (1990)
A scorching rocker featuring drummer Kenny Aronoff and bassist Randy Jackson (a sessions man best known for American Idol), in a resilient and devilish performance. Jeff Beck offers another smoking solo, while Ratt guitarist Robbin Crosby makes an appearance on acoustic guitar.
92. "Homebound Train," New Jersey (1988)
Shoe-horning all of their classic rock influences (Jeff Beck, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Southside Johnny) into one song is a tall order, but Bon Jovi pulls it off – creating their ultimate jam anthem. "Homebound Train" is made complete with harmonica, slide guitar, thundering drums and a delicious organ solo, all before the sound of an engine train returns as a bookend.
91. "If I Was Your Mother," Keep the Faith (1992)
Bob Rock engineered Slippery When Wet and New Jersey and, in the time leading up to Keep the Faith, struck gold producing Dr. Feelgood for Motley Crue and Metallica’s self-titled "Black Album." Taking a cue from the latter project's “Sad But True,” Bon Jovi offers a metal hymn to blood love that became the heftiest, most molten and merciless track in their discography.
90. "Who Says You Can't Go Home," Have a Nice Day (2005)
The most popular and enduring moment from Have a Nice Day also contributed to the album’s many delays. Bon Jovi and their label knew they had a potential crossover hit and were looking for a country superstar to duet with Jon. During the initial recordings in 2004, Bon Jovi talked Keith Urban into coming to the studio to lay down a vocal but, in the end, their vocal styles were too similar. The search continued for several months before management brought in Jennifer Nettles. She had a voice that perfectly complemented the breezy beauty of "Who Says You Can't Go Home."
89. “Nothing,” Have a Nice Day outtake (2005)
The biggest casualty of the new recording sessions in early 2005 was “Nothing.” There is a deceptive and dark power to the song, which opens with an acoustic guitar and piano but builds into a chorus full of hunger and majestic melody, with impassioned vocals from Jon. “Nothing” was eventually given to American Idol runner-up Bo Bice, who recorded it for his debut album The Real Thing.
88. "The End," B-side to “This Ain’t a Love Song” (1995)
A loose and warm demo from the These Days sessions that works as a tribute to those we’ve loved, those we’ve lost and those we will take with us into the next world.
87. "The Fire Inside," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
Originally recorded for Keep the Faith, "The Fire Inside" appeared in the box set as an original acoustic demo at its most instinctive. After not recording together for four years, Bon Jovi was stoking the fire to reignite their internal harmony for the next chapter.
86. "Misunderstood," Bounce (2002)
The band spent much of the '00s chasing music trends better suited for a pure pop band, but this mid-tempo number perfectly encapsulates these pop sensibilities at their best.
85. "Backdoor to Heaven," New Jersey/Sons of Beaches demo (1988)
Sambora’s guitar is a siren seeking salvation on a ballad so piercingly full of ache it makes you wish they had found room for it on New Jersey.
84. "Roulette," Bon Jovi (1984)
The spiraling guitar opener motions to the dark brooding underbelly of a sinful society addicted to crimes of passion. This is Sambora’s first truly great Bon Jovi moment.
83. "Any Other Day," Lost Highway (2007)
This testament to love ascends to new heights in concert but is rarely performed. A straightforward and steady rhythm drives "Any Other Day," until the extended solos at the end. Richie Sambora's sprawling solo finds him spectacularly flexing his fingers, reminding us that his embellishments have the power to elevate material any time he’s in the studio or on the stage.
82. "Breakout," Bon Jovi (1984)
In 1983, Dave “The Snake” Sabo was playing guitar temporarily with the last incarnation of John Bongiovi and the Wild Ones – which, by this time, included David Bryan Rashbaum, Tico Torres and Alec John Such. “Runaway” had given them the traction they needed with the big labels. Then a young guitarist from Perth Amboy, N.J., showed up at one of their gigs. Richie Sambora went backstage afterward, making his case to be a part of the band. They began work on “Breakout,” a track co-written with Rashbaum, at the next rehearsal – even though Bongiovi was late. Within two months, Mercury Records signed them. “Breakout” opened its early shows, and served as a pivotal early-set showcase through 1987.
81. "I Get a Rush," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
Inspired by John Fogerty’s "Rockin' All Over the World," which was later performed with Steven Van Zandt on their 1995 tour. "I Get a Rush," from three years later, is an utter delicacy of joy, with a humble arm-waving chorus.
80. "Starting All Over Again," Keep the Faith (1992)
This track cracks with a yearning desire for commitment as the band rededicates themselves to each other, their music and to their fans. "Starting All Over Again" was criminally left off Keep the Faith because Jon didn’t think he could hit the high notes in concert.
79. "Janie, Don't Take Your Love To Town," Destination Anywhere (1997)
The shuffling, acoustic guitar-driven song owes much to Britpop. Inspired by a row he had with his wife in Amsterdam on Bon Jovi's European 1996 stadium tour, Jon escaped to the washroom where he wrote the song for Dorothea. Despite its tip-of-the-hat to Oasis, it features the most earnest vocal of his career.
78. "The Radio Saved My Life Tonight," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
Written by Jon Bon Jovi on piano, "The Radio Saved My Life Tonight" is a towering cut from a band unleashing one of their more ferocious performances. Left over from Keep the Faith, its fierce force sweeps you off your feet, elevating hearts and minds.
77. "Story of My Life," Have a Nice Day (2005)
“Story of My Life” is a piano-driven song that surges through the storm of a relationship, serving as a reminder that Bon Jovi is still capable of melodic-rock perfection.
76. "Shot Through the Heart," Bon Jovi (1984)
Jack Ponti, a member of the Rest and a longtime friend and associate of Jon’s, co-wrote this song in 1982. "Shot Through the Heart" was recorded at the Power Station, then re-recorded for their debut album, and along the way, it became a standout track filled with uncontrollable rage as the band added several suspenseful sections before the concentrated climax. The definitive versions of the song were performed on the 1985 tour when they added the intro of Cher’s “Bang, Bang” as a perfect segue into David Bryan’s pensive piano chords. The entire band would perform on Cher’s re-recording of the track on her 1987 self-titled Geffen album. Bon Jovi, Sambora and Desmond Child co-produced the cut, along with “We All Sleep Alone.” The title would go on to great fame when the band began to collaborate with Child in 1986.
75. "I Am," Have a Nice Day (2005)
I’ve never had an issue with the band repeating themselves, as long as they mine their strongest material. “I Am” owes a debt of gratitude to “If That’s What It Takes” and, before that, “I’ll Be There For You.” Still, the chorus is so resounding and authentic that this declaration of love stands out as one of their last great love songs.
74. "The Distance," Bounce (2002)
A passionate, meticulously executed pledge of commitment that captures everything Bon Jovi tried to overemphasize on Bounce. “What I found interesting about this song is the juxtaposition of the heavy guitar parts involved with the orchestra, which adds an urgency and helps the lyric come through,” Richie Sambora told Cosmopolis in 2002.
73. "Queen Of New Orleans," Destination Anywhere (1997)
This track finds Bon Jovi dismantling the stadium-rock archetype for a leaner sound. The monotone vocals stand in contrast to the female buck-up singers and the buzz-saw guitars. The longstanding rumor was that American radio programmers loved the song – until they found out who was singing.
