A condemned killer sardonically asking for his baby to be seated on his lap before the executioner turns on the electric chair is a masterful lyric in Bruce Springsteen’s “Nebraska.” Jon Bon Jovi pilfers the image for “Thick as Thieves” and mangles it into a show of affection. But that’s what Bon Jovi does with his namesake band: pound life into treacle. “What About Now” is just more fuel for the juggernaut, with nothing to tick off the base or make detractors rethink their position. It’s a dozen slices of us-against-the-world optimism delivered in Bon Jovi’s Jersey drawl, a perfectly smooth tone for these edgeless songs. “I’m With You” is so malleable you can see the right, the left, and the apolitical all claiming it as an anthem. The best way to enjoy “What About Now” is to not listen too closely, ignore the clumsy lyrics (“I feel just like Picasso, and you’re my masterpiece”), and ignore that it’s watered down U2 flirting with pop-country. Just bask in the Tao of Bon Jovi. Or not. (Out Thursday)
Essential “The Fighter”
Bon Jovi plays Gillette Stadium on July 20.