Pop Culture

Bon Jovi is NBC’s first ‘artist in residence’

Jon Bon Jovi has shown he’s a real team player while fronting the chart-topping rock band that shares his name for the past 25 years. And for the month of November, he and the band are part of the TODAY team.

The 47-year-old singer appeared on the plaza at Rockefeller Center Wednesday to announce his new partnership with TODAY and NBC. On a string of Wednesday appearances through November, the group will discuss their lives and music, culminating with the band showing off what they do best: playing their hits live.

Bon Jovi’s TODAY house call is part of a novel new project by NBC Universal called “Artists in Residence,” in which the group will appear on multiple programs on NBC and its affiliated cable channels throughout the upcoming month.

The group kicked things off by unveiling its new video, “We Weren’t Born to Follow,” live on TODAY Wednesday. The song juxtaposes live band footage with images of world leaders and sports stars who have “led the pack.” The song, which has already hit the Top 20 in the U.S., is the lead single from Bon Jovi’s new album, “The Circle,” which bows Nov. 10.

Speaking with Matt Lauer, Ann Curry and Natalie Morales on the plaza, Bon Jovi told TODAY he’s a firm believer in the message “We Weren’t Born to Follow” delivers.

“The world changed a year ago, and I think this song in particular exemplifies the human spirit,” he said. “People needing now to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and get back on their feet again. I could not have written this song with Richie [Bon Jovi guitarist Sambora] a year ago.”

Recession provided inspirationWhile the album is sure to include the type of soaring anthems that have made Bon Jovi one of the biggest groups in music history, selling 120 million albums globally, Jon himself says the group, now on its 12th album, recorded material with a decidedly modern, topical bent.

In a recent interview on Japanese television, Bon Jovi said he gathered with his guitarist and longtime songwriting partner Richie Sambora to work on new songs a year ago, but admits the progress was slow moving at first.

“We were writing a couple of boy-girl songs, we were writing a song about rehab [Sambora did a stint in rehab for alcohol in 2007], and it wasn’t really going anywhere,” Bon Jovi said.

“And then, between the president getting elected and the economy tumbling as it did and Bernie Madoff and those whole kind of things that happened, our country really sobered up last winter. And these songs started to come.”

Bon Jovi said he is excited about becoming a regular on TODAY for the coming few weeks, and when asked by Lauer what it means to him, the singer laughed and said, “A corner office next to you!” He added he’s ready to put in the 3 a.m. mornings the rest of the TODAY family does.

“I was up this morning with my kids … they’re at home touching the screen right now.”

While the music business has changed dramatically in recent years, Bon Jovi told TODAY he’s up for the novel approach of partnering with the network. “It’s a different way of getting the message of the music out to the masses,” he said.

The band, which also includes David Bryan, Hugh McDonald and Tico Torres, aims to add to the mountain of radio hits that began with their breakout No. 1 “You Give Love a Bad Name” in 1986. The group’s trademark “Livin’ On a Prayer” was named the No. 1 song of the 1980s by VH1, but unlike countless other ’80s hitmakers who fell by the wayside, Bon Jovi only got bigger. In the 2000s, the band has scored two of their biggest hits of their career with “It’s My Life” and “Who Says You Can’t Go Home.”

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He’s also made a successful foray into acting, appearing as a regular on TV’s “Ally McBeal,” and co-starring in the films “U-571” and “Pay It Forward.” As a sports fan-businessman, he and Sambora are primary owners of the Philadelphia Soul in the Arena Football League. In addition, Bon Jovi is a tireless worker for charitable and political causes: He’s a founding ambassador for Habitat for Humanity and he performed at Barack Obama’s inauguration in January.

But Bon Jovi knows his true calling is still performing with his band on the concert stage — they’ve played a staggering 2,600 concerts in some 50 countries since leaving their New Jersey hometowns to hit the road in 1984. The band will offer TODAY viewers a taste of what their 2010 tour will look like when they cap their “Artists in Residence” month with a Thanksgiving Eve concert on the plaza Nov. 25.

Given the band’s popularity, you might want to start lining up now.

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