72. "My Guitar Lies Bleeding in My Arms," These Days (1995)
Created during a bout of writer’s block. Instead of putting the pen down, Jon and Sambora began scribbling words, collaborating on one of Bon Jovi's most ingenious compositions. “I had these visions of the scene in Tommy where he walks in and there are posters of him all over the wall," Jon told Steffan Chrirazi of Kerrang! before These Days arrived. "I had visions of me walking into a nightmare like that, posters of me staring at me going ‘Well well, go on then, write a record!’”
71. "Good Guys Don't Always Wear White," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
A straight-ahead, guitar-heavy rocker that seamlessly bridges the gap between Keep the Faith and These Days. "Good Guys Don't Always Wear White" was originally released in 1994 on the soundtrack to the motion picture The Cowboy Way, starring Keifer Sutherland and Woody Harrelson and produced by Andy Johns.
70. "Last Cigarette," Have a Nice Day (2005)
“Last Cigarette” fits squarely between the Beach Boys and All-American Rejects. This mashup is nothing short of magnificent, blending approaches that appealed to both the baby boomers and a millennial. "Last Cigarette" was also a foreshadowing of Jon's collaboration with the Beach Boys 2012 reunion album That's Why God Made the Radio: He co-wrote "Summer's Gone" with Brian Wilson and Joe Thomas.
69. "Destination Anywhere," Destination Anywhere (1997)
A slide guitar drives this anthem, which was ready-made for the open road. Jon said that was precisely his goal: “Anywhere you stopped, that’s where you’d lay down at night and sleep, and that’s where you met people and saw things off the beaten path," he said back then. "There was no arena, there was no airport and none of the trappings of life in a rock band. I wanted to capture that in the song.”
68. “Sad Song Night,” B-side to “Midnight in Chelsea” (1997)
A distinctive, resolute guitar is textured over a vigorous rhythm section, as the narrator reflects on “a long ago girl running through my mind.” Her memory is kept alive on these sad nights by a Willie DeVille song they used to dance to.
67. "Open All Night (#2)," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
The band had this title around forever. It was rumored to be the initial name of their sixth album, which instead went on to be called These Days. A song of the same title is on Bounce, but the real gem is the 1994 version found on the box set. Written from the perspective of a man whose love has left him, "Open All Night (#2)" nevertheless features music with a sanguine tone. As he waits for her to return, the memory is again kept alive through music: “I'll keep the jukebox playing our favorite song.”
66. "I'd Die For You," Slippery When Wet (1986)
A passionate and beseeching love song thrown into zealous overdrive, with David Bryan’s keyboard receiving a forceful workout. The demo version has completely different verses before Desmond Child came in for a rewrite.
65. "Mystery Train," Crush (2000)
A picturesque and delightful acoustic charmer co-written with Billy Falcon that found Jon Bon Jovi channeling old favorites. “My lyrical heroes, Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen, could be proud of the pictures I have created in this song," Jon said in 2000.
64. "Bitter Wine," These Days (1995)
Originally demoed in a boisterous rock arrangement similar to Joe Cocker’s intro on “With a Little Help From My Friends,” but later stripped back to a bare and beautiful acoustic arrangement reminiscent of the Rolling Stones' “Wild Horses.”
63. "Learning How To Fall," Destination Anywhere (1997)
“Learning How to Fall” takes a cue from Alanis Morissette’s “Hand in My Pocket” with layered rhythms, loops and a melodic harmonica, but it is Bon Jovi’s vocal punctuation on the chorus that hoists the song.
62. "When We Were Beautiful," The Circle (2009)
While Bon Jovi occasionally over-reached in their desire to connect on The Circle, “When We Were Beautiful” masterfully sums up the state of the world in 2009 – while also enthralling your psyche and tugging at your heartstrings. The band sounds like a tsunami of emotion on a song that's stronger than anything else on this album. Unfortunately, parallel themes have explored the point of tedium elsewhere.
61. "Lie to Me," These Days (1995)
This sullen ballad is gorgeous, as they paint a landscape of fear and trepidation; Sambora’s duet-like serenade acts as a call and response to Jon Bon Jovi’s understated vocals. In 1995, Jon Bon Jovi said "Lie to Me" was “probably Tommy and Gina’s story 10 years on. Though their dreams are gone, if they don’t have each other, there’s nothing left worth holding on for.”
60. "Only in My Dreams" 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
Jon Bon Jovi wrote this anomaly for Tico Torres to sing in 1994, creating one of their greatest treasures – and one that’s not well known. "His natural voice is Tom Waits and Louie Armstrong," Jon said in 2004. "He’s a stylist." The arrangement is similar to Waits’ "Innocent When You Dream" in the best way imaginable, with Torres punctuating the despondency of the narrator who pleas with the Lord to bring back his angel: “Lord, I'd sacrifice my eyes, there's nothing else I'd rather see / You can have my heart, it's of little use to me / And if you want my soul, I'd throw it in for free.” “Only In My Dreams” is a miracle of a song.
59. "American Reckoning" 2020 (2020)
The last song written for 2020 was inspired by the death of George Floyd in May of 2020. Jon Bon Jovi is not afraid to get his hands dirty on his most politically distressing song since the These Days era. Bon Jovi goes beyond the anguish of this avoidable death and tackles his privilege as well. On albums like The Circle and What About Now the socially conscious songs felt a little too broad and rudimentary, but on "American Reckoning" he isn't shying away from controversy. "I was moved to write 'American Reckoning' as a witness to history," Bon Jovi told Rolling Stone at the time. "I believe the greatest gift of an artist is the ability to use their voice to speak to issues that move us." The solemn arrangement reflects the deep affection he has for the agony of many, but more notably he recognizes that his privilege and experiences are not the same: "I'll never know what it's like / To walk a mile in his shoes / And I'll never have to have the talk / So it don't happen to you." His frail voice echoes the fragile mental nature of the country and it tips its hat to the folk protest music of the 1960s where Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan delivered piercing protest songs to the masses with their voices and an acoustic guitar, which is precisely how Bon Jovi weaves this pensive tale of loss. With a guitar and harmonica (used for the first time on an album since These Days) he transmits his views in a most disciplined manner on a song where there is a valuable lesson to be learned, not just for himself but all his audience as well. "American Reckoning" may not remind people about the liberation of their youth, but the song is a map to a better, more empathetic and inclusive future.
58. "All I Want is Everything," These Days (1995)
Heavily inspired by Prince’s “Sign o' the Times,” this stinging third-person narrative finds the verses drowning in nuanced trepidation while the chorus hoists their hopes to the stars. “This is an observation of the Generation X theory that you can’t have anything. I’m saying you can!" Jon told Steffan Chirazi of Kerrang! before the release of These Days in 1995. "I loved the character in the song saying ‘I’ve had enough of having nothing.’ I love the underdog attitude. I want people to just think, ‘Fuck telling me what I cannot have!’ And if I could leave one message without sounding too deep, then that is it.”
57. "Tokyo Road," 7800° Fahrenheit (1985)
They open with a music box playing the Japanese folk song "Sakura Sakura (Cherry Blossom)," which uses spring as a theme before Richie Sambora introduces the world to Bon Jovi’s greatest whammy bar jam. The band overreaches on every note of this song, but it’s magnificent to hear them swinging for the fences. Drenched in a melodic pop-metal atmosphere that shifts into overdrive, "Tokyo Road" is powered by a transcendent bridge that features Sambora’s best use of finger tapping.
