After being forced to cancel its world tour and delay a highly anticipated album, Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame band BON JOVI announced today that the LP, “2020”, has officially been set for release on October 2, 2020 on Island Records. The band also released a new single, “Do What You Can”, available everywhere now.
Originally set for release on May 15, “2020” was a completed album with a breadth and depth of songwriting, titled for a challenging and pivotal election year. Along with all of America, Jon Bon Jovi found himself unexpectedly experiencing a world-altering coronavirus pandemic, followed quickly by the staggering events of George Floyd‘s death and the ensuing national movement for racial equality. He knew there was even more to say about 2020. Writing from a home studio, two new songs were born: “American Reckoning” and “Do What You Can” encompass these events and made the album a complete body of work.
“I am a witness to history,” said Jon Bon Jovi. “I believe the greatest gift of an artist is the ability to use their voice to speak to issues that move us.”
Well known for his extensive philanthropic work, Jon spent the initial quarantine days and weeks helping feed those in need at his JBJ Soul Kitchen Community Restaurant in Red Bank, New Jersey. Calling himself the “hall-of-fame dishwasher” at the restaurant, Jon was captured by his wife Dorothea in a photo, which was later posted to social media with the caption “If You Can’t Do What You Do… Do What You Can.” The songwriter’s mind immediately went into action and a complete song was created the next day. In the spirit of togetherness that embodied the early days of quarantine, instead of releasing the complete song, Jon asked fans to “write their verse” and tell their story. Jon sang the first verse and chorus and went on to receive thousands of fan-created verses, both heartbreaking and heartwarming, in a flood of responses across band socials with the #DoWhatYouCan hashtag.
“No band has stirred more empathy, articulated the feelings of uncertainty, and comforted fans with reassurance than the Jersey rockers in the first weeks of the outbreak,” USA Today said of the storied band’s impact during those historic weeks.
The final version of “Do What You Can”, written by Jon Bon Jovi, was performed acoustically for the first time on the star-studded Jersey4Jersey benefit special, raising $6 million for the state which was hard hit during the pandemic. In the weeks that followed, the full band was able to record the song in the studio and add it to the forthcoming album.
“2020” track listing with songwriter credits:
01. Limitless (Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Falcon, John Shanks)
02. Do What You Can (Jon Bon Jovi)
03. American Reckoning (Jon Bon Jovi)
04. Beautiful Drug (Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Falcon, John Shanks)
05. Story Of Love (Jon Bon Jovi)
06. Let It Rain (Jon Bon Jovi)
07. Lower The Flag (Jon Bon Jovi)
08. Blood In The Water (Jon Bon Jovi)
09. Brothers In Arms (Jon Bon Jovi)
10. Unbroken (Jon Bon Jovi)
Sure, “2020” is filled with fist in the air anthems and ballads that have rocked stadiums for the last 35 years. However, “2020” bears witness to the events that are shaping the world today.
Jon Bon Jovi delves into socially conscious matters such as soldiers dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (“Unbroken”, featured in the documentary “To Be Of Service”), gun violence (“Lower The Flag”), our shared social experience (“Let It Rain”, “Brothers In Arms”) and the political climate (“Blood In The Water”).
The album — which follows the band’s 2016 No. 1 release, “This House is Not For Sale” — also finds the group coming out of the other side of a period of great change.
Once again co-produced by John Shanks and Jon Bon Jovi, the record features the entire touring band — keyboardist David Bryan, drummer Tico Torres, bassist Hugh McDonald, guitarist Phil X, percussionist Everett Bradley, and guitarist John Shanks.
“I have a very clear vision of who and what the band is, and what this record was meant to be,” said Bon Jovi.
The title, an allusion to the forthcoming presidential election year, features Jon on the album cover standing in front of the New York City courthouse in sunglasses, with an image of the American flag waving inside the frames. The imagery was inspired by a photograph of President John F. Kennedy, deep in thought before addressing a crowd.
“It’s not a distinctly political record, but it’s an election year so there is a wryness in the title 2020. This record had to encompass different themes, not just politics, but the state of our world today, life, love and loss,” said Bon Jovi.
“2020” starts with a clear perspective, launching with the first explosive rock song “Beautiful Drug”. Enveloped by crunchy guitars, Jon asks the listener to “hear my confession, it’s a blessing/ it’s a curse,” but ultimately surmises, “love is a beautiful drug.”
The band makes its mission statement extremely clear with the lead single, “Limitless”, an upbeat anthem encouraging optimism in an uncertain world. The listener is implored to seize the day, as everyone is “trying to keep your head above water,” and don’t be afraid to go through that open door, because “life is limitless.”
