Classic Album: Bruce Springsteen’s “Born In The U.S.A.”

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We’re back with another edition to our Classic Albums feature where we look at some of the best, most influential albums of yesteryear. Today we delve into one of the best summer albums of all time – Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A.

What makes a great summer album? Well, let’s look at how we want to enjoy music in the summertime. We want music with the good vibes we can listen to while relaxing on the beach. We want the cool tunes we can play while driving with the windows rolled down. We want those anthems we can sing along with at the party. We want music that sets the right tone for any barbecue. So I suppose the perfect summer album can accomplish all of that. In that case, Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. categorically fits the bill.

Springsteen is a blue-collar hero of the music world. A rock version of Johnny Cash, always looking out for the little guy first and foremost. His songs are the kind you rally behind as celebrating that some things don’t come easy and hard work breeds tough people. However, while his rock and roll, crowd-pleasing, heart-pumping songs are how we view the icon today, it’s easy to forget that his career started in a much different place.

              via Columbia Records

Springsteen’s early work, while popular and acclaimed, were decidedly darker than some of his later efforts. The River and Nebraska are both fine examples of a young musician that didn’t shy away from heavy subject matter. While Springsteen didn’t soften per se, his next album was certainly a change for him. The young scrawny rocker the public had grown to know was replaced with a bulked-up showman. Synthesizers were added to stripped down sounds of the iconic E-Street Band.

All these seemingly drastic changes resulted in an album that still managed to sound like Springsteen. Not only did his fans embrace it, but in catapulted to a place of super stardom where he’s remained since. The album was completely accessible to a mainstream audience without abandoning a very distinct rebel spirit that many had grown to love. It provided emotional depth and mature songwriting along with a more playful sound. His status as one of the all-time great was cemented and his maturing sound and messages further made him a man of the people.

Best track

It might seem like the easy choice but there’s no denying the power, perfection and lasting impact of the titular song. Springsteen, despite dealing with what could be considered very political issues, always remained fairly private about his own political beliefs. That was until this song started being used as the campaign theme for several Republican politicians, including Ronald Reagan’s re-election campaign. At that point, Springsteen thought it best to correct how some were misreading the song. It was not the “ra-ra, America is the greatest” anthem that the tempo and chorus made it sound like. Instead, it was a look at the reality of what being American is for many – namely an inescapable poverty. It was a direct critic of many Republican policies. He suggested the President find a more fitting theme song.

 

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