56. "Hearts Breaking Even," These Days (1995)
Bon Jovi's rhythm-and-blues influence resurfaces again on another upbeat, soulful cut. While Sambora and Bon Jovi were mostly inseparable during the writing of this record, this is a rare Jon Bon Jovi/Desmond Child collaboration without the King of Swing. Jon later confirmed that "Hearts Breaking Even" was “written about Richie and his incredible love life, [but] he wasn’t there that day. He was off to a blind date with a girl that later became his wife.” It's perfectly ebullient sounding, but "Hearts Breaking Even" is ultimately about how breaking hearts is a perfect crime.
55. “Blood Money,” Blaze of Glory (1990)
Dedicated to Bob Dylan, this acoustic number was inspired by Dylan’s soundtrack to Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, in which he starred. The bare acoustic guitar, harmonica and accordion make for a gem of a song that doesn’t feel the least bit forced. Instead, "Blood Money" becomes a more internal composition, as a young rock star who had reached the highest peaks rock 'n' roll could offer begins to question his faith and place in the world – following much the same path as Billy the Kid saga in Young Guns II. Bon Jovi performed extra verses when he went on the Rockline radio show to promote Blaze of Glory, creating the definitive version of this song.
54. "Silent Night," 7800° Fahrenheit (1985)
The band’s first great ballad didn’t fully reveal itself until the Slippery When Wet tour. There, Bon Jovi's alter ego, Captain Kidd, flew over the crowd to a small platform at the back of the arena before David Bryan’s keyboards helped "Silent Night" shift into a moment of protracted, over-the-top catharsis. These concerts, documented on a mesmerizing FM broadcast from the Cincinnati Gardens in March 1987, find the band stretching this song to the furthest reaches possible as if it was a full-on confessional. Swirling ad-libs are matched only by the band’s triumphant performance for every second of what became a 10-minute expulsion of words.
53. "Saturday Night Gave Me Sunday Morning," Burning Bridges (2015)
Capturing their youthful vigor, this rousing anthem finds Bon Jovi tapping into youthful glories like “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night.” Of course, plagiarizing yourself has never been an issue, especially when a song is as unquestionably great as this one. Lacking originality or not, "Saturday Night Gave Me Sunday Morning" is an illustration of Bon Jovi at their best – and it provided a high point on a contract-filler compilation. John Aizlewood of the Evening Standard once noted on the Rock Legends television program that "there's always been a spark of greatness in everything that they’ve done." "Saturday Night Gave Me Sunday Morning" is another example. Still, it might have been even better: Written originally for The Circle, this is the only song on Burning Bridges co-written by the now-departed Sambora. His vocals and guitars were removed from the released version so Bon Jovi wouldn’t have to pay him royalties. If his work has been retained, this song would rank even higher.
52. “We All Sleep Alone,” live performance (1990)
Bon Jovi originally played on this No. 11 Billboard hit for Cher from 1988; "We All Sleep Alone" also marked the first major co-production credits for both Bon Jovi and Sambora, in partnership with Desmond Child. They only played it one time, however, during a special charity show held on Jan. 10, 1990, at the Hammersmith Odeon for a special charity show, as seen in the Bon Jovi documentary Access All Areas. The arrangement is spacious and pining, but it’s the closing chorus that brings everything home as Sambora’s guitar cries and the band sings “Ooh-Ooh-Ooh-A” in unison. Sambora later resurrected “We All Sleep Alone” in late 1991 for his first-ever solo tour.
51. "Love for Sale," New Jersey (1988)
Even at a young age, I always knew there was always something that distinguished Bon Jovi from their hard-rock peers. No one was attempting an acoustic blues jam to close out their albums, let alone the year’s most-anticipated studio project. One listen to the Sons of Beaches demos and you can point to at least a half dozen more radio-friendly songs that easily could have taken its place. But that wouldn’t have given New Jersey its edge, and the album would not hold up as well as it does today.
50. "Captain Crash and the Beauty Queen from Mars," Crush (2000)
Bon Jovi sounds like giddy kids on this guitar-heavy rocker. Sambora made the trek to Rome, Italy, where Jon was filming U-571, to co-write "Captain Crash and the Beauty Queen from Mars." "Let's think of this guy and let's make him more Ziggy Stardust," Jon said in 2000, "and make this fictional story of two screw-ups." An absolute delight, this fan favorite captures the youthful splendor of their earlier work while also – thanks to an obvious lift of the melody from Oasis' 1997 B-side “Stay Young” – managing to sound current.
49. "You Really Got Me Now," Blaze of Glory (1990)
Little Richard joined Bon Jovi onstage in Los Angeles in 1989 and Jon returned the favor by inviting the early rock legend to the Blaze of Glory sessions. The result was a rootsy rocker which has the feeling of a mono recording from the '50s; "You Really Got Me Now," is simply brimming with admiration, affection and gusto. Jon even hands off the second verse to Little Richard to sing. “Me, Waddy [Watchtel], and Kootch [Danny Kortchmar] played guitar while Kenny [Aronoff] played just a single snare drum and banged his boot on the floor," Jon told Roy Trakin in 1990. "Benmont Tench wanted to play on it so bad, but there was no space left in the circle we were sitting in, so he had to play along with the track in another room. When Little Richard wanted to take a verse, I wrote the lyrics out in big letters so he could read and sing at the same time. And I called out the solos as each one came up.”
48. "Always Run to You," 7800° Fahrenheit (1985)
I like to think this song takes place in a fictitious underworld where the narrator is caught in the crosshairs. "Always Run to You" feels like an '80s made-for-TV movie, with the theatrical cues provided by Bon Jovi. They begin with a rapturous extended drum intro, adding cowbell no less, then the sound of a mounting synthesizer slips its way in before a tactile guitar riff leads it to the first verse. More than 40 seconds have passed before Jon sings “The clock strikes 10” and we’re off to the races. He talks obliquely about rumbles on the dark side of town and a woman who has something he needs. Is it a sensual pleasure? A chemical one? We don’t know, but at 1:22 the melodramatic synthesizer returns as Jon proclaims “I stand accused,” and tells this woman he can always run. Every bit as mysterious, the second verse features the lyric: “We've done more white lines than you'll know, any one we could steal.” For years, many assumed they were lines of cocaine, making you think the narrator is either dealing drugs or using them. Sadly, Jon confirmed in an early-'90s fan-club interview that they were instead the broken white lines found on a road, taking "Always Run to You" a few notches down on a cool meter. Regardless, I’m going to keep thinking there’s a sinister underworld plot, instead of just a young man’s flesh fantasy. Either way, it won’t stop me from reveling in the tour de force performance Bon Jovi put together for this one, though "Always Run to You" was only performed a handful of times in Japan and Europe in 1985 before it was retired.
47. “Santa Fe,” Blaze of Glory (1990)
In the film adaptation of About a Boy, Hugh Grant’s eternally jobless and single character Will incorrectly credits Bon Jovi with the phrase “no man is an island.” It's amusing because Jon used this famous phrase in one track – “Santa Fe” – on an album inspired by an American cowboy. The theme returns throughout About a Boy and it’s a good laugh, but the song is a serious tale of a man coming to grips with his mortality knowing that he will have to pay for his sins. There’s so much to admire in “Santa Fe,” from the orchestral arrangement that defines its melody, to the verses about a man questioning his life, its purpose and the hell that awaits him. Jon Bon Jovi’s soaring vocals are what seep into your bones, however. Nothing about the Young Guns II project should have worked; in fact, it should have been a preposterous exercise in vanity, but it’s not. Jon Bon Jovi brought his A-game to these sessions. Tapping into his Catholic upbringing, Jon channels anger and guilt into what may be his finest vocal performance, sounding like a man on fire seeking absolution.
