Def Leppard vs. Bon Jovi

Posted: April 27, 2006 in Metal News & Commentary

Def Leppard vs. Bon Jovi

These are two of the most successful bands of the 1980s/early 1990s.

Both bands have sold millions of records, toured the world, had major hit singles, dominated MTV and radio, and have been the envy of many of their peers.

Both bands have also continued to release albums since the mid-1990s to the present and toured the world. Both bands have had continued success around the world, except in the U.S., where Bon Jovi clearly dominates over Def Leppard.

So why does Bon Jovi sell out U.S. STADIUMS at $100+ a seat and Def Leppard has to co-headline (Bryan Adams last year, now Journey) to come close to filling the seats at an outdoor amphitheater for a third to half of the price?

Why does Bon Jovi still command radio airplay for mediocre material and Def Leppard can’t get anything, even mediocre material, post-1992 in any airplay rotation?

Now I’m not going to deny the successes of both bands. I think that for both bands to have maintained a level of success within a 20-25 year period is amazing. It is good for the world of Hard Rock to have bands like this in the public eye, keeping this genre alive in the mainstream. What I am trying to figure out is why/how Bon Jovi has shot past Def Leppard in the last decade.

Tale of the Release:

Bon Jovi
- released 5 studio albums between 1984-1992, including a 4 year gap between New Jersey (1988) & Keep The Faith (1992)
- released 7 albums between 1994-2005, only 3 were actual studio albums, including 5 year gaps between These Days (1995) & Crush (2000) & Have A Nice Day (2005)
- the other 4 albums released between 1994-2005 were a greatest hits, live album, box set, and an acoustic greatest hits compilation.
- since 2000 have released various different forms of each album (Wal-mart only releases, tour editions, E.P.s, etc.)

Def Leppard
- released 5 studio albums between 1980-1992, including a 4 year gap between Pyromania (1983) & Hysteria (1987), as well as, a 5 year gap betweem Hysteria (1987) & Adrenalize (1992)
- released 6 albums between 1993-2004, only 3 were actual studio albums between 1996-2002
- the other 3 albums released between 1993-2004 were a b-side compilation, greatest hits, and another greatest hits
- will release a covers album, Yeah!, in 2005

If you look at both bands’ output until 1992, you’ll see that they released the same amount of studio albums and each had two major blockbuster albums. You will also notice that there are significant gaps of years between releases for both bands. You could explain these gaps with the facts that both bands went on worldwide tours for these releases resulting in two years or more on the road. Also Def Leppard had two major tragedies in those gaps: Rick Allen’s accident between Pyromania & Hysteria and Steve Clark’s death between Hysteria & Adrenalize. I’m stressing the point of both bands having years between their blockbuster albums because Def Leppard always gets criticism for not releasing albums in a timely manner.

If you look post-1992, you’ll notice that Def Leppard has released studio albums with more consistency: 3 albums in 6 years (1996-2002). Bon Jovi has released 3 albums in 10 years (1995-2005).

So what is it that has launched Bon Jovi past Def Leppard as far as popularity and success in the U.S.?

Is it radio airplay?
Is it label support? They are on the same label.
Is it that the women adore Jon Bon Jovi? I seem to remember the Def Lep guys being favorites of the ladies as well.
Is it the strength of the material? I’d argue that the studio albums both bands released are of the same quallity. (I’m taking personal preference out of it.)
Is it that Bon Jovi is American and Def Leppard is British? Doesn’t matter to me but it could to some people.

I have no answer.

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Comments
  1. Mike says:

    Well I know one thing. I work for a major electronics company and we partnered with Bon Jovi for a program that we had last year. He was in the building one day and all the women were freaking out. It got to the point that I went into the mens room right after he had come out. After I was done, the women were still all “gooey” over him. I proceeded to act all excited and ran over to them and said,
    “Oh my God. I can’t believe that I just pee’d in the same urinal that Bon Jovi did!!”
    They were like, “Really?! OMG!!”
    So I said, “NO! Jesus, how the hell would I know that? HE wasn’t even in ther at the same time I was!”

