Formed in 1983, just a mere 35 years ago, Bon Jovi defined the 80’s music scene. They have since had 13 studio albums, 3 live albums, numerous compilations and even a box set. With so much music, some of course is bad, some is good, some is great and some is legendary. They have had line-up changes as most bands have had and yet the still keep rolling on. They have even made it in to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Since there is so much about the band, they deserve to have their albums ranked from Worst to First. I am going to do all 13 of their studio albums, plus 1 compilation which I thought was a studio album, but apparently not…who knew. So, 14 albums in total will be coming at you. I hope you have time to get through all of them.
And as always, let’s start with my least favorite album and work our way to my favorite…so sit back and enjoy…
15. THE WORST – ‘THE CIRCLE’ (2009):
‘The Circle’ was supposed to be the band’s return to rock after a very Nashville based previous album, ‘Lost Highway”. The big problem for me with this album was the lack of credibility the songs had with me. They tried to return to a “working man” sound such as “Work for the Working Man”, but I didn’t believe it. It felt forced and fake. Nothing on this album resonated with me in the least bit. Even today, I can’t think of the names of the songs on this album. They were not memorable and just seemed stale and uninspiring.
The album did spawn three singles including “We Weren’t Born to Follow”, “Superman Tonight” and “When We Were Beautiful”. It also went to #1 in the U.S. and sold over 3 million copies worldwide, so maybe I am wrong…but sadly, I am not. The band had been a slump for years at this point with no signs of coming out of it.
14. ‘2020’ (2020):
2020 has not been kind to the world, but if you thought that was rough, check out this album. It is probably the most boring and uninspiring album they have ever done. In fact, it doesn’t remotely sound like a Bon Jovi album. I am fine with a band changing their sound, but usually you keep a little of yourself. This was more like a Jon Bon Jovi solo album.
The band even tried to have the fans help write a song called “Do What You Can” and it is the most deritive, cliched piece of garbage I think I’ve ever heard them do. Songs like “Limitless” are a rehash of every single they have put out in the 2000’s. Now, there were a few songs worth mentioning like “American Reckoning”, “Blood in the Water” and “Brothers in Arms” that are more Springsteen then Jovi. They seemed to be really political on this album as well which is the most they’ve ever done. I gave it a try, but after numerous listens it is unlistenable to me, but I liked the Circle even less so there is that.
13. ‘What About Now’ (2013):
Here we are at Lucky 13, except this one wasn’t much better than the prior album. Four years after the release of ‘The Circle’, I had hoped the band would be back better than ever and sadly, not the case. Although, I did find this album slightly better than the previous release obviously or it would have been the worst. What saved this album was it actually had a really great song it called “Pictures of You”.
The singles were “Because We Can” and “What About Now” which are both so generic and formulaic that it felt like this just took previous hit songs and tried to change the lyrics and the music ever so slightly. The band seems to be dialing it in at this point. The band did score yet another #1 album, but sales dropped significantly selling only 1.5 million. Only…like that is a bad number as most bands would kill for that many; however, for Bon Jovi it is quite possibly the lowest selling album they have had…up to that point.
12. ‘Lost Highway’ (2007):
Bon Jovi had been making the same album over and over for 7 years and decided to change things up a little. Despite what you have heard, this is not really a Country album. It is definitely Nashville-influenced, but it is not a true Country album. The album released 4 singles and it reached #1 and sold over 4 million copies. Based on all this, it was a very successful album…it just sucked a lot.
The band is trying to be something they are not. The songs were dull and lifeless and again, it felt forced. You can argue that they have always been a little country which is a little true in that they write similarly to country songs and use a lot of the country tricks, but they are really a more rock with a bluesy influence thanks to Richie. Although some of the songs themselves were good, I was bored with the whole package. I did like the ballad “(You Want to Make) A Memory as the band can do ballads. And I admit I like the title track and “Whole Lot of Leavin'”, but outside of that I don’t remember the rest as I have blocked it out.
11. ‘Bounce’ (2002):
After the massive success of ‘Crush’, the band continued on the same path and tried to repeat that success and did it quite well. The new fans gained from that last one seemed to eat it up as it went to #2 as well and sold 5 million copies worldwide. Not to shabby. In all intensive purposes, I should love this one, but it hasn’t held up for me. The songs are good, but only a couple are great.