46. “Cadillac Man,” live performance (1990)
This wonderful acoustic track was written in late 1989 for the Robin Williams movie of the same name. “Cadillac Man” then debuted at the legendary Hammersmith Odeon show in January 1990, reappeared again on their mini Japan tour and local charity shows over the next year, and then disappeared. For reasons never explained, “Cadillac Man” didn’t make it into the movie, and the band never committed it to tape. They didn’t start recording Keep the Faith until early 1992, and they most likely had moved on at that point. Still, the live bootlegs reveal a sublime song about a man who knows his limitations in life but uses his street smarts to make something of himself. Even when the deck is stacked against him, he finds a way to look in the mirror and smile – knowing the next life adventure is right around the corner.
45. "Fields of Fire," These Days: Special UK Edition (1996)
Demoed for Keep the Faith, it was eventually released on a bonus disc in 1996 to help promote a summer tour of the U.K. Featuring a rallying cry that captures themes of renewal and maturity, "Fields of Fire" finds the band channeling their us-against-the-world mentality to rekindle the flames of youth. The song was ultimately only performed a few times by Jon Bon Jovi alone on acoustic; it was also part of their rehearsals for An Evening with Bon Jovi in 1992 and included Richie Sambora in the second verse.
44."It's My Life," Crush (2000)
Borrowing from the Animals and reintroducing Tommy & Gina and the talk box, “It’s My Life” re-made the multi-million dollar Bon Jovi into a billion-dollar band. I don’t think Bon Jovi ever would have gone away, but it reignited a love for the band and brought the masses back. The song was co-written with Max Martin, who had recently achieved massive success writing songs for Britney Spears, notably “...Baby One More Time.” “Max came into the studio and kicked me and Richie in the pants," Jon told Classic Rock magazine in 2001. "He hadn’t worked with a rock band before, so he went off to Sweden and put these loops and stuff in and sent them over, and the background arrangement was really fucking great, and we went in and used the loops and that arrangement of the backing vocals. Give the kid all the credit in the world.”
43. "Something for the Pain," These Days (1995)
By the time it arrived as the second single from These Days, "Something for the Pain" bore little resemblance to an original performance during the band’s charity run of Christmas concerts in December 1994. “We re-wrote it 10 times!" Bon Jovi later told Kerrang! "John Kalodner is an old-style record producer-type A&R guy, and Columbia let him advise artists outside the label. John said ‘Let’s put an accordion on this song, and a 12-string Rickenbacker!’ This song was meant to sound like T-Rex, and it turns into something so incredibly unique that we can’t even decide where it came from.”
42. "Raise Your Hands," Slippery When Wet (1986)
"'Raise Your Hands' is my way of saying ‘Good morning, class,’” Jon told Metal Edge’s Gerri Miller in 1986. This arms-to-the-air anthem cracks open Side 2 of Slippery When Wet in grand fashion; it remains one of the most absorbing rockers in their catalog.
41. "Miss Fourth of July," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
Written and recorded for the Keep the Faith album during Jon’s self-imposed “grey period,” this is the saddest song in their catalog. "Miss Fourth of July" pairs wistful and melancholic lyrics with a solemn instrumentation tinted by David Bryan’s accordion. “I was really concerned with the innocence that I had when I picked up a guitar as a teenager was gone," Jon said in the box-set liner notes, "and gone forever.” Upon listening to the box set for the first time, Sambora told Jon: “You know, this is my favorite that we never did.”
40. "Never Say Goodbye," Slippery When Wet (1986)
The initial track list for this album only had nine songs, but "Never Say Goodbye" was added at the last minute after some serious lobbying from Richie. "I was pretty much emphatic about that being on the record," he later said, "because I thought that it was a very sentimental song to our fans and something that should end up this whole record.” The demo features Richie Sambora on vocals, though an explanation as to why was never given. Mercury Records wanted this as the third single from Slippery When Wet, and it may very well have given the band their third No. 1 song in a row. To their credit, however, Bon Jovi shelved it in favor of “Wanted Dead or Alive.” Still, "Never Say Goodbye," was sent to radio stations before “Wanted,” so it received considerable airplay; it even cracked the Top 20 airplay chart. A video was also completed exclusively for the VHS video collection. The definitive version of "Never Say Goodbye" is an acoustic live rendition, put on the B-side to “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” in 1993. The sight of those two men at the tip of the stage, harmonizing and reminiscing as the crowd carries the song is a perfect reflection of why this band inspires.
39. "Lonely at the Top," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
This song could potentially turn a non-Bon Jovi fan into a believer. Originally released in 1995 as a B-side, "Lonely at the Top" was written for Kurt Cobain's daughter Frances. Its evocative vocal is a great tribute to the doomed rocker. "That really beat me up plenty, because I felt for him," Jon told Q magazine in 1995. "But I felt more for his daughter, having a daughter the same age.” Bon Jovi may not have known Cobain's child, but he wrote her a powerful hymn highlighted by this tear-jerking lyric: "I'm sorry you didn't get to know your dad / I bet he's sorry he didn't get to know you too." Perhaps because it was such a deviation for the band, "Lonely at the Top" was only available as part of the “This Ain’t a Love Song” single before its box-set release.
38. "Let It Rock," Slippery When Wet (1986)
A bodacious, bold and blistering way to open their blockbuster, David Bryan’s instrumental organ intro (entitled “Pink Flamingos”) sets the tone for the never-ending weekend.
37. "Bed of Roses," Keep the Faith (1988)
The melancholic track was written by Jon Bon Jovi during what he called the “gray summer” of 1991 when the future of the band was in flux, he came up with the first few lines but then discarded almost all of it. That was on the advice of Blaze of Glory producer and collaborator Danny Kortchmar, who nevertheless urged him to keep working on the “sitting here wasted and wounded” song. By the time it premiered at the band’s annual Christmas show in Red Bank, N.J., "Bed of Roses" had become their most grandiose ballad. “I think that’s a great song and a wonderful ballad," Richie Sambora told Metal Hammer in 1994." Jon bared his soul. Of course, it was to his wife, and how much he cared about her.”
36. "Blaze of Glory," Blaze of Glory (1990)
Jon Bon Jovi’s fifth No. 1 song in five years features a mighty guitar solo by Jeff Beck. He'd been called down to the set of Young Guns II by Emilio Estevez, whom he met through Ally Sheedy after the producers considered and then rejected "Wanted Dead or Alive" for the end credits because it didn’t make sense lyrically. Bon Jovi ended up having a minor cameo in the film; inspired by time on the set, he wrote three additional songs. In an attempt to market the songs, his label floated the possibility of including other tunes by up-and-coming Mercury artists, but Bon Jovi was ready to attempt a full album. He only had six weeks to pull it all together, but he did – and this gigantic cowboy anthem earned Bon Jovi a Golden Globe. "Blaze of Glory" also received a nomination at the Oscars, where Jon was joined for an onstage performance by his band of brothers.
35. "Ugly," Destination Anywhere (1997)
A bare love song disguised as a tongue-in-cheek mid-tempo cut, "Ugly" is arguably the most ingenious song of Jon Bon Jovi's career. The nuance in his smoky vocal, which is steered by a murky guitar, only heightens the irony of the title. "Ugly" could have been rewritten to be a saccharine power ballad, but the restraint helps this song bloom. That's a tribute in part to co-producer Eric Bazilian, who Jon brought in after the Hooter's co-founder had massive chart success with Joan Osbourne's version of his song "One of Us."