    Based on this, I chalk it up to women still thinking he’s still “so totally hot”.

  2. Beats me.

    Bon Jovi always reminds me of this wonderful title of a horror story I have in my rather extensive collection: “Muzak for Torso Murders” (by Marc Laidlaw, btw). ‘Nuff said.

    The Def Leppard stuff released after the first two albums makes my toenails roll upwards.

    You could say that today, I would categorize either band as a serious health hazzard.

  3. Forgot one thing.

    The drummer of Def Leppard is one of my true heroes. Not because he ever was such a good drummer, but because he went against all the odds, went through incredible anguish and bounced right back after he lost one arm in an accident.

    That guy has balls, and plenty of them. That’s showing all the whiners constantly complaing of some small ailments.

  4. Mr. Me says:

    Hi! I just wanted to say that your post was pretty interesting, although you ARE missing an important fact. Bon Jovi ALSO released the album “Bounce” in 2002, between Crush (1999) and Have a Nice Day (2005), so they have been more consistent. Another fact to think about is that the Bon Jovi hit songs were always, even in the 1980′s with Leppard-mania going around, more “people-friendly”, since they hit a certain spot with working-class kids, kinda like what Bruce Springsteen did in the 70′s and early 80′s. I love both band and yesteday bought the Lep’s “Yeah!” album, and honestly speaking, it’s one of the best things they have released since the mid-90′s, and the best album released so far in 2006.

  5. Mr. Me – Absolutely forgot Bounce (2002)! I am going to have to do another post an add this in. Thanks for pointing that out, it puts Bon Jovi a more consistent.

  6. Brea says:

    I was just reading over your thoughts on Def Leppard and Bon Jovi. While I do like Bon Jovi- Def Leppard is by far the BEST. Yeah is a great cd and they(Def Leppard)are GREAT in concert. And just for the record Jon Bon Jovi is nice looking, but Joe Elliott is #1. Taking a line from Friends(the tv show)Joe Elliott is on my list.

  7. Brea – I agree, Def Leppard is better IMO. I think they are great in concert but Joe Elliot’s voice seems shot, or at least he’s straining.

  8. rick restrepo says:

    these two bands are my favorites but i have to say that def leppard is by far the best rock band, nobody can deny their quality and feeling of their songs, I love “photograph” this is the song that is the reason that im a rocker.

  9. there both great bands but def leppard is not the same with steve clark the rock god his guitar playing was the greats steve clark will be loved and miss’t always and forever.and as i said def leppard is not the same with out him def leppard is lost with out him but as jon bon jovi great too
    so i can’t chuse between def leppard and jon bon jovi because there both really great bands.

  10. ado says:

    its a tought question & a very good debate. My favourite band of all time are bonjovi.(ever since i was younger than 7 when i 1st saw the video for livin on a prayer- now im 24 and im still obsessed.where-as def leppard ive been a huge fan of too.. since the late eighties.

    i have seen bonjovi FOUR times since 2000.(all in dublin-where i live) each time they have played to a venue of 40,000 plus… the last time they played the venue the played was a stadium (have a nice day tour) 90,000 people.

    i have seen def leppard in dublin only once.(they have only played here once in about the last decade..and the venue was only about 1,000 people,excellent show.. but its strange to see bonjovi still playing stadiums sold out accross the world & def leppard playing lower key venues.but bonjovi are still appealing globally to worldwide audiences -old & new- whereas def leppard’s audience seem to be stuck on the older crowd.(i actually live approx 10 mins drive from joe elliots house (my best mate lost his virginity in joe’s house about 8yrs ago) rick savage’s house,bono’s house & the edge’s house(they all live very near each other on the coast of dublin)

    im a huge leppard fan.. but i think the reason why they havent been sucessfull in the nineties is because their music became out dated.bonjovi still could produce timeless classics (these days / faith) but def leppard came out with 1 original album ’96′s slang (which wasn’t a gr8 album-although all i want is everthing is a gr8 tune) but bonjovi have always been a stadium band.. a band of the people. eversince starting to play stadiums and massive venues since 1987 they’ve never looked back. but the leppard machine died dwn when grunge took effect,unfortunatly. their music didn’t survive.although the older stuff is still played (ie love bites) but anything new from them wasn’t a big hit.

