While The Circle is certainly not their best work ever (New Jersey and Keep the Faith will forever dwarf future musical masterpieces), it IS good. I didn't think the choruses were "tired," although everyone will have a different opinion on the suggestion of "pallid rock cliches." The material was, for the most part, new and fresh - classic Bon Jovi with a modern twist. Some recycled lyrics, sure, because the guys are traditionalists in the lyrical sense - but the music is unlike any other album they've put out.
I have found myself thoroughly enjoying the entire album (okay, besides skipping When We Were Beautiful a few times) and belting out the lyrics to Superman Tonight and Love's the Only Rule especially. The passionate vocals mixed with the crescendoing melody absolutely slays me - I actually get goosebumps.
Clearly, everyone's opinion will differ - I am one of few who actually LOVES the album - but it is certainly not one of the WORST of 2009. Then again, the moron who compiled that list featured the Yeah Yeah Yeah's as the best rock album, as well as Rihanna for best pop album (can we say commercial pop machines??), and Kelly Clarkson for best...comeback? How ironically appropo.
Jon was dead-on when he said they never were - and never will be - a critic's darling. It's because the critics nowadays wouldn't know good music if it hit them square between their narrow eyes. Just gotta take them with a huge grain of salt.