34. "(It's Hard) Letting You Go," These Days (1995)
Composed for Jon Bon Jovi’s film debut in Moonlight and Valentino, where the narrator yearns for a lost love who is never coming back, "(It's Hard) Letting You Go" is catastrophically devastating – harkening back to Peter Gabriel at his best. “I wrote it as a gift to one of the producers who was so kind to me," Jon later said. "I gave her the cassette and she loved it. So, I recorded it.” Moments of desperation, where loneliness is channeled through Sambora’s guitar, come to the forefront. Bon Jovi has always had a penchant for tackling themes their audience can relate to, but there is a somber maturity on this track.
33. "(You Want To) Make a Memory," Lost Highway (2007)
This is a departure for Bon Jovi, yet so refreshingly earnest. The lyrics to "(You Want To) Make a Memory," this album’s most mystifying and challenging track, hit home. It almost feels like the band was letting us into their inner sanctum as if Bon Jovi and Sambora wrote this languid, gorgeous and sedate song for each other. They sound like an entirely different band – and that's what excites me about "(You Want To) Make a Memory." It can be interpreted in many different ways. They headed down the road less traveled here, and it is a shame the rest of Lost Highway is nowhere near as ambitious.
32. "Diamond Ring," These Days (1995)
Although written in 1988 for New Jersey, "Diamond Ring," was quickly earmarked for the band's next chapter – but not before Bon Jovi performed it on Rockline the night before the album’s release that September. This song then reappeared during the Red Bank charity shows in December 1990 and during their January 1991 tour of Japan. "Diamond Ring" was later targeted as one of three “new” songs for their forthcoming record. It didn’t make the cut on Keep the Faith either, even though Bon Jovi performed it again on Rockline in December 1992. After yet another performance on Rockline, this time in October 1994, "Diamond Ring" finally appeared on their 1995 release These Days. The final version is led by acoustic guitars, a sullen backdrop of tantalizing rhythm, and smoldering vocals by Sambora and Bon Jovi.
31. "Wild in the Streets," Slippery When Wet (1986)
Written for Jon Bon Jovi's younger brother Tony, this jubilant number was originally the B-side of “Livin’ on a Prayer,” but the band thought enough of it to film a video that was found exclusively on the Slippery When Wet: The Videos. (And yes, Jon is wearing a T-shirt featuring U2's The Unforgettable Fire.) Full confession, Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield inspired me to rank this one at least a dozen spots higher because of his love for the song: “I always think ‘Wild in the Streets’ could have been Bon Jovi's biggest, bonniest and Joviest hit, but for some reason, they never played it on the radio; it's the one that got away. I also love how Jon yells that nutty "rock me!" during the guitar solo. Someday, I pray that Morrissey will cover this – and change it to ‘Wilde in the Streets.’”
30. "Let's Make it Baby," New Jersey/Sons of Beaches demo (1988)
Following their impulses, the band crafted a seismic ode to unspoken desires. Don’t let the title fool you: There’s nuance and a delicate dance on this largely unknown track. The song made waves when the demo tape leaked, then Bon Jovi shockingly put an edited version of this track on a 2-CD re-issue of These Days meant to promote a 1996 summer tour of Europe. The longer version is led by a lingering bass, jazzy drums, a distinctive organ and Sambora’s talk box hauntingly harmonizes with Bon Jovi’s hazy vocals. One can understand that a highly erotic meditation wouldn’t fit well on New Jersey, and I guess we should feel fortunate it’s been released at all.
29. "Bad Medicine," New Jersey (1988)
Ringing keyboards inaugurate a tongue-in-cheek rocker that heralded the band’s return in the fall of 1988. It all began by chance. “That was a funny situation because that chorus was essentially written when we were shooting a commercial for Fuji tape in Japan, standing in water up to our knees!" Richie Sambora told Metal Hammer in 1994. "I was in a rocky, volatile relationship at that point, and all of a sudden this title just banged up into my head: ‘Bad Medicine.’ I walked up to Jon on the set between takes and I said it to him, and he said ‘Yeah, hang onto that because we’re going to make that real good.’ We rewrote it and rewrote it and rewrote it, until it was really, really very good.”
28. "If That's What It Takes," These Days (1995)
Tucked away as the penultimate track on These Days, this may be the most underrated cut in Bon Jovi’s discography. "If That's What It Takes" has never been played live, despite being fused with some of the most expressive playings in the band’s history. Richie Sambora’s fondness is exemplified by the shifting chord changes, the love and longing of his solos and by the closing – which finds Sambora and Torres riding this one off into the sunset with a never-ending guitar solo and crashing cymbals. “Musically, it was greatly influenced by Richie," Jon told Metal Edge in 1995. "He’s real fond of it.” Listen to the way Bon Jovi sells the final line of the first verse (“But I'd bet my life on a roll of the dice for you”): This is a resounding pledge to someone who needs it and a flawless performance that makes you believe every word sung and every last note wrung from their instruments.
27. "Always," Cross Road (1994)
"Always" was originally written for the Gary Oldman film Romeo Is Bleeding, but was pulled by Jon because he did not like the movie. A&R man John Kalodner heard the original demo, recorded on the road in 1993, and urged the band to re-record it with producer Peter Collins. "Always" was eventually released on the compilation Cross Road in late 1994. It gave the band its biggest international hit, and it spent upwards of six months in the U.S. Top 10. The instrumentation on this cut is ethereal, with the band congealing in an opulent manner highlighted by an opening drum roll, lush piano, subtle orchestration and vocals that shift from whispers to howls. "Always" is a contender for the best-produced song in Bon Jovi's catalog.
26. "Stick to Your Guns," New Jersey (1988)
Jon Bon Jovi played the Slippery When Wet demos to a handful of kids in 1986, dubbed the “Pizza Parlor Jury.” That made him reconsider “Wild in the Streets,” “Never Say Goodbye” and “Livin’ on a Prayer.” Taking an if-it-ain’t-broke, why-fix-it approach to choosing the songs for New Jersey, the band sought out advice from friends, fans and family members to help them narrow down a pool of more than two dozen songs for the final album. Bon Jovi was surprised by the reaction “Stick to Your Guns” and “Wild is the Wind” received, helping those two tracks make the final cut. Playing against a cowboy motif about standing your ground (“when you spit, you better mean it”), Sambora’s guitar dominates with David Bryan’s keyboard chiming in for a triumphant sound that is quite affecting.
25. "Something to Believe In," These Days (1995)
A dramatic departure where the bass and drums are an imposing force, "Something to Believe In" takes the band into uncharted narrative waters. This soul is a witness to the contradictions of life but manages to pull himself out of a self-imposed prison to face the world. “It’s the first one I wrote for the record, very introspective," Bon Jovi said later. "Just a guy that’s questioning everything around him.”
24. "In These Arms," Keep the Faith (1992)
This cut was created with David Bryan in 1992 at Jon’s Malibu house. “David wanted to write a song so bad," Bon Jovi said in a promotional video back in 2010, "and I started to write that with him and we were calling it ‘Changing Water Into Wine,’ and it never worked. Then Richie came over.” Sambora liked what he heard and told them about a title from a ballad he wrote five years earlier, “If You Were In These Arms Tonight.” The mid-tempo love song overflows with cheerful seduction and a chorus that emphasizes Bryan and Sambora’s pipes.