    bonjovi have had some serious amount of success since 2000.huge tours especially have a nice day(their best opening week sales of any of their albums) and they are back in the studio recording and are goin to tour their new album.

    bonjovi are in the same bracket as my other hero’s u2,in terms of pure superstardom stadium worldwide sell outs.phenomal success. bonjovi will always be that kind of band,and the fact that jon is still only 44 is amazing.

    although bonjovi too (like def leppard) have had some really bad music lately,who says you cant go home,say it isn’t so,one wild night.. bonjovi’s best musical period has been ’86-’91 (incl blaze of glory) and ’92-’95… recently their music has faulterd

    ….but its true … 100 million fans cant be wrong.

    *** BONJOVI are 2nite being inducted in2 the uk hall of fame. (16th nov 2006)

  11. Ado – I like both bands but I prefer the Leps. I applaud your dedication to Bon Jovi…..sounds like me with KISS.

  12. Rick says:

    I like the two bands, actually they are my two favorites but I’ve got to say that Def Leppard is far superior than Bon Jovi.

  13. Rick – Gotta agree there, Def Leppard is superior IMO. I think it’s the first 3 albums by the Leps that really set them apart from Bon Jovi. The band came out rocking hard and then softened a bit. IMO, Bon Jovi was always “soft”.

  14. agingrocker says:

    You’re all correct… both bands rock, but on different levels. If I’m driving with my wife and/or kids I can jam with Bon Jovi and everyone is cool with it. But if I really want to get rocked, Def Leppard is in the cd player. Basically, I think that Bon Jovi released 65-75% high energy rock whereas Def Leppard is more along the 80-90% area. Like I said, two great bands- with slightly different emotionally charging appeal. My emotional reactions when listening to them is like this… Bon Jovi makes me feel like a ’69 Camaro SS. Def Leppard makes me feel like a big block Corvette. I like both.

  15. AJ says:

    Both bands rock, they’re all nice guys and JBJ and Joe Elliot are good friends anyway so it doesn’t matter.

  16. AJ – It’s just a comparison, a debate. For me, I prefer Def Leppard. For others it may be Bon Jovi. Whatever the case, the whole point was to try and find the reason why 2 of the biggest bands on the planet went in 2 completely different directions.

  17. Alexander says:

    I come from Greeece and i would like to say that both bands are extremely popular and are being loved very much..but to me..BON JOVI KICKS ASS…their songs are inour hearts..left their marks to us..Jon Bon Jovi..especially in 80s,had this fuckin great voice..uou could not believe what you heard of..

  18. jaskaran says:

    guys…i appreciate the fact that you people are doing this comparision and all..but seriously it aint gonna change anything.
    i love both the bands and i think they rock!
    it’s YOUR sole choice whether who you like,and i also appreciate the people who have posted before me as they kept this debate appropriate unlike some jackasses who just go over and blast some really “kind” words about the band…thereby portraying their mentality.

    but seriously both of these bands are legendary rock groups and may they keep rocking us for a long time!

  19. Jaskaran – Like I said before, it’s just a debate. Like I replied in Comment 16: both bands were highly successful but as the trends changed, Bon Jovi stayed in the limelight and Def Leppard faded.

  20. Katy Li says:

    I love both bands. I first listened to Bon Jovi a lot time before I was introduced to Def Leppard… but I got to say, my reaction to Def Leppard was immediate. I loved them from the first time I saw them on TV. Def Leppard beat Bon Jovi out of my #1 in a heartbeat.

