Words & Deeds

Bon Jovi hits No. 1 on country chart, yet hell remains unfrozen

I've been shot through the heart, and millions of country fans are to blame.

Apparently, I am the only soul on the planet who thinks that Bon Jovi gives country a bad name.

Initially, I thought it was a misprint. Sitting at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart last week was a Bon Jovi tune, "Who Says You Can't Go Home."

Wha — how ... why?

Turns out this steel guitar-fortified aberration is a duet with Jennifer Nettles of newcomer Sugarland, a band up for five Academy of Country Music Awards later this month.

Bon Jovi's saccharine twang permeates this song. Along with an alternate pop version, it's on Bon Jovi's CD, fiendishly titled "Have a Nice Day."

Country has hit rawk bottom.

Or not. Rich Summers, program director for KIZN-FM "Kissin' 92," doesn't even raise an eyebrow. Summers, who may or may not be slippery when wet, points to country's decade-long transformation into a rock-friendly format.

"If the Eagles came out today, they wouldn't be on rock radio," Summers said. "Country would be playing them."

Crap. He's right. Nevertheless, this is the first time a rock act has gone No. 1 on the country chart since country singles started getting tracked in 1944, according to Billboard.

Look, I get it. Jon Bon Jovi dreamed of being a cowboy in the '80s. On a steel horse he did ride. But this band committed bandanna atrocities that simply can't be forgiven by men who ride bulls. Do you even remember guitarist Richie Sambora's horrid hat-and-boots combo?

Bad medicine, country fans, bad, bad medicine.

Yet everyone seems unswayed by my hand-wringing. Summers assured me that without the Sugarland connection, Bon Jovi's song probably wouldn't have have hit No. 1.

That's comforted me. Sort of.

I liked it when Loretta Lynn made music with rocker Jack White. I also have no problem when "Kissin' 92" plays "Picture" by Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow.

But ... not ... Bon ... Jovi.

The No. 1 country spot belongs to George Strait or, heck, Gretchen Wilson, or, for Pete's sake, rapper Nelly! I'd rather see Nelly with a country hit. Ever hear that (awful) "Over and Over" song he did with Tim McGraw? "Kissin' 92" didn't spin that one: "There's just some things I can't do," Summers explained with a laugh.

Greg Marchant, vice-president and talent buyer for Boise promoter Bravo Entertainment, traces the whole trend back to Garth Brooks.

"Garth Brooks paved the way," Marchant said. "That guy wanted to be in Kiss when he started his career."

Yeah, but remember how we all laughed hysterically when Brooks unveiled his pop alter-ego, Chris Gaines? Rock fans are the ones who should get to make fun of Bon Jovi, too! They shouldn't have to share him with country fans.

On the other hand, beating up on ol' Jon Bon never gets old, no matter what the genre. While I was playing "Who Says You Can't Go Home" in the newsroom, a co-worker heard me ranting, walked over and issued an honest compliment: "Wow, he sounds pretty good."

I smiled. Nettles was singing.


Speaking of non-country artists with (gorgeous) country songs? Check out "Rise Up With Fists" by Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins at her Web site or MySpace.com. Tell me what you think. Radio won't touch it. ... The Tim McGraw/ Faith Hill show Aug. 6 at the Idaho Center is nearing 10,000 ticket sales. ... "You in Reverse," the new CD from Built To Spill, entered the charts at No. 63, "which we can pretty much safely say is their highest debut ever," according to a Warner Bros. publicist. After three weeks, it's sold 37,000 copies.