Favorite Song: These Days

Some songs stay with us for the rest of our lives, even if our taste in music shifts from side to side. Periodically, I’ll post reviews of my personal pillars of music. Here’s the first.

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These days–there ain’t a ladder on the streets.

What is the purpose of a song but to generate a connection?

Periodically, I plan to post reviews about songs that have permeated deep into my memory, for a wide array of reasons. The first one is actually the first album I ever bought.

In 1995, Bon Jovi released the album These Days. Long gone were glam the makeup and feathered hair, giving love a bad name yielded to darker lyrics dealing with suicide, depression and the struggle of those times.

Bon Jovi--These Days (property of Bon Jovi)
Bon Jovi–These Days (property of Bon Jovi)

It earned merits in Japan and Europe, becoming an instant sensation in those two regions. In the U.S., however, the album was overlooked (though it sold 1 million copies). Still, it was ranked 2nd in Q’s Greatest Albums of 1995, Classic Rock and Metal Hammer both placed it in the 200 best albums of the 1990’s and reached number 9 in the Billboard 200.

Being Bon Jovi, romance will always be present, but songs like Lie To Me and This Ain’t a Love Song, carry a somber, desperate side to love. Heavy R&B guitars (This Aint’ a Love Song) take the listener to a gloomy club at 2:00 am, with drunken karaoke singers bellowing out heartbreak, while Tico Torres’ presence can be felt right next to Sambora’s (in Lie To Me) in what, all along, has been what adult pop should be.

But, between adult pop, songs that makes us appreciate belief (Something To Believe In) and the heavier rock (Hey God, Damned), lies a song that provides a perfect balance of pensive lyrics, a dominant guitar and Jon Bon Jovi’s voice taking us to a journey from beginning to end, trying to answer: where are we going?

These Days doesn’t seem to be one that invades the thought process of a teenager, or at least it shouldn’t.

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.
Don’t you know that all my heroes died?
And I guess I’d rather die than fade away

But it did. There was something uplifting about it, as strange as it may sound.

The fact is that, even though this song was written twenty years ago, it talks a truth that will last forever. We fail to long to be ourselves, when we should. We’re willing to sacrifice our sanity, our surroundings and even ourselves, for dreams we fail to comprehend.

She came looking for some shelter with a suitcase full of dreams
To a motel room on the boulevard
I guess she’s trying to be James Dean
She’s seen all the disciples and all the “wanna be’s”
No one wants to be themselves these days
Still there’s nothing to hold on to but these days

Sambora’s solo rivets our attention from moment it begins and it never really ends, as his guitar keeps up the pace with the voices and harmonicas. The energy it injects into the song, which starts in a philosophical, bluesy/rocky monologue, defibrillates everyone around to send them into desperate clamor for awakening.

Only to know that, even though there’s no time to waste (mind you, this was in 1995!), there’s nobody left for us, but ourselves. I’ve always believed that this song, deep within the seemingly unmotivating lyrics, calls out to people to understand that there’s little to do, if we don’t do anything. Love doesn’t last, because we make it brief. A scant lacuna of what it used to be.

Ironically, Jon Bon Jovi said it best, before getting to the stage in front of 72000 screaming fans in their 1995 London Concert, “for me the people are more important than the critic.”

So this song is about those, it’s about the one that dreams and has his or her dreams be shattered. But gets up again. It’s about, not knowing what’ll happen, but that a man on the corner, begging for change, can be a king.

These Days (the album) is by far one of my musical pillars and These Days (the song) is an anthem that merits its reproduction at full volume.

It marks a before and after in Bon Jovi’s history. Before, albums like Crossroads and Keep the Faith showed glimpses of this darker Bon Jovi that I really enjoyed.

For me, it’s an after that doesn’t click. The persuasive lyrics and ellaborate productions gave way to lighter, cheekier music (One Wild Night, It’s My Life, Bounce) with a sort of rock n’ roll swooner persona (You Had Me From Hello, Thank You For Loving Me) and lost me.

Their later albums hindered their talent (maybe due to creative fatigue, which is understandable and have orbited around the working class hero trying move ahead (Work For The Working Man, This Is Love-This Is Life), remembering old times (Lost Highway, Radio Saved My life Tonight) and driving, there’s always driving.

But there are excellent, far beyond excellent, pieces in the newer Bon Jovi, especially This Left Feels Right.

There’s no doubt that the band is talented.  But, in my opinion, they could gamble losing some followers and venture back into the shadowy, moldy corner of a New Jersey bar, with vodka rushing through their veins, to write about the these days of now.

Author: Bernardo Montes de Oca

Journalism. Writing. Life. Periodismo. Escritura. Vida.

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