Jon Bon Jovi can’t ignore the world around him. In the new Bon Jovi album ‘2020’, named after a year some would much rather forget, the 58-year-old rocker commits to music history several issues plaguing the world — from mass shootings and police brutality to the reality of living through a pandemic. Here are fast facts about ‘2020’ we learnt from Bon Jovi’s in-depth interview with Rolling Stone.
Bon Jovi finished the album before the pandemic hit, so he decided to return to the studio
Despite his album being finished and ready for release, Bon Jovi decided to revisit his track list after the coronavirus hit. He also wanted to incorporate the protests for racial justice in America in the wake of the George Floyd uprising.
“It was done and turned in,” recalled the singer. “But as the writing process had taken hold, I started to realise that the songs that were rising to the top were the more topical ones.”
The two new songs he added were ‘Do What You Can’ and ‘American Reckoning’
‘Do What You Can’ describes what it’s like to live through a pandemic, including the lyrics: “I know you’re feeling kind of nervous/ We’re all a little bit confused/ Nothing’s the same, this ain’t a game/ We gotta make it through.” Meanwhile, ‘American Reckoning’ revisits George Floyd’s murder at the hands of the police, referencing the 8 minutes he was pinned by the neck on the ground, as well as anti-Black police brutality as a whole. “Another mother’s crying, as history repeats, I can’t breathe,” sings Bon Jovi.
Bon Jovi confronted his white privilege before he released the album
His bandmates pushed Bon Jovi to defend every lyric of ‘American Reckoning’. The singer said he had no problem with that. “Because if I’m not the poster boy for white privilege, then who would be? An older, white, affluent guy, who by happenstance, if a policeman is pulling him over, it’s probably to tell him to jump into the escort to the stadium. You know what I mean? I certainly will never know what it’s like to walk a mile in [a Black man’s] shoes,” said Bon Jovi.
He also supports Colin Kaepernick’s famous protest on ‘Brothers in Arms’
“My truth is that Colin Kaepernick did not take a knee against the Stars and Stripes — he took it against racial inequality and police reform,” says Bon Jovi. “Colin Kaepernick was the spokesperson for that movement and he lost his livelihood as a result. Anyone who speaks up against our flag, I’m willing to fight with. I love the country for everything she’s worth, but I do believe the league lost the narrative. And that’s not what he took a knee over.”
During quarantine, Bon Jovi has been listening to Harry Styles and Taylor Swift
Asked about his playlist, he says he gravitates towards artists he knows — but sometimes he stumbles on something new. “Generationally speaking, Harry Styles is the real deal. He’s really great. Taylor Swift is going to be here for as long as she chooses to be. She’s growing as a person. She’s growing as an artist,” says Bon Jovi, adding The Chicks and The Killers to the list.
’2020’ is not an album that could have been made by a 21- or 25-year-old Bon Jovi
‘2020’ is more socially conscious than any Bon Jovi album before it, though the frontman mentions ‘Runaway’, ‘Keep the Faith’ and ‘Dry Country’ as one-off examples of previous socially charged tracks. However, his world was much narrower back then. “I was 21. I was single-mindedly focused on being the lead singer in a rock band. I was from the suburbs of New Jersey where there was never any strife. I came from a very blue-collar working class. None of us graduated college. I never even went. That’s who we are and where we came from,” said Bon Jovi. “[‘2020’] had to come from the 58-year-old guy, not the 21 or 25-year-old.”
Bon Jovi isn’t afraid of alienating his more conservative fan base
The singer knows what’s in store for him, but won’t make any compromises because of it. “I’m going to be criticised because they’re going to think it’s politicised. That’s inevitable. What can I do? Edit myself so that I’m out there just to be shilling a song? If I’m doing that at this point in my career, who am I?”