“Bounce” is one of the few songs I still enjoy and mainly because of the memories of my kids screaming out the lyrics of that damn catchy chorus in the backseat of the car. They loved this song. I also really liked the sappy ballad “You Had Me From Hello” (thank you Jerry Maquire). There were other goods such as the rocker “Hook Me Up” and “Everyday”, but everything was okay. Not their worst but still in the bottom.
10. ‘This House is Not For Sale’ (2016):
The band’s worst selling album and yet it even went to #1. I actually did a review of “This House is Not For Sale” back upon it’s release and I found it rated only a 2.1 out of 5 but I have softened on it over time. Upon listening to it again for this post, I found myself enjoying it a little more (and some of the early ones above a little less). It is the first album with Phil X officially in the band and he is definitely a good get for the band after Richie leaving the band.
The album had 6 singles including the title track, “Knockout”, “Born Again Tomorrow” and “Walls” which were all good, but I really like “Roller Coaster” and I have grown to like “The Devil’s in the Temple”. My only complaints are there are too many songs and too many fillers, but still better than a few of the albums.
9. ‘Burning Bridges’ (2015):
This album is actually a compilation of unfinished tracks that they did finish up; but for me it felt like an album package. The other crazy thing about this one is that it was only released to feel a contract obligation as Bon Jovi wanted out of their record label. So for them, it was a throw away album. For me, it was the best thing they have done in over a decade. It had some balls to it especially the last song “Burning Bridges” which was a big F#&k you to the record label. I thought it was great and brought back a little of the old Bon Jovi.
It was the first album without Richie and the first with Phil X, but Phil was not an official member of the band. He did help write basically every song on the album. The standout songs for me were “We Don’t Run” and the ballad “Who Would You Die For” which I find to be some of the best they have done in years. I like them more now than when they came out a few years back. The whole album is pretty much enjoyable and even the lesser songs are still good. If you missed this one, check it out.
8. ‘Have a Nice Day’ (2005):
In the early 2000’s, Bon Jovi seemed to hit a niche that people were really loving. ‘Have a Nice Day’ follows the same formula as the previous two releases and to huge success. The album went to #2 and sold over 6 million copies worldwide. The band was riding out a new wave a success. Although it was starting to be same old, same old with this album, the songs were still really good at this time.
The title track was another rocking anthem that you couldn’t help fall in love with. The album wasn’t a one trick pony as there were several good songs including “Who Says You Can’t Go Home”, “Welcome to Wherever You Are”, “Last Cigarette” and “Story of My Life” to just name a few. This would be the last great album for me for the band as all the rest after this fall in the bottom of this list.
7. ‘7800º Fahrenheit’ (1985):
This is the sophomore release from the band is truly underrated. There are some really great stuff on here and for me has held up quite nicely. It only reached #37 on the charts and still sold over 3 million records, but Bon Jovi was not a household name yet. I have actually followed them since their debut so I bought this early on right after its release and secretly loved it while no one else was really talking about it.
The album is full of great songs including “Tokyo Road”, “The Hardest Part is the Night”, “Silent Night”, “Always Run to You” and of course “In and Out of Love” and “Only Lonely”. This is often overlooked as there were no big singles that made the Top 40, but it shouldn’t be as it is too good. If you missed it, shame on you.
6. ‘Crush’ (2000):
The re-birth of Bon Jovi began in 2000 with this album. After being away for a few years, Bon Jovi screamed back on the scene in such a refreshing way. The lead off single, “It’s My Life” brought new life to Bon Jovi and brought them a new generation of fans. The song was classic Jovi and it even brought back the talk-box from “Livin’ On a Prayer”. The album was such a massive success despite only reaching #6 on the charts. It did go on to sell a mediocre 11 million copies worldwide.
The band seem rejuvenated and had a new, exciting spirit. They were back and in a good way for at least a few years anyway. Some of the great story telling was still there (it is gone now) with songs like “Just Older” and “Captain Crash & the Beauty Queen from Mars”. They could still do the ballads with “Thank You For Loving Me” and the band could still play with such great songs as “Say It Isn’t So”, “Next 100 Years”, “She’s a Mystery” and the rocker “One Wild Night”. It was a fun and exciting ride…welcome back!
5. ‘Bon Jovi’ (1984):
The debut album was so 80’s and it was so awesome! From the opening track of “Runaway” you knew we had a band hat was special…the world didn’t know it at the time, but you could feel it. When I played this the other day to remind myself, I had forgotten how fun and how good this album really was. It only reached #43, but it did sell over 3 million copies.