    I think what went wrong with Def, was the fact that most fans expected their future albums to be a little more hard rock. I honestly preffer the earlier stuff -Pyromania’s got to be my favourite- but I did give them a chance with the later stuff. Euphoria was pretty good, actually. And YEAH! ? It’s just amazing. It got me into Thin Lizzy. And I’m only 18. See?

    The only reason I actually got to watch Def Leppard on TV, was the VH1 80′s special. But, seriously, the Lepps have said it themselves: American labels preffer to promote American bands. For the X album, they didn’t release any singles in the US. So, you can blame a big part of the fault on marketing strategies.

    The later stuff of Def Leppard is highly underrated. It’s not the same as the old sound, but bands do mature and evolve.

    As for Bon Jovi, I totally adore them. I don’t listen to much of their later stuff, ‘It’s my life’ and ‘TY for loving me’ being an exception, but some people up there are right. They’ve always been a way lot more ‘radio friendly’ than Def.

  21. Z says:

    Def Leppard and Bon Jovi. Just listen to the names. It make me have thrills. It rock!

    Have to say Lepps are rockier than Jovi, but I think if I have to choose I’d surely choose Bon Jovi. They make me feel gr8, and that’s all.

    But take a look – Jon Bon Jovi and Joe Elliot, Richie Sambora and Steve Clark. Man! These are the legends! The heroes of Hard Rock! Gotta love’em all!

    And Katy Li, you’re right. American labels preffer to promote American bands. And that’s all that really matters.

    Rock on!

    • David Whitton says:

      I preferred Def Leppard more because Bon Jovi, IMO, were just annoying in that received way too much radio airplay, not just Livin’ on a Prayer, any of their songs. Def Leppard does get certain airplay, but not as much. I found Leppard musically more interesting too, because they were similar to Bon Jovi, but minus the working class antics and Bruce Springsteen fixation. I think Bon Jovi are excessively popular basically because of Jon Bon Jovi and his haircut. I did think Richie Sambora is a good guitarist, but Jon Bon Jovi is why Bon Jovi are more commercially successful that Def Leppard. I think Richie should be a solo artist more because he will always be overshadowed by his partner in Bon Jovi.

  22. peter says:

    i am from greece. i read once an interview of one of the big heads in mercury/universal, the label of both bands and he said that the label wanted to give big promotions only in one of the old big rock bands, and they prefered bon jovi because they were american and their music was softer (propably they believe a lot to the female listeners). so if they had choosen def leppard it would be exactly the opposite. so its all about the labels and what they want to promote. slang was a great album and could be a major success but the label had other plans.i prefer def leppard because they are more a real rock band. i can’t say that bon jovi are a rock band. more like pop in a rock style. and still the lepps (without big promotion) had an amazing tour last year and for that they won an award at the concert poll star awards beating other nominees. one of the other nominees were bon jovi. next year the lepps will put out a new cd. lets see what will happen. def leppard rules!!

  23. BB says:

    Def Leppard hasn’t gotten near the support from their label over the past decade, I think that is the biggest difference. It’s hard to score a big record with sufficient promotion.

  24. Ann says:

    I love Bon jovi…every song is the best:
    Lay your hands on me, Wanted, Runaway, You give love a bad name, Livin on a prayer, These days, Keep the faith, Dry country, It’s my life, Let it rock, Livin in sin, Have a nice day, I am, Bounce, Thanx for lovin me…and so on…i don’t know but i love Bj much more than Def Leppard and thats all!
    100 million fans cant be wrong!!! ;)

  25. Matthew says:

    Both bands are great but I prefer Def Leppard, they jsut expiremented alot more musicly and took alot more risks. Slang is one of the most underrated albums ever recorded.

