Good morning, class. Welcome to Rock Star 101, where you learn to become a rock celebrity. The first quarter will deal with gutting it out without recognition for years. The second quarter will demonstrate how to achieve megafame with safe hits and made-for-MTV looks. The third quarter will teach what comes after megafame—the solo album, where you express yourself as an artist.
Jon Bon Jovi is our case study. He has passed the first two tests with top marks and has now released this first solo record, featuring songs "written for and inspired by" the film Young Guns II. The result is a perfect example of stage three. Not bad but not great. This album's title track, a slow, dusty clone of his earlier hit "Wanted Dead or Alive," features his nifty little acoustic guitar riff and a Jeff Beck solo you hum in the shower long after the pseudomacho lyrics fade. However, the key to a rock star solo debut is to avoid sounding too different without your band. Despite female backup singers on "Bang a Drum," some strings on "Santa Fe" and a great rave-up with Little Richard on "You Really Got Me Now," this is just a Bon Jovi—the band—in cowboy boots. There's nothing dangerous here. If you enjoyed this class, be sure to sign up for its companion course, Movie Star 101: from "I desperately want a job" to "What's my motivation?" to "I want to produce and direct." (PolyGram)