23. "August 7, 4:15," Destination Anywhere (1997)
Bon Jovi wrote this out of anguish in August 1996 after long-time manager Paul Korzilius’ six-year-old daughter was mysteriously found dead in her Texas neighborhood. The lashing rhythm and searing guitars give passage to the indescribable pain of a parent burying their child. In 1998, Unsolved Mysteries aired a program on the incident in the hopes it could be resolved, but the death remained unsolved. An agonizing chapter in Bon Jovi’s history culminates during these 296 seconds with a dynamic drive infusing every player. As the sound of a car whisks off into the night, so did a lot of hopes and dreams from those left behind.
22. "Living in Sin," New Jersey (1988)
The only song from New Jersey to be written in California, this solo Jon Bon Jovi composition became the band’s fifth Top 10 hit from the album – a record for a hard-rock band. (Bon Jovi was one of only a few rock groups to ever achieve this; Genesis and Huey Lewis & the News did it first while Def Leppard just missed it.) Digging into his Catholic upbringing, Bon Jovi carefully peels off layers of lyrics while the band dexterously follows his lead, sounding larger than life. "Living in Sin" really opens up after the second chorus and guitar solo, where you can feel the pressure ready to pop: “I don't know where to begin / I don't know where we fit in / sometimes it scares me.” A four-piece rock orchestra, led by David Bryan’s keyboards, Sambora’s substantial guitar and Bon Jovi’s gale-force vocals, then signals the song home.
21. "Damned," These Days (1995)
Another rhythm-and-blues burner that had Jon excited when interviewed about the album in 1995; “I can’t wait to play it live," he said. "I used the Asbury Juke horn section. I wanna be a Juke! My most prized possession is a blue satin Juke jacket from ’77!” The scrupulous soul groove wouldn’t have been out of place on a Southside Johnny record, and always raised the temperature of the venue when performed live.
20. “Every Word Was a Piece of My Heart,” Destination Anywhere (1997)
A breathtaking composition of openness directed at the band from their restless leader, "Every Word Was a Piece of My Heart" was written in Vienna during Bon Jovi’s 1996 tour. "'Every Word' is a song I’d written on the road with the band. I wrote this song with the idea that making no apologies, here it is," Jon remembered. "This is what I did, and like it or not, 'Every Word' was all I had to give." The song is unique for having two equally stupendous versions. Producer Steve Lironi’s downbeat edition made the final cut, while the energetic and eager Dave Stewart mix became a B-side. This relationship can be summed up with the lines: “You know that I love you, but I hate you / 'Cause I know I can never escape you.”
19. "Bang a Drum," Blaze of Glory (1990)
One of Jon Bon Jovi’s most grandiose statements, "Bang a Drum" features a nimble arrangement and a poignant Jeff Beck solo punctuated once again by the Waters Sisters' gospel hues. Despite being boxed in by the events of Young Guns II, this is the one song that bears little connotation to the finished film. Instead, it is a humanistic hymn to life’s ambiguities. The job of an artist is to give a voice to those who don’t have one, and Bon Jovi dives into an America he would study closer in the coming years, putting a spotlight on those who struggle to survive. The arrangement and gospel tinges are so beautifully shaped, it hits you square in the heart. Bon Jovi would often mine similar themes after “It’s My Life,” but none were as poetic or not perfect as this one. Country singer Chris LeDoux later covered "Bang a Drum" as a duet with Jon Bon Jovi for his 1998 One Road Man album.
18. "Born to Be My Baby," New Jersey (1988)
Counting it off “2-3-4, na-na-na-na-na!," Jon Bon Jovi greets the listener to a loose sequel to “Livin’ on a Prayer.” The down-on-your-luck couple returns in a song that is chock full of resolve, and the band defiantly tears through it. "Born to Be My Baby" was brought to conclusion in concert during the New Jersey tour with an extended harmonica solo by Jon. He'd wanted to include that on the album version, too, but was voted down 4-1.
17. "Hey God," These Days (1995)
The album opener sounds like the roar of a sledgehammer as it throws you into the thick of a battle of haves and have-nots that is relentless and cruel, leading to a dazzling musical climax that leaves you emotionally exhausted. “An observation: I don’t know how I can walk down 57th Street in Manhattan and step over a guy who’s sleeping in the street. It makes no sense to me," Jon told Kerrang! magazine at the time of the album’s release. "Why does America have to have this? You get the guilties. ‘Why not me?’"
16. "Next 100 Years," Crush (2000)
Despite their enormous success in Japan, Bon Jovi didn't score their first No. 1 single there until "Next 100 Years" hit in 1999 – and it was a cover version by J-Friends, a supergroup of boy bands from Japan that were formed to raise funds for the education of children involved in the Great Hanshin earthquake. “We sent them the original demo," Jon said, "and they recorded it.” Meanwhile, Bon Jovi planned for their version to be the centerpiece of a forthcoming album; it also became a dizzying musical celebration of camaraderie: Sambora’s solo is his second-best ever, superseded only by “Dry County.” “I came up with a crazy idea to add this double-time jam that lets me go kind of crazy as a guitar player," Sambora said back then. "They basically let me go nuts for like three minutes, which I think people dig live, and it also gives me a chance to expand myself as a guitar player. I think what that does is tell people that this band is still a rock band."
15. "Just Older," Crush (2000)
Written in 1998 for a potential solo album that eventually became Bon Jovi's Crush, this song takes the listener on a journey that speaks as much to Jon’s experiences as our own. "When I sang this, my chest was out, my backbone was straight and I was very excited singing it – and I saw that the audience felt that," Jon said. "It’s a question of feeling experience because of the song." The chorus is one of Jon’s best: "I like the bed I'm sleeping in / It's just like me, it's broken in / It's not old – just older / Like a favorite pair of torn blue jeans / This skin I'm in, it's alright with me / It's not old - just older." This song is a celebration of being.
14. "You Give Love a Bad Name," Slippery When Wet (1986)
On their most perfect pop single, the hook, the chorus, the switchblade guitar and the a capella opening made jilted love sound good. Jon Bon Jovi viewed Bryan Adams with envy – not because of his recorded success, but his ability to write songs for other people. Being a realist and a shrewd businessman, Bon Jovi knew that if his band didn’t make it, he could make a living writing song for other people. Paul Stanley recommended he begin a partnership with Desmond Child, who had co-written Kiss' “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” and “Heaven’s On Fire.” "You Give Love a Bad Name" was the second song they wrote, and Bon Jovi and Sambora wisely decided to keep it for themselves. Unbeknownst to the band or Mercury Records, Desmond was essentially plagiarizing himself, since the melody had originally been written for Bonnie Tyler under the title "If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man)." That single flopped and Child repurposed the idea, arriving at the meeting with the title “You Give Love a Bad Name” in his back pocket. They paired that with “Shot Through the Heart,” an earlier Bon Jovi title, and the rest is history.
13. "This Ain't a Love Song," These Days (1995)
You could see a great blues artist in a Chicago nightclub tear through this song, which stands as one of Bon Jovi's most unappreciated classics – despite reaching No. 14 on the Billboard singles chart in the summer of 1995. “It’s just us doing R&B," Jon told Kerrang! "A great, great singer with a voice better than mine could have a blast here! Otis Redding, for example. It’s us flexing a little more of our influences.” The sonic grittiness and lyrical sophistication hit all the perfect notes, while the Bob Clearmountain mix allows the song to breathe. It's this intimacy that allows the listener to feel the heartbeat of the storyteller, as Bon Jovi evolved from lighter anthems to more mature fare.
