3 decades of rock, in convenient bite-sized pieces


#10 - In These Arms

Artists: David Bryan, Bon Jovi
Albums: Keep the Faith, On A Full Moon, Lunar Eclipse
Other Versions: The Bon Jovi version is the original, so I guess that makes David's an "other version"
Era: 90s "moody rock"


I had a massive internal battle trying to decide whether to talk about both versions of this song at the same time or separately. I pick the songs by scrolling through my "Every Bon Jovi And Members of Bon Jovi Solo and Cover Songs Ever" list and picking one at random, and today it landed specifically on David's version. So I couldn't decide whether to just talk about David's - which I like better and have more to say about and will babble forever - and wait for the group's to come up some other day, or to tackle both at once.

Both at once won, mostly because a good chunk of what I have to say about either version comes from comparison to the other, so it just makes sense to do them both now.

I heard David's solo version before the Bon Jovi one, and for a while I blamed the fact that I liked his much better than the group's on the fact that I was more used to David's. But that isn't it. I also blamed it on the first Bon Jovi version I heard being a live video from Yokohama with really poor sound quality, but that went away when I finally got KTF and listened to the song from there.

In These Arms is a passionately desperate plea for someone to come back. None of that passion and desperation come through in the BJ version - well, I shouldn't say none. Jon's KTF-era voice always had a passion to it. It's a lot more upbeat than I think this song should be, it's got this kind of dancey beat and cheerful undertone and that completely undermines the words. David's is powerful and with just the piano it avoids the trap of the guitar and drumming making it sound happier.

David has my favorite voice of anyone in the band. He's my favorite overall, actually...so maybe I'm biased. Or maybe I'm biased because I almost always like ballads better than other music, and David's is much more of a ballad. Or maybe David's is actually better and there's no bias at all.

There's one part that sells David's for me over anything else: the "your clothes are still scattered all over this room / the whole place still smells like your cheap perfume / everything here reminds me of you / there's nothing I wouldn't do" part. Jon sounds pissed when he's singing that, David just sounds absolutely desperate. Which I think is the main difference overall between the two - Jon either sounds like he's not really into it or he's angry, he's singing "please come the fuck back, I kind of miss you" while David is so passionate throughout the whole thing - he's singing "Oh God please come back to me, I'm dying without you".

The BJ version is one of the rare cases where the tone of the song doesn't match the lyrics - I think they've done it a couple other times, the "Last Man Standing" from Have A Nice Day springs to mind (they decry "pop-rock junk" with a song that is quintissential pop-rock) - and I hate that, because I'm a sing-along kind of person, thus I listen to the lyrics at least as much as the overall tone of the song and when they don't match I notice that. It's a fun song if you don't really listen to the words, but that's the best it's got going for it.

My Rating: 6/10

The David version is just amazing. It was the second time I heard David sing (first being "Memphis Lives in Me" from the box set) and it floored me more than the first. You can feel the hurt in every line of the song, and you can hear it echoed in the way he plays the piano, and it's just beautifully heartbreaking. Someone once told me I could compare my love of David's work to S&M sex - the reason I like David is because when he's singing you can feel his pain and that just intensifies the whole experience. It's a gorgeous song, one of my all-time favorites.

My Rating: 10/10

Edited 3/25/06: Added lyrics


Matt said...

Wow. I never thought about it like that!

You have a good point!

Shooting Star said...

I'd like to disagree with you here, but I've never actually heard David's version, so I guess I can't. I LOVE the band version though...and that's all I got to say about thayat.