On "The Circle" (Island), Bon Jovi has a lot of questions.
"If I don't raise a hand, who's gonna work, work, work for the working man?" Jon Bon Jovi asks in "Work for the Working Man." There's "Who's gonna save you when your stars fall from your sky?" in "Superman Tonight."
(Hint: Try the metaphorical Me.)
Then he wonders, "What is the distance between a bullet and a gun? God are you listening or have you just given up?" in "Bullet" and "Can I be happy now? Can I let my breath out now?" in "Happy Now."
The answers to those issues - and many more - come a lot harder, wrapped in Bon Jovi's brand of slick pop-metal, tinged with recent popular approaches like the Matchbox Twenty-ish guitar openings to "When We Were Beautiful" and "Fast Cars." "Live Before You Die" owes a whole lot to Tim McGraw's "Live Like You Were Dying" and, of course, Bon Jovi is also influenced by itself, as "Work for the Working Man" opens like "Livin' on a Prayer" and "We Weren't Born to Follow" has a chorus that feels like "Born to Be My Baby."
Not that any of this will matter to the Bon Jovi faithful. They cherish the band's workmanlike dependability and the comfort of knowing what to expect and, of course, Bon Jovi long ago decided that's what they'll give them. "The Circle," once again, is an average ride that ends up in the exact same place.
The grade C
Bottom line Slightly stale meat-and-potatoes rock