  26. wally roy says:

    wally hear cn the kings of rock 9 times in my country IRELAND bonjovi how people can even compare def leppard 2 our jonny and the boys is a joke

  27. wally roy says:

    if jon had not been a rocker he would of being a poet cos his songs is poetry in motion keep it np lads

  28. Jared says:

    commercially bon jovi are more successful and bon jovi have continued to release hit albums up til this day while leppard have fallen down a bit i think especially in album sales it wasn’t that long ago that bon jovi had a hit with have a nice day the last hit i can think of from def leppard would be one of the tracks from adrenalize so bon jovi have been more consistent really in still delivering hit songs and albums and def leppard’s final bow kinda came with the release of vault in ’95 their best of album and although bon jovi released their best of cross road in ’94 i still feel they’ve continued their success even for another release of a best of compilation so i’d have to go with bon jovi in that respect but personally they both ROCK!!!

  29. alexandre oliveira de lima says:

    def leppard is better. Always better

  30. Humberto says:

    I like BJ but i prefere Def. BJ is more commercially than DL, but in question of musically, def is deepest, more serious and talentous than BJ. Now, why they have a different direction? Simply because Def is from England, Bon Jovi is from U.S. We know american’s group have more facilities to have a good way than others. The platform is in USA, so, the success for the strangers groups depends on their’s performance, intelligence and tallent. Def Leppard is the best of 80′s.

    • Jared says:

      yeah but Bon Jovi have experimented successfully with other genres such as country and things like that while Def Leppard had Slang which had more of a grunge influence but they didn’t do it successfully. and it doesn’t matter that Bon Jovi is American they’ve had success outside that country too and other bands like AC/DC have still had hits and they’re Australian. Bon Jovi I think musically are more accomplished than Def Leppard because they’ve experimented with their sound properly where as Def Leppard hasn’t. but Guns N’ Roses own both bands anyway.

      • Tommy Duckworth says:

        dude guns n roses is one of the most overrated bands of all time. They have like 5 hits. Def leppard owns Bon jovi and Guns n roses. Well if your talking about the time from 1977- 1991. With Steve Clark Def leppard owns many many bands

  31. JIMMY says:

    Both bands ROCK but i think bon jovi cant come close to DEF LEPPARD. His music became tooooo soft and to commercial.
    The DEF’s are one of the best rock bands ever and even though i listen bon jovi too he can’t compete with them.
    Respect fot both BTW but Bon Jovi only dominates ther U.S. becouse of his commercial hits. The Def’s are far more talented and made real rock and rolll.Their videos were also simple and better

  32. PorcupineT says:

    Guns n Roses sucks, they are like the worst band ever, at least Axl is the worst vocalist I have ever heard, I don’t know how can people listen to that shit, everytime I hear Sweet Child I want to poop.
    Def leppard and Whitesnake too are both way better than Bon Jovi and Guns n Roses, in literally every field, especially vocals.

  33. firstly,it is ridiculous to say that Bon Jovi are anything like Def Leppard.They operate in two totally different genres of rock,and they are also miles apart in terms of songwriting ability,too.Having said that,they’re both brilliant but in different ways,for me though Bon Jovi is better by far.

  34. Ian says:

    It is because both bands are with Universal and Universal have only chosen to promote Bon Jovi and not Def Leppard, which is a real shame. In fact Def Leppard are in the middle of a dispute with Universal regarding putting there music catalog online. i’ve seen both bands live and they are both great. I think that the Bon Jovi sound has remained more consistent and has not alienated fans so much. Def Leppard are my favorite though!!

  35. Darcy Gilliland says:

    “I would say Bon Jovi of course, much better peformers and much better songwriters! They also won way more grammies, I don’t even know if Def Leppard ever won even one grammy in their career or if they ever will either! Def Leppard aren’t bad though since both those bands have had some pretty great songs in their career I must say but I would say that Bon Jovis’ are better and more interesting! My favourite rockin’ Bon Jovi and Def Leppard songs are You Give Love A Bad Name and Pour Some Sugar On Me and my favourite ballad by those two bands are Bed Of Roses and Love Bites! BON JOVI RULES!!!!! JON BON JOVI IS THE BEST FRONTMAN BY FAR OUT OF THE TWO, HIM AND JOE ELLIOT!”

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