12. "Someday I'll Be Saturday Night," Cross Road (1994)
Bruising guitars born out of bad luck come into focus in the verses, where downtrodden lives have been derailed – but the search for a remedy bursts to life on the chorus, where they seek a connection to combat the chaos. Written in early 1994, "Someday I'll Be Saturday Night," was inspired by the Oliver Stone movie Talk Radio. When the band took longer than expected to write what would become These Days, their label asked for a pair of songs for the greatest hits compilation Cross Road. Of the new compositions, they loved “Saturday Night” the most and gave it the coveted spot.
11. "Lay Your Hands on Me," New Jersey (1988)
While tracking New Jersey in Vancouver, the video production team of producer Curt Marvis and director Wayne Isham encouraged Bon Jovi to write a song to open their show in a grand and mighty fashion. The result is one of the finest moments of the pop-metal era. It’s entirely possible they lifted the title from Peter Gabriel. The band caught Gabriel on July 11, 1987, in Toronto, during a rare night off on the Slippery When Wet tour. Toward the end of the main set, Gabriel stretched his arms into the air and dropped himself backward onto the crowd; they then lifted and carried him, ultimately stripping him off his shirt. It had to have made an impression. What Bon Jovi did was borrow his vision, build on it and make it their own. The accompanying clip is Bon Jovi on steroids, as the performance is edited to show more pyrotechnics than you would find at a Kiss concert, a catwalk that hovered above the audience giving those in the nosebleeds an up-close look at the band, and a crowd interaction which is the hallmark of their live shows. Standing on the catwalk during the bridge, Jon hangs his microphone out and cuts the band off. “Just the people,” he says, and the crowd chants the chorus before Jon asks “Just a little louder, won’t you now?” The crowd continues its sing-along and Jon asks “One more time,” as he stretches his arms out counting off “1-2-3-4,” leading to the pyrotechnic finale. (It's not for nothing that Chuck Klosterman called Bon Jovi the “Jedi Masters” of the music video. “From a creative standpoint, no other band could rival their sincere appreciation for the audience," Klosterman wrote in his first book, Fargo Rock City. "Watching a Bon Jovi video made you want to see them for real, even if you didn’t like their songs. And why? Because they seemed legitimately honored to be performing for their fans.”) In the end, there’s a spiritual quality to the song, reflected on Dolly Parton’s 2014 cover. To some, it may be crude, unsophisticated and blatant but to a generation of fans, it was the road to salvation. The video for “Lay Your Hands on Me” was a raucous celebration of the band and fans as they become one. This is the single greatest live video ever to grace MTV in its prime. The big four of pop-metal (Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Motley Crue and Poison) all made variations of this clip, but the sheer dynamism of Bon Jovi takes the song and the video to a higher plane.
10. "Wild is the Wind," New Jersey (1988)
This deep cut from their second-best album deserves its placement for a few reasons. "Wild is the Wind" opens with an introspective acoustic guitar and an array of emotions from the band, musically and vocally, which find them truly exposed. The softer verses shift tonally on the chorus, where "Wild is the Wind" sounds like a conquest of love, but it’s underscored by heart-rending lyrics. Torres’ placid drums are a ticking time bomb of emotion, as the narrator comes to terms with knowing he’s not good enough for the woman he’s with – and yet he can’t imagine life without her. Sambora and Bon Jovi once again solidify their voices, and the anguish flows through to their instruments which ache with regret and sorrow for not being able to be better men.
9. "I Believe," Keep the Faith (1992)
A self-empowerment anthem for the ages, the opener on Keep the Faith is an impassioned plea fueled by hope, launched by a fade-in loop before Richie Sambora comes to the forefront with a crushing guitar chord. Bon Jovi then carefully builds tension in the background before Jon makes his presence on the band’s first album of the '90s known with a walloping yawp. Melodically fierce in its delivery, "I Believe" captures the pulse of optimism which allows the listener to crawl through the wreckage onto the other side. The song’s arrangement is stout and sturdy, as the band tear open their souls, expunging demons with a rawness not heard before on record. There are times when an artist’s output matches their drive, psyche and soul, and “I Believe” exemplifies Bon Jovi at their most sanguine.
8. "I'll Be There For You," New Jersey (1988)
The atmosphere here is ethereal, distinguished by Sambora’s bluesy guitar. His fretboard weeps and the chords make your bones ache. Often mistaken as a passionate expression of love, because of the chorus, the verses on "I'll Be There For You" are filled with regret and remorse, as the narrator begs for mercy. Birthed from a painful break-up that Sambora endured, this song finds he and Bon Jovi paired together to show the world why they were light years ahead of their contemporaries. It transcends the genre of the power ballad with an earnest performance where Sambora and Bon Jovi’s vocals play off one another in remarkable heartfelt emotion.
7. "Blood on Blood," New Jersey (1988)
Inspired by Rob Reiner's Stand By Me, a film adaption of the Stephen King short story The Body, Bon Jovi returned to a pair of friends from high school, Danny and Bobby. They previously appeared on “Bobby’s Girl,” where he reminisces about growing up. The result is one of Bon Jovi’s mightiest compositions, with a scorching guitar to open the song, urgent drums and bass at full tilt while David Bryan adroitly punches out sterling piano chords that make your heart swell. The song brims with sentiment like no other in their catalog. The bridge will never cease to bring me to my knees, as it triggers a flood of emotions about the friendships that help guide and define us: “Through the years and miles between us / It's been a long and lonely ride / But if I got a call in the dead of the night I'd be right by your side.”
6. "These Days," These Days (1995)
This is the sound of a sedated society without a road map, aimlessly seeking answers to questions that go unanswered. The characters are respectable people confronted with desperation from societal and domestic dwellings beyond their control, but "These Days" also forces one to look inward to keep the darkness at bay. “So many people in the world today are reaching for their dreams," Jon said before the album arrived, "That’s there, but is not easy to find.” The character of “Jimmy Shoes” is a homage to Jimmy Iovine, then-president of Interscope Records: “Jimmy Shoes busted both his legs, trying to learn to fly / From a second story window, he just jumped and closed his eyes / His momma said he was crazy - he said, 'momma, I’ve got to try.'” The verses and chorus shift back and forth between the sweet and sour, pointing to the highs and lows of life. Bon Jovi does not camouflage the confusion and heartache, but they also push you to seek out rays of light emitting from the heavens above. This is one of the band’s darkest, dreamiest and ultimately most beautifully redeeming songs.
5. "Dry County," Keep the Faith (1992)
In the summer of 1991, Jon Bon Jovi was at a low point. Unsure what his next move would be, he set out on his bike with his wife, then-manager Doc McGhee and a few friends. “I rode cross-country on a motorcycle. It was the best thing I ever did in my whole life," Jon told Lonn Friend for a Rip magazine cover story in 1992. "A bunch of friends and I got together, went through an issue of Life magazine featuring all the incredible national parks and places in America, and we cruised. We found places in New Mexico and Arizona that were right out of the 1800s. We pulled into a little gas station in the middle of nowhere. It was like something out of an old movie. We were wrecked and wanted a drink. The old man at the station told us we couldn’t do any drinking there because it was a dry county, no booze. I thought about it for a year and finally wrote the song on the piano.” "Dry County" became the band’s most ambitious song, coming in just shy of 10 minutes. This operatic tale of “hard and desperate times” is a triumph. Jon wrote the song by himself, but he needed the band to bring his desert vision to reality. David Bryan’s understated piano melody anchors things, while Sambora channels the disillusionment of America circa 1992 through a two-part solo stretching more than 150 seconds. Sambora knew many of the Los Angeles based-guitarists could outplay him and was faster, but what they couldn’t do was outperform him. Sambora had eclectic musical tastes spanning several rock genres, but it was the way he merged the perseverance of Jimmy Page with the minimalism of George Harrison that made Sambora stand alone in the pop-metal universe. “Dry County” is a prayer for desperate times, anchored by a band ready to show the world there was more to them than meets the eye.
