Slippery When Wet

Slippery When Wet

The original cover of Bon Jovi’s third album featured a woman in a wet T-shirt with the words Slippery When Wet on the front, framed by a hot-pink border. Executives worried that stores wouldn’t sell the LP, so they made a change, swapping in a photo of a wet garbage bag with the title streaked in black. One image was meant to be fun and trashy (figuratively, at least), the other tough and stoic. That the band could pass as both spoke to what a massive phenomenon 1986’s Slippery When Wet became. They had enough of a taste of heavy metal to sound contemporary (“You Give Love a Bad Name,” “Social Disease”), but—compared to pinups like Poison and Mötley Crüe—they also felt like classic rock (“Livin’ on a Prayer,” “Wanted Dead or Alive”). They could tap into the nostalgia of a Skynyrd ballad (“Never Say Goodbye”) just as naturally as they could channel the swagger of a Rod Stewart rave-up (“Wild in the Streets”). And because they are, at heart, a pop band, they pull it all together with a seamlessness that makes you not care where they’re coming from in the first place. So, while a lot of their pop-metal peers ended up stranded on the last branch of an evolutionary tree, Bon Jovi and Slippery When Wet both resonate as products of their time and a step in the continuum of loose-letting, party-friendly rock—trash-bag-black and wet T-shirt contest alike.

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