Slippery When Wet

Bon Jovi

Mercury, 1987

REVIEW BY: Daniel Camp


Queen and Styx deserve a great deal of credit for the invention of the fun-loving, thrill-a-minute genre that is arena rock. Both groups, led by charismatic frontmen and backed by thunderous guitars, pioneered the use of songs designed for audiences numbering in the thousands. No doubt, they made arena rock relevant.

But with Slippery When Wet, Bon Jovi made it sexy.

After building their fan base with previous releases Bon Jovi and 7800° Fahrenheit, this album launched the band into the mainstream and to the number one position on the U.S. charts with a more clearly defined sound and, simply, better songs than they’d ever written previously. And being led by frontman Jon Bon Jovi, the Jersey boy with a heart of gold and the hair to match, didn’t hurt either.

His unending supply of charisma could have carried him through songs like “You Give Love A Bad Name” and “Social Disease,” stadium rockers that demand the volume be turned up full blast, but aided by strong work from Richie Sambora, David Bryan, and Co., these songs go from fun to truly memorable. The temptation to sing along to tunes like these every time you hear them is overwhelming, and a testament to the quality of the recordings.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Wanted Dead Or Alive,” Jon’s chance to play cowboy, is an overplayed, melodramatic taste of the open road—but like almost every song on this album, you find yourself singing along nonetheless, and his vocals carry the song’s story effectively. Again, personality and charm seems to seep out of every pore of the man’s body.

But this magnetism is never more pervasive and never more brilliantly channeled than in Bon Jovi’s best song, “Livin’ On A Prayer.” Few groups can boast that they wrote the anthem of a decade, but Jon and the boys answer to none with this essential piece of rock ‘n roll. The guitars and drums never sounded so good, and you will never marvel more at Jon’s incredible vocals, so powerful and hard to reach that he is under doctor’s orders to no longer attempt the highest notes. The song defines the album and the band and cannot be praised enough.

Sadly, the pinnacles reached early in this album are just that – peaks – and the band must come down from the mountaintop in the latter half of the album. “Never Say Goodbye” is a nice ballad, but nothing to write home about. “I’d Die For You” and “Raise Your Hands” both make for good live refrains, but are almost stereotypical in nature; they sound like every Bon Jovi song you’ve ever forgotten.

Closing out with “Wild In The Streets” is a wise choice, as the chaotic melody ironically lends a sense of closure to an album all about living freely. The song is nothing too special, but fits perfectly in this context.

Slippery When Wet is the album that caused one of rock’s most successful bands to explode into the public view, and the four singles it spawned remain some of Bon Jovi’s most popular songs 20 years later. When this album is good, it’s genre-changing and career-defining, and any mediocrity present in other songs is easily overshadowed by the pure joy of the album’s best songs.

Rating: A-

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© 2008 Daniel Camp and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Mercury, and is used for informational purposes only.