CD reviews: Bon Jovi, Rhye

  • Updated: March 15, 2013 - 3:25 PM

POP/ROCK

Bon Jovi, “What About Now” (Island)

Bon Jovi is a big band, but which kind? Neutrality has been its bag for most of its mature period, which spans roughly the past decade. But aging elegantly is still an option for this group, which has a platform but rarely a firm idea of what to use it for. “What About Now” suggests paths for progress, and an ambivalence about committing to any of them, all under a haze of undifferentiated, low-ambition, lightly rootsy hard rock.

Take album closer “The Fighter,” which is a vote for Jon Bon Jovi — frontman, chief songwriter, moral center as introspective troubadour. It’s gentle, but not quite sad enough. Maybe pulpy emotion is the way, as on “I’m With You.” Or perhaps motivational-speaker positivity, as on the banal “Because We Can.”

Bon Jovi is all of these bands, and therefore none of them.

“What’s Left of Me” follows a familiar country-songwriting shtick, with each verse detailing the trials of a different character who all suffer in similar ways. But there are curveballs — one character is a former newspaper reporter who became a Marine, and then came home to find himself unappreciated. Another is an ex-punk rocker who curses. Is this a protest song? A modern folk ballad? In different musical hands, perhaps, but Bon Jovi is not any of those kinds of bands. Or at least, it will never let itself be.

JON CARAMANICA, New York Times

R&B

Rhye, “Woman” (Republic)

At first blush, “Open,” the debut single from Rhye, sounds like ersatz Sade: slow, sexy, full of longing and soft rock/ smooth jazz instrumentation (and the accompanying soft-core video may make one blush). The music, courtesy of Danish producer Robin Hannibal, is a pillow of strings, electric keyboards and steady, patient beats; the vocals, by Canadian Michael Milosh, are androgynous, a whispery alto. It’s a captivating song, and “Woman,” Rhye’s debut album, lives up to its promise.

Rhye joins a spate of contemporary artists — Frank Ocean and Miguel among them — exploring the soft side of R&B. The album luxuriates in one mood — a quiet storm of earnest, erotic yearning — for its 36 minutes, and there’s nothing ersatz about its restrained, sophisticated sensuality.

Steve Klinge, Philadelphia Inquirer

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