Poet Laureate of New Jersey: Bruce Springsteen vs. Bon Jovi

Welcome to another installment of Criss Cross Counter Punch. Today, Chris and The Weirdgirl will be debating who deserves to be the Poet Laureate of New Jersey: Bruce Springsteen or Bon Jovi.

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Bon JoviChris: Both artists hail from New Jersey. Both artists have sold more than 120 million albums worldwide. Both artists preach a strong working-class ethos in their lyrics. But when asked to pick between Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen, there is only one logical choice: Bon Jovi.

Why? First, Jon Bon Jovi's much cuter. Ladies, would you rather wake up next to someone with frosted tips who might very well be prettier than you or someone who looks like your mechanic? I know it's superficial, but looks play a part in everything, including rock 'n' roll. If looks didn't matter, The Pogues would be a household name.

Secondly, Bon Jovi is an underdog. Everyone loves an underdog! Springsteen has received enough critical blowjobs to have an STD named after him. Case in point: of the twelve Springsteen albums reviewed by Rolling Stone, only The Ghost Of Tom Joad received less than a four-star review. Six of the twelve albums received perfect five-star reviews. In contrast, Rolling Stone said the following about Slippery When Wet: "Jon Bon Jovi and his band serve up condescending sentiment, reducing every emotional statement to a barefaced clich̩ Рeither because they think that's all their audience can comprehend or because that's all they can comprehend." Ouch.

Finally, while both artists sometimes write about being down on your luck, Springsteen's protagonists are "born to run" and hoping to "get to that place where [they] really want to go" while Bon Jovi's protagonists are more inclined to "hold on to what [they've] got" because "that's a lot for love." Springsteen characters know their "glory days" have "passed [them] by" but Bon Jovi characters have "something to believe in even if [they] don't know where they stand." Did you realize Bruce was so damn depressing? Hell, ditch half of the E Street Band and apply some pancake, and he'd be a proper Goth.

The Weirdgirl: Your entire argument fell apart with "Bon Jovi is an underdog." As you pointed out yourself, he's gorgeous. Pretty people can't be underdogs. It's just a fact. Unless they wear glasses and work as librarians or janitors. And it's commonly known that critics are jealous and of short stature so of course pretty boy Bon Jovi isn't going to get rave reviews. While Springsteen did have the acclaim of critics he wasn’t commercially successful until much later, schlepping it out in clubs while he built a following. Whereas Bon Jovi… with their debut album… opened for ZZ Top at Madison Square Garden. Dude.

On top of that, Bon Jovi had a number of songs reach #1 on the Billboard charts. Regardless that his albums consistently won Grammys, poor Bruce did not have one #1 song. And as much as I enjoy Bon Jovi, one gets the impression that there is a smidgen of calculation in both their song composition and the marketing efforts around those songs. Springsteen, however, is fearless when it comes to being true to his artistic vision, even if those efforts aren't guaranteed a good reception. It's Springsteen's heart, and sometimes vulnerability, that reaches his audience with a lasting impact. Bon Jovi's lyrics, even the later songs like "It's My Life," are geared toward teenage angst (really? from a guy 20 years my senior?), whereas Springsteen's songs reflect a growing, maturing awareness.

Bruce Springsteen might have a mechanic mug, but he's the everyman you picture knocking back beers at the bar. Bon Jovi, to this day, still has so many pumas throwing their appreciation at him at concerts I'm surprised he hasn't broken a hip tripping over a falsie on stage.

We should all be so lucky. Pooch.

Chris: For future reference, when you're debating music acts with someone, you might not want to point out that your opponent's act has #1 singles while your own act has failed to top the charts. Talk about an entire argument falling apart!

And for those of you playing along at home, that's four number one singles for Bon Jovi ("You Give Love A Bad Name," "Livin' On A Prayer," "Bad Medicine," and "I'll Be There For You") to Springsteen's zero. Zero. As in none.

But you're right, a good portion of Bon Jovi's stuff is geared toward teenage angst. But I'd argue that 80% of all entertainment is geared to that demographic. All you're proving is in addition to being a morose songwriter, Bruce is also a poor businessman.

So yeah, Bon Jovi sings about teenage angst. And cowboys. Rock on, pardner!

The Weirdgirl: Hey, all I'm saying is you can't call someone with #1 singles an underdog and expect us to love him, your man crush aside. And I got nothing against teenage angst but I can't say it's something I relate to much as I'm approaching my 40s. Bruce Springsteen, however, is enduring because he is producing music that grows with his audience. Bon Jovi might be able to attract new youngsters to his lyrical angst while just hitting 50... but will he still be able to do that in his 60s or 70s? I'm betting Springsteen will still be selling out shows for a long while yet.

Chris: Of course Bon Jovi will still be selling out shows in his 60s and 70s. Hell, Jon Bon Jovi's already seen a million faces and rocked them all! He is the cockroach of hair bands. He will always be around, smiling, looking pretty, and penning odes to Tommy and Gina. Enjoy the ride, Grandma!

As for Springsteen, those of us "in the know" realize that except for his Super Bowl appearance where he crotch-rammed the camera, he has been in hiding since 1992 when he turned over the keys to John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band, which also helps explain why he hasn't put out a decent album in well over a decade.

The Weirdgirl: Do you really want to call Bon Jovi the "cockroach" of hairbands? You know you're arguing for him, right?

Chris: Dude, that's a compliment. He's going to be with us forever, despite what he says in "It's My Life."

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So who should be the Poet Laureate of New Jersey? Have your say in the comments!

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