"Because We Can"
If nuclear war decimated our country, I wouldn't be a bit surprised to learn that Bon Jovi—along with those proverbially hardy cockroaches—had survived and was recording a new benefit album for everyone cleaning up in the aftermath.
And that sort of gets at, in a sarcastically roundabout way, the conundrum that is Bon Jovi, circa 2013.
There are a lot of folks out there who hold nothing but disdain for the Jersey boys who gave love a bad name, road on a steel horse and lived on a prayer back in '86. For some, Bon Jovi will forever represent the obnoxious excess of the Aquanet-and-leather era, a genre that was generally as shallow as it was decadent. They view the band's continued existence with the same disdain they might harbor for those radioactive roaches.
Which is too bad, because in the last decade and a half, Bon Jovi has, in some ways, grown up.
The group's latest album-length effort, What About Now, mostly exudes a kind of irrepressible optimism. Writing for the Associated Press, music reviewer Wayne Parry said of the first single from the album, "Because We Can," "It's one of many Bon Jovi odes to faithfulness, trust, perseverance and a belief that no matter how bad things get, it'll be OK as long as we hold on tight to each other and don't lose hope."
Those sentiments certainly get to the heart of the upbeat content of this feel-good Bon Jovi anthem. As for the song's trio of videos—yes, three of them—that go along with it, things get more complicated in the way they recall Bon Jovi's more rebellious heritage. But first, the song itself:
Jon and the boys get underway singing the song's chorus a cappella in a way that brings to mind fun.'s recent hit "Some Nights." "I don't wanna be another wave in the ocean," they harmonize. "I am a rock, not just another grain of sand (That's what I am)/I wanna be the one you run to when you need a shoulder/I ain't a soldier but I'm here to take a stand/Because we can."
Then the story shifts into Tommy and Gina territory. Those two famous flames from "Livin' on a Prayer" aren't mentioned by name here, but their spirit pervades the hard-luck narrative. In it, a struggling married couple reflect on unmet needs and disappointment in the relationship … but determine to keep trying.
For the woman's part, she (somewhat suggestively) longs for a revitalization of the couple's intimacy, rather than just doing the dishes day in and day out: "She's in the kitchen staring out the window/So tired of living life in black and white/Right now she's missing those Technicolor kisses/When he turns down the lights."
For the man's part, he realizes things aren't good as he struggles with his own metaphorical inner demons. "Lately he's feeling like a broken promise/In the mirror, staring down his doubt/There's only one thing in this world that he knows/He said forever, and he'll never let her down." It's a solid statement rooted in uprightness and morality. And we soon hear about a bit of modest, real-world progress being made as the couple begins rekindling their relationship: "TV and takeout on the coffee table/Paper dishes, pour a glass of wine/Turn down the sound and move a little closer/And for the moment everything is all right."
The key to keeping it all right? Believing that their love can help them overcome the mountainous hurdles their relationship apparently faces: "Because we can, our love can move a mountain/We can, if you believe in we/We can, just wrap your arms around me/We can, we can."
The videos also focus on a struggling couple of sorts. In a nutshell, the overarching, nonlinear plot focuses on a guitar-playing, boxing soldier who meets and falls for a waitress working at a strip club. It's the second of the three videos that's the most problematic, since it takes place almost entirely in the club. Victoria's Secret-style, the dancers wear skimpy lingerie as they flap huge wings and undulate seductively … with Bon Jovi playing behind them.
It's almost as if they guys in Bon Jovi wants us to remember that even though they're generally focused on redemptive, positive themes these days, they're not too eager for us to think the band's gone all "soft" and "safe."
Personally, I'll take the soft and safe. I'll hang on to the "faithfulness, trust and perseverance" part of "Because We Can" and leave the rock star/strip club clichés and titillation stranded back where they belong … in the '80s.