The album was short and sweet with only 9 songs. What a 9 songs they were. Classics such as “Roulette”, “She Don’t Know Me” and “Love Lies” are still outstanding tracks as well as “Burning for Love” and “Shot Through the Heart” (that phrase sounds familiar). The band might cringe when they think of this album, but I never will. Love it!!
4. ‘Slippery When Wet’ (1986):
The album that really started it all. And no, it is not #1 despite the fact it has some of their most famous songs including “Wanted Dead or Alive”, “Livin’ On A Prayer” and “You Give Love a Bad Name”. The album went to #1 and has sold over 28 million copies worldwide how is it not #1? Well, I like the next 3 better…so sue me.
It has a great opening track with “Let it Rock” and it has the ballad that every high school prom played in 1985 with “Never Say Goodbye”. It has everything a massive rock album should have. It also has “Social Disease” which I utterly hate as a song and I didn’t care for “Without Love”. A lot of why it isn’t #1 is that it is overplayed and as a result, I prefer the next three albums more. We can disagree and I am okay with that as it is a fantastic release and any band would give their right nut to have one with even half this success.
3. ‘Keep the Faith’ (1992):
The follow-up to New Jersey didn’t do as well as it only reached #5 on the charts and only sold 12 million copies. However, the songs on this one showed a new maturity and improved songwriting ability. The band sounded and played sensationally. Even with the impact of Grunge killing the genre, Bon Jovi still succeeded beyond expectations and showed they have staying power.
With songs such as the title track, “Bed of Roses”, “I Believe” and “In These Arms”, we couldn’t get enough of the band. However, songs like the epic “Dry County” and the interesting “If I Was Your Mother” showed a deeper side to the band. For me, this album was totally different than “New Jersey” and “Slippery When Wet”, it was the next step for the band. It was the direction they needed to go and it worked on so many different levels. An absolute gem in their collection.
2. ‘These Days’ (1995):
By 1995, you think people would have forgotten about Bon Jovi with how much music had changed, but thankfully I didn’t forget as they released “These Days” and obviously I loved this album if it is sitting at #2 in my book. The album picked up where they were with “Keep the Faith” and even went further with it and better. Songs like “Hey God”, “Something to Believe In” and “My Guitar Lies Bleeding in My Arms” are my 3 favorites off the album and really showcases their songwriting abilities.
Of course, you can’t forget the big hits off the album including “This Ain’t a Love Song”, “Lie to Me” and “These Days” as well as “Something For the Pain”. All stellar songs in their own right. The album still didn’t do as well as it only went to #9 and sold a little less worldwide at only 10 million. I guess the Bon Jovi heyday was over…wow selling 10 million is a disappointment! No, it was a huge success especially in the Asian and European markets. And it would be 5 years before the band popped up on anyone’s radar again.
#1 – ‘New Jersey’ (1988):
Ok, I know…obvious choice, but you have to admit it…’Slippery When Wet” made them Mega Rock Stars, but ‘New Jersey’ cemented their status and proved they could repeat that success again. And if it wasn’t for this album, the band would have not made it in to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame only on the last album. The album went #1 and sold 18 million copies worldwide and produced 5 singles. The pressure was on with this album and the band hit it out of the park.
The sound of the album was really an outlaw rock album with a lot of western themes which is strange with a title like ‘New Jersey’…not very cowboy like. The sound was consistent throughout the album and was so well produced and written that it was destined to be great. My favorite song of all time for Bon Jovi is on this album and it is “Blood on Blood”. Bon Jovi could really tell great stories with their lyrics and music and this was a shining example. But let’s not forget all the hits, “Bad Medicine”, “Born to Be My Baby”, “Living In Sin”, ” I’ll Be There For You” and “Lay Your Hands On Me”.
And the songs that were even better that weren’t hits such as “Stick to Your Guns” and “Wild is the Wind” that stuck to the western rock theme. And the throw-away final song was great, “Love for Sale”. They could not do anything wrong with this one and it was solid from top to bottom, inside and out. What was not to love.
And there you have it. My thoughts on what I think are the best Bon Jovi albums from the worst to the first. As usual, I am sure you have some disagreements and that is great. Please let me know what you think and where you would put things as it is always great to see how people can love the same band, but love different albums. That’s what makes life great! I hope you enjoyed and sorry it was so long, but there were 14 albums to discuss.
If you want to buy any of them, just click below…