Wednesday, August 1, 2007

No. 85: Born In The U.S.A.

Band: Bruce Springsteen
Album: Born In The U.S.A.
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Um. Well. Let's see. Springsteen is considered a classic songwriter of Americana and "Born In The U.S.A." is decidedly American. Lyrically, it's got a protesty-bent, though that's been misinterpreted by Republicans since it came out, basically.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: Someone smart is going to have to explain to me why Springsteen is so great.
Best song: The title track is the best-known song, though I prefer "Glory Days" for a weird reason.
Worst song: "I'm on Fire" should be burned.
Is it awesome?: Nope.

I mentioned this in the Ray Charles piece, but 'm of an age where so much popular baby boomer iconography has been co-opted by commercial use, so some songs remind me not of the artist, but rather where I'm most familiar with the song. "Glory Days" reminds me not of the stupid video with the E Street Band where Springsteen goes back-to-back with the sax guy. Nope. I think of "Glory Days" and I think "Wow, I'm at a baseball game. I want a hot dog."

I love baseball. I don't love Springsteen.

I understand "Glory Days" is just a record about the "good old days." It's very boomer-esque in the idea that there were "glory days" to celebrate. Or maybe Springsteen is being ironic. I don't know.

I do know the title track is one that's been so misread, it's funny. Every conservative from George Will to Ronald Reagan thought "Born In The U.S.A." was a patriotic anthem of sorts, when, in reality, it counts down the missteps the United States made during the Vietnam war and after the war regarding the veterans. Springsteen pulls few punches:

I got in a little hometown jam
And so they put a rifle in my hands
Sent me off to Vietnam
To go and kill the yellow man

Not a lot of subtlety.


I respect a lot of Springsteen's politics, heavy-handed as they are. Still, his version of sax solo/honky tonk piano rock and roll makes me want to vomit. It's manufactured Midwestern/Southern soul from a guy from goddamned New Jersey. Asbury Park, no less.

1 comment:

fft said...

Let me just say that I love Bruce. He is the best concert out there. See the DVD of his '75 concert and you will begin to understand why this guy gets the press he does.

That said, most of what I like about him changed when this album came out. Nebraska was great. The River was pretty great. But this was clear the shark-jumping moment for him, after which it was never the same.

I don't like this album either. If your view of Bruce comes mainly from the image he presented from this album or later, I beg you to put this out of your mind and just consider what came before.