Thursday, December 29, 2011

Who's in next: Def Leppard vs. Bon Jovi - Round 2

"Heaven" it ain't: "Bad Medicine," bad haircuts.
Our prize fight, Def Leppard's "Adrenalize" vs. Bon Jovi's "New Jersey," winner gains entrance to the Rock Hall, continues. Round 2 of these two casks of cow semen pits their second tracks against each other: "Heaven Is" vs. "Bad Medicine."

"Bad Medicine"

Michael Anthony: How inventive! It may seem minor, but on "Bad Medicine", Jonny and crew give us the chorus first, which pre-empts all the bad stuff you usually get. Isn't that what you listen to a Bon Jovi song for - the epic chorus? True, there are those who listen for the faux-bluesman solo stylings of Sambora, or the occasional ham-fisted key-change ending, but with "Bad Medicine", we know what to do right away: ignore the stodgy blues/garage chord progression weakened even further by the pointlessly treated guitars - this one is all about that chorus.

Maybe it's not quite "epic" (or "Epic"), but you give me a BJ song that starts with a chorus and I'm a happy man. There's also a decent pre-chorus that gets away from the blues-riffing with a fairly striking chord change.

Ripped often, and incorrectly.
So, yes, I still like this song 20+ years later, but in some ways, they really dropped the ball.

In going for a somewhat more organic "live" sound, believe it or not, they did capture something akin to what Bruce was doing on The River, which itself was a clone of glam-rock gods the New York Dolls. Good job! However, though it aligned the Jove with the Dolls in more ways than spandex and teased hair, it was really just cosmetic and did them no favors. Who wants a "gritty" sounding Bon Jovi? (No one.) I'll take the high-gloss (pun intended) 80's junk with even more bombast and true nutless rock opera singing over this any day.

RATING: 4.69 (out of 10)

G.E. Smith: I smell the bathroom of a nasty strip club where the hottest chick has a bad c-section scar and a tooth missing. I smell sweaty mullets and cig-smoke smothered acid wash jeans. I smell the complacency of a band on autopilot because they know they can do whatever they freak they want and still hit the top of the charts blindfolded.

Still, your point is valid. I DO still dig this song, and it's funny - it sounds 10 times better without the video where the skanks get handed cameras to shoot the band, who mug for the cameras before getting their pants unzipped. We've watched the clip for this track together on Classic at 2 in the morning 20 times and ripped it to shreds, yet right now I'm not feeling the same venom.

All the telltale signs of a decently plotted but nauseatingly bland lead single are there: the aforementioned starting with the chorus, shout-along pre-choruses, another patented by-the-numbers solo by Sambora. Words are crammed in everywhere, like they discovered the music didn't match the words and just said bleep it, hit record and let's go sniff some more white stuff. Not that they said that, but you know what I'm saying.

The ending only hammers home how bad this really is. Just when you think it's going to end, JonBon breaks it down again, with a lame stab at Springsteen songspeak: "I got it bad, I got it I got it, I gotta do it again, wait a minute, wait a minute, hold on, I'm not done, one more time with feeling! Help me out now!" and then he rolls back into a chorus that is really not worth a second outro.

Rating: 3.79 (out of 10)

"Heaven Is":

Clearly Clark was missed.
G.E. Smith: OK, I danced around this in Round 1, and I know it's as morbid as Ashton Kutcher's career, but I feel the Lep sinking fast and I gotta go there: We can't underestimate the loss of guitarist Steve Clark, the Johnny Thunders-esque glam master who died after "Hysteria" came out. Why did Def Lep have so many sick singles before "Adrenalize"? Because of Clark. Why did they suck monkey balls after? Because of the Kenny G. of hair metal, Vivian Campbell.

I'm not as down on "Heaven Is" as I know you'll be in a few seconds. We've got another Cheap Trick rip in the opening riff, and if you're going to keep pilfering from a band, that ain't a bad one to hit up. The verses are pretty cool - Phil Collen bangs out some nice beefy power chords, clearly some of the same cream that glazed "Hysteria," "Pyromania" and the rest of the band's good stuff.

Anyone who could pull this off has to be a genius.
 But that's about it. The chorus has way too much Mutt Lange going on - it's like Mutt pushed the "No Balls" button on his machine before returning to picking up hot chicks despite looking like a handsome version of Beastman.

Lep shows why X-rays would reveal rocks in their head - wonder where they got the idea for this brilliant pre-chorus: "Leave your name at the sound of the tone, call you right back when I get home." Clark tried to bust out of his coffin when he heard Campbell try to ape him and fail in the solo.

It's not the worst song ever, but it's definitely the worst song with "heaven" in the title, beating out such luminaries as Belinda Carlisle's "Heaven Is A Place On Earth," The Talking Heads' "Heaven" and Bryan Adams' "Heaven" in complete suckitude (actually, the first and last of those are pretty sick. The middle one still sucks).

RATING: 2.1 out of 10.

Michael Anthony:
In a Joe Elliot statement on the "Rock of Ages" and "Best Of" compilation albums, he referred this song's backing vocals on the chorus sounded much like The Beach Boys, and said that it was the first time Def Leppard went that far. He also referred this song as "More Queen than Queen".

Did Joe mean these Beach Boys?
Really? I assume Joe "Chris" Elliot is a reasonable man who understands and appreciates music - and knows what The Beach Boys and Queen sound like - and it's perfectly fine if he was emulating or perhaps just listening to those two bands when "Heaven Is" was recorded.

But seriously? I do not hear anything remotely Queen-esque in this song. In fact, it's probably much less Queen than, I dunno, King's X. I will personally paypal $5 to anyone who can point out any valid, legitimate Queen-isms in this song.

And those supposed Beach Boys harmonies do not fit at all - with the rest of the song being as densely overproduced as it is, it simply adds up to a grotesque mush.

RATING: 1.8 (out of 10)

1 comment:

  1. I like to refer to "ham-fisted key-changes" as "the Hollywood whole step" - after all, what screams over produced more than doing the chorus AGAIN, just a whole step higher? "Wow! they're really upping the intensity!"