Jon pulls the listener closer for a real conversation with “Unbroken”, written for the documentary “To Be Of Service”. Jon sings of a soldier’s journey through training, war and returning home with “dreams the devil shouldn’t see”, asking the eternal question “was it worth it to be of service in the end?” “It was a difficult song to write because I had never served and I wanted to honor those who served in a very honest way,” Jon said. “I wanted to write something those men and women could be proud of. I was looking for a twist in the lyrics where the soldier who is an idealist, comes back and finds that once they hang up the uniform, the thing that they’re so identified by is no longer what identifies them. These men and women come back and have to adjust to being a civilian. They are certainly never going to be the same. I wrote the song and at the very end, I was moved when the soldiers in the film said ‘I’d do it again’.”
“Luv Can” is a simple prayer, with Jon singing “I wish I could fill your empty/right that wrong/make it fair.” While the song on the surface could be taken as romantic love, Jon explains the context as “more spiritual.” There’s a religious undercurrent here. It doesn’t have to just be a relationship. It really can be your Creator.” The song ends on a hopeful note, that “luv will let you live again.”
That quiet reflection is shaken up with the next track, “Brothers In Arms”, which opens with a swampy riff and lyrics of social relevance and a not-so-subtle reference to NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, with Jon singing “don’t you step out of line/don’t re-write or define/ what it means to see a man take a knee.” The song came to Jon while in Alabama during football season, and the lyrics started pouring out. “where’s my better days? where’s my Jesus saves?” “We all have this shared social experience called America. Who is going to finally bring this nation, to a place where we can all be brothers and sisters? That’s what I was thinking when I wrote the song.”
“The Story Of Love” touches on the theme of parenthood, opening with the lines “Fathers love daughters like mother love sons.” That touching lyric was inspired by Jon‘s own family. ” I sat down to write a song for my children.” The song takes a journey through the circle of life, where suddenly the child becomes the parents and the parents are getting older “I realized I was writing it about my entire family, my children, my wife and my parents. From Hello to Goodbye, that’s the story of love.
With that beautiful family portrait in mind, Jon then forces the question: what if that family were ripped apart by senseless tragedy? That nightmarish scenario is at the heart of the haunting track “Lower The Flag”. The song opens solemnly, “Word just came from Upstate Joe/Lower the flag again/this time it’s Dayton, Southwest Ohio/ Last night El Paso, Texas, counted 22 dead.” The lyrics then lament that the news cycle will move on before there is even time to grieve, while the narrator questions “what if it was your loved one lying in the ground?” The song simply features Jon on guitar and concludes with the narrator reciting the names of cities caught in the crossfire, including Las Vegas, Nevada, Sandy Hook Elementary, Orlando, Florida, and Columbine. I was thinking, what if it was my own family? Imagine the pain you would feel if it was your wife, your kids, your husband.”
With that, Bon Jovi calls for a cleansing of the spirit with “Let It Rain”, asking “who is going to stop the rain from falling down?” and reminding us that “wherever there is hurting/ there is healing on the way/like sunshine breaking through a cloudy day.” The last verse — “somewhere there’s a church bell/ that’s summoning the choir/somewhere there’s a dreamer who would walk 1,000 miles” is a throwback to the “Young Guns” era. “I hadn’t written anything like that in a long time. I like it because of the social justice of it, and taking a stand and saying let’s purge ourselves of all of the hurt and hate and division, but who’s going to be the one to stop it? Who’s going to be the ones that unify us? So, let it rain and let’s let the sun shine through.”
When those clouds dissipate and the stars come out, the band returns to the personal with “Shine”, the penultimate track on the record. A classic BON JOVI love song, it sweetly states “nothing lights up my sky like watching you shine.” “You can think of it as your significant other or a child that’s grown up in front of you,” Jon says of the song.
The album closer, “Blood In The Water”, was written in 2018, highlighting the gravity of the lyric “I’m no cable news reporter/ they got nothing new to say/I’m the voice of the new order/ the star of Anarchy today. I’m the comments you keep reading/ at the bottom off the page/I’m real power/I’m a Patriot/I’m a Russian hack by trade.”
Over an illustrious career spanning more than three decades since its formation in 1983, BON JOVI has earned their place among global rock royalty and was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame as well as the Songwriters Hall Of Fame. With over 130 million albums sold worldwide, and extensive catalog of hit anthems, thousands of concerts performed in more than 50 countries for more than 35 million fans, and ticket grosses well over $1 billion around the world in the last decade alone, BON JOVI is the consummate rock and roll band.