Somewhere North of Nashville

As I’ve noted before, Bruce Springsteen is having something of a moment. In the past few years he’s published a memoir and performed an autobiographical one-man show, both to great acclaim. His last few albums have been received as late-career bests, and his early work has remained as relevant and rewarding as it’s ever been. Clearly, people are responding to whatever Bruce Springsteen has to say, and his ongoing popularity is thanks to more than just common nostalgia for a few hit singles. The things he’s been writing about all his life haven’t stopped resonating. In fact, his songs have somehow become more resonant. Songs about poverty, hopelessness, struggle and heartbreak may have struck an odd chord in the 80’s, when the prevailing mood was manic, cocaine-fueled optimism and candy-colored escapism was the dominant aesthetic. That may be why Springsteen’s big, fist-pumping hits were so popular, while his more thoughtful songs were looked upon as filler material. In recent years, he hasn’t produced any more stadium hits, and doesn’t need to. He doesn’t need to write catchy songs for the radio to balance out the darker material. The hits will always be there, and now it’s the dark, true-to-life stuff that people want to listen to. Because American life sucks, and there’s no glossy escapist pop shiny enough to outshine the darkness. It’s the time for sad songs sung by sad old men who’ve seen everything that they hoped would be better become steadily worse.

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