When Springsteen sings, it looks like he's trying too hard. It looks like he's about to give himself a hernia.
This is the first installment of “Artists I Don’t Like, but Should?” These are artists who have widespread popular and critical acclaim, but, for whatever reason, I just don’t like (much).
This first installment is: Bruce Springsteen — aka “The Boss.”
As I’ve mentioned several times, I grew up in Houston Texas. So, maybe that has something to do with my distaste for “The Boss.” The first time I ever heard of Springsteen was in 1984 when his smash hit Born in the USA album came out. Since this blog is generally about the music which shaped my life, you will not be surprised when I repeat: there was once a time when you couldn’t turn on the radio and NOT hear a song off this Springsteen album. The radio hits were numerous. According to the wikipedia page, this album produced seven top-10 hit singles, out of 12 songs on the album. Now, that’s impressive!
I was 16 at the time, and perhaps I was just starting to question popular culture. My young mind was probably thinking: “Who on Earth thinks that Matthew Wilder’s Break My Stride is good?” Apparently, pop music DJs and lip-sync music lovers. Then, along comes Springsteen’s Born in the USA. I remember distinctly hearing a hyperventilating Houston DJ announcing the latest hit from “The Boss.” I thought to myself: “What? Who is this ‘Boss?’ I don’t think he’s the ‘Boss!’ Besides, I don’t get his music. And, the MTV videos are stupid too. When he sings, it looks like he’s trying too hard. No friggin’ way that’s real. What a fake!!!” So went my 16-year old logic. (To get a sense for what I’m saying, check out the first minute of his Born in the U.S.A. video or his Dancin’ in the Dark video, which features a cameo appearance by a very young Courtney Cox. It looks like he’s about to give himself a hernia in the first video.)
So, for years and years, I disliked Springsteen and thought he was a commercially-driven fake. Weeeeelllll…., maybe, just maybe, I’m wrong about that. In my advanced age, I’ve come to learn that he’s written some pretty dang good songs, like one of my childhood favorites featured in this post: Wrong Lyrics — “Wrecked up like a Doosh”. On top of that, he seems to be a genuinely decent fellow who, among other things, cares about his fans, always delivers a great live show, and even bends over backwards to accommodate fan requests. That’s great stuff after 40+ years in the music business. And, I guess the dude just sings his heart out all the friggin time. Rock on, Bruce.
Recently, I came across another Springsteen song that I really like. I vaguely recall hearing it on FM radio as a youngster in the mid- to late 1970s. Like “Blinded By the Light,” this tune is also from his 1973 Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. album. It’s a meandering, sax-laden ditty called “Spirit in the Night.” Coincidentally, this tune was also covered by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. (Springsteen’s original version is the better version)