20 Years Ago: Bon Jovi Grapples With 9/11 on ‘Bounce’
By the middle of 2001, Bon Jovi seemed like they were on the verge of cracking into a new layer of the rock stratosphere.
The New Jersey quintet had pulled off a successful comeback with 2000's Crush, a double-platinum hit in the U.S. following 1995's relatively underperforming These Days. This was in no small part thanks to the hit single “It’s My Life,” co-written by Swedish pop savant Max Martin (Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, NSYNC). The song became a global Top 10 hit and peaked at No. 33 on the Billboard Hot 100, endearing Bon Jovi to a new generation of listeners. This all resulted in a successful world tour, culminating in two sold-out shows at Giants Stadium in their home state.
Some expected the band to carry the success of Crush into the studio as work began on its eighth album. But then, 9/11 happened, permanently changing the trajectory of the group’s forthcoming project.
“How can you not have a creative period with all this emotional stuff going on?" guitarist Richie Sambora noted to MTV at the 2001 Concert for New York. “If you're a writer, you take all that stuff in. Music is a mirror of what the times are. You take stuff in and it comes back out.”
“As writers I think we’d be remiss not to write about what happened in our own backyard,” frontman Jon Bon Jovi explained during an appearance on Today. “We ran the gamut of emotions from sadness, hurt and anger until we had to find something that was going to ring true for us not only today, which is a year later, but in time to come, and so we were writing songs about that resiliency.”
Listen to 'Undivided' by Bon Jovi
Though the band had started writing Bounce prior to 9/11, the tragedy had a massive impact on the material eventually released on the album.
"The name pretty much personifies what this country is going through," Bon Jovi explained, noting that Bounce was about America's ability to bounce back. "We're really into writing optimistic, upbeat, pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps kinds of songs."
"I think the optimistic songs will live on," added Sambora, "where I think the sad songs will sort of paint a picture in time."
Released on Oct. 8, 2002, Bounce debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200—Bon Jovi’s highest debut at that time. The influence the September 11 attacks had on the album is immediately apparent in the opening lyrics of the first track, “Undivided.” As Bon Jovi sings “That was my brother lost in the rubble/That was my sister lost in the crush/That was our mothers, those were our children/That was our fathers, that was each one of us” a vivid tableau of the attacks is presented as he pleas for the country to heal together.
Listen to 'Everyday' by Bon Jovi
The second track, “Everyday,” sees Bon Jovi continue that theme, singing, “Strange, everybody's feeling strange/Never gonna be the same/Makes you wonder how the world keeps turning.”
Despite the obvious 9/11 influence, Bon Jovi didn't want to make every song about the terrorist attack. "At the end of the day we didn't want to make a 9/11 album," the singer admitted during an appearance on Live with Regis and Kelly. "There were 364 other days in the year. But obviously we'd be remiss not to write about our community being the hardest hit of all of them in Jersey."
Bounce was met with mixed reviews and failed to live up to the commercial success of Crush. Still, it remains an important album for the band; a sanguine time capsule imbued with the emotional attitude of the post-9/11 world.