4. "Livin' On A Prayer," Slippery When Wet (1986)
Written with Desmond Child in 1986, Jon Bon Jovi didn’t think "Livin' On A Prayer" was good enough for Slippery When Wet, feeling it would be better suited for a movie. It took Sambora and the rest of the management team to convince him otherwise. The original demo represented the song in its crudest form, but the energy is there, along with that sky-high chorus. Producer Bruce Fairbairn and engineer Bob Rock guided the tale of Tommy and Gina to perfection. The ingenious use of the talk box gives "Livin' On A Prayer" its cinematic sheen. Released as the second single from Slippery When Wet, it spent four weeks at No. 1 in early 1987, becoming the only song to do so during that year. Bon Jovi and Sambora then hit the stage with two guitars and stole the show with an acoustic version at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1989, as many suddenly came to realize that there was more to the band and this song that they were led to believe. "Livin' On A Prayer" is the band’s most enduring classic and, whenever you witness this song in concert, it is a unifying moment like no other.
3. "Edge of a Broken Heart," 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (2004)
This was the first song Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora ever wrote with Desmond Child in 1986. Shockingly, it was left off Slippery When Wet for reasons that remain unclear. The track found a home a year later on the Fat Boys movie Disorderlies, where it received significant airplay. Still, "Edge of a Broken Heart" remained pretty tough to find until it was made the B-side of “Always” in 1994. Ironically, this track serves as a spiritual stalker prequel to “Always,” featuring a lamenting and broken-hearted narrator pledging his love to someone who has left him. The high ranking here stems from Jon Bon Jovi’s agonizing vocal: It's easy to believe he’s singing in the first person. Sambora’s luminescent riff is a call to arms, while Tico Torres’ drums crack until the band solidifies as one, as a propelling synthesizer carefully accompanies the narrator’s tale: “And there I stood just like a soldier / I was tough until I saw her.” Jon Bon Jovi has spent his entire life attaining the unattainable, and that’s what makes this song so inspiring. This vocal performance leaves him exposed. The tension in "Edge of a Broken Heart" is palpable, and the pleading in the third verse reflects his longing: “When you're waiting for love / I'll be waiting for you / Only for you / Oh baby, for you.” As the song reaches its conclusion, he stretches and releases a primal scream stressing the pain, loss and repentance in an unforgettable vocal that he’s never matched. The reason "Edge of a Broken Heart" resonates so strongly with the diehards is because, for once, Jon Bon Jovi is genuinely defenseless. It takes great courage to confess something to someone you care about. We lose ourselves in music like this because the songs often say what we can’t. Here’s someone who has everything and yet, as he weeps and wails, you begin to realize he doesn’t have what matters the most. He’s brave when he needs to be and, at this moment – despite having seen a million faces and rocked them all – he’s one of us.
2. "Keep the Faith," Keep the Faith (1992)
Inspired by the Los Angeles riots in April 1992, “Keep the Faith” became pop-metal’s “Gimme Shelter,” a liberating anthem that captured a searing and severe era. Despite that, Bon Jovi found a spark in the dark, turning everything they knew on its head from a musical perspective. “Keep the Faith” featured a pulsating rhythm track that was the heart of the song. Tico Torres gives his most distinguished performance behind the kit, while Alec John Such’s bass ricochets off of Richie Sambora’s inferno guitar, which in turn paves the path to the hushed bridge as the drums replicate anguish and disenfranchisement. Then, the band makes for a high-speed getaway as the chorus fades out. Bon Jovi saw the world at its knees without hope and created a tonic for their tragedies. Keep the Faith was the band’s stab at reinvention, along the line of U2’s Achtung Baby. They not only expanded their musical palette but shed their image for a more mainstream rock approach, as well. They also hired Rattle & Hum filmmaker Phil Joanou to shoot the “Keep the Faith” video, their first without Wayne Isham in seven years. Bon Jovi also brought in U2 and Depeche Mode’s photographer Anton Corbijn for the album and single. This song’s greatest legacy has been its concert performances over three decades, as "Keep the Faith" has proven to be an anthem for the ages. The most powerful aspect of live music as an art form is its ability to evolve and transform. The crashing and exuberant performances of “Keep the Faith” are tacit musical attacks that reshaped lives, providing the listener with new ways to look at the world.
1. "Wanted Dead or Alive," Slippery When Wet (1986)
“Wanted Dead or Alive” isn’t so much a song about a rock band on the road, as it is a statement about five men working through unresolved issues. The song and the video clip, directed by Wayne Isham, are synonymous with one another. Isham followed the band for a few weeks in March 1987, with the bulk of the performance footage coming from Chicago’s UIC Pavilion. In the clip, Isham channels Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull, which explored the life of boxer Jake LaMotta, a man who could never learn to love himself enough to know when to stop despite his success, or wife and family. Watching the “Wanted Dead or Alive” clip, I can’t help but question why these five men set out to be working musicians. Two of them, Alec John Such and Tico Torres, were both older than Jon Bon Jovi, while Sambora and Bryan and had done some serious time in the back of vans and sleeping on floors. The chances of making it are so minuscule that it becomes an all-in game (“I play for keeps, 'cause I might not make it back”). You begin to realize that this video is not a celebration of the road, but rather a portrait of five men who refused to be knocked down even when they lost the fight. If you look at the band, they’re beaten down by the road despite five-star hotels and private planes. The constant need to provide gratification wears on them. They look like hell, the pinup pictures from glossy rock magazines were nowhere to be found. You never saw a photo from this video hang on any wall anywhere. The band would perform another three hundred shows after the filming of this video before March 1990. Yet, Bon Jovi is a band that has wrestled with critical acceptance their entire career. They were always told they weren’t good enough or that another band deserved their success. There’s something hidden in each of their psyches, where the fear of never being good enough drove them to be one of the biggest bands in the world. All of this is exemplified in “Wanted Dead or Alive,” in a widescreen vision where the black-and-white silhouettes in the video tell a different story. The clip reflected the hardships of the road, the draining pull of those around them and how the concert stage is a refuge for the band. Bon Jovi transcended LaMotta’s reality because they were contenders, victors and cowboys who defied everyone who said they would never be good enough, strong enough or smart enough to endure. When Jon Bon Jovi is found still standing at the microphone during “Wanted Dead or Live,” arm stretched to the air, he cries at the altar of redemption: “I’ve seen a million faces and rocked them all.” Bon Jovi's salvation is complete.
Special thanks go to the following sources: Bob Coburn’s superb Rockline interviews from 1986-94. Gerri Miller of Metal Edge magazine for always getting into the minutiae of the songs. 'Kerrang!' for its continual coverage of the band, notably Steffan Chirazi’s 1993 and 1995 interviews. Lonn Friend of 'Rip Magazine' whose cover stories on the band in 1991 and 1992 delved deep into their psyche; and Bryan Reeseman’s 'Bon Jovi: The Story,' which provides the clearest picture of the band's 1978-83 era.