Artist: Bon Jovi
Album(s): Slippery When Wet, Crossroad, One Wild Night (live), This Left Feels Right (acoustic remix f/ Olivia D'Abo), 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong (hidden bonus track)
Other Versions: Live w/ Jennifer Nettles (CMT Crossroads performance), Unplugged (VMA 1989 performance)
Era: Late '80s, the "hair metal" period
The "big one" - first number one single, recognized almost universally, the song that has become synonymous with Bon Jovi.
With good reason - LOAP and BJ have a lot in common. They have a multigenerational appeal - young and old alike know and love this song. College students blast it at their frat parties, junior high kids hear it at their dances, 45-year-old women crank it up in their cars and remember that time in '89 they flashed a roadie to get backstage.
Prayer set the theme for almost every Bon Jovi song since then - that "never give up" chips-are-down optimism that shows up practically everywhere in their lyrics. It shows up all over the place on their albums - "Lie to Me" from These Days is about Tommy and Gina, the characters were mentioned in the 2000 hit "It's My Life", and the titular phrase shows up on Have A Nice Day in the song "Novocaine". Livin' on a Prayer made Bon Jovi big, and they use it whenever possible to help keep them big (I don't necessarily mean that in a bad way).
And I don't like it.
Well, that's not true. I like the song fine - it's probably in my top 25 "sing at the top of my lungs with my fist in the air" songs, and the acoustic versions are gorgeous. What I don't like is how the song has gotten so big it has dwarfed a lot of Bon Jovi's better work.
Livin' on a Prayer is not Bon Jovi's best song, in my opinion. Hell, if it had been me on the infamous Pizza Jury, I probably would have gone with Jon's instinct and kept it off Slippery. It's not their best hit, it's just plain not top-tier work. They can be so much more interesting musically, so much deeper lyrically. But no one cares because, heck, it's a fun song.
I live in a dorm, and the wall above my bed is covered (literally) with Bon Jovi pictures. When people come in and see that, they immediately ask for LOAP. Not You Give Love A Bad Name, not Wanted, not It's My Life, it's ALWAYS Prayer. That's a big reason I'm so bitter about this song, I think - I get sick of it fast.
But it's fun and it's catchy, an ideal karaoke song, an ideal frat party song, an ideal "relive the 80s" song, and it's the definitive Bon Jovi song, so I can't be too angry at it.
My Rating: 8/10
Edited 3/25/06: Fixed the "Last Cigarette"/"Novocaine" mix-up, added lyrics and video