Classic Album, Bruce Springsteen, Born in the USA
“…perhaps one of the most misunderstood albums of its time.”
There are very few musicians who can be successful while having their name be synonymous with an item of clothing. Rather than being catapulted into the pop genre like Madonna and her pointy bra and those leotards, Bruce Springsteen lives up to his nickname “The Boss” as he somehow manages to make his ‘tight jean, blue-collar’ identity work to his advantage.
Born in the USA is perhaps one of the most misunderstood albums of its time. From the songs themselves down to the Annie Leibovitz’ artwork of The Boss’ blue-jeaned butt-cheeks in front of the American Flag. This has been interpreted in two contradictory ways; as either Bruce ‘urinating’ on the flag, or as a symbol of blue-collar American pride.
Personally, I think if you can get away with your album art consisting of your be-jeaned butt you should probably go for it. Only Bruce and maybe Kylie Minogue can get away with it. Considering the album produced 7 top-ten singles, butts have served quite a clever marketing tool from the 1980’s to the present.
The tracks themselves are brash and furious, ranging from the disappointed anthem Born in the USA to the pure-pop song-writing of Dancing in the Dark, but somehow remained misunderstood. None of the songs make any apologies for themselves. The album is controversial at best, with some feeling that he was a ‘sell-out’ for creating such a ‘pop-centred’ album. These people clearly missed the subversive nature of the album.
The title track of the album Born in the USA is arguably one of his most recognisable tracks; its catchy, up-tempo chorus overshadows the bleakness of the song’s storyline making it, in my opinion his most subversive work. The song was utilised by Ronald Reagan who felt it epitomised the ‘American Dream’. Ironically poor Ronald must have been ignoring the song’s actual lyrics which follow Bruce’s disappointment at the poor treatment of the soldiers of the Vietnam War.
For him, unless you are the victor, the ‘American Dream’ becomes the ‘American Nightmare’. The Boss himself spoke about his confusion at people’s misunderstanding of the song saying; “Pop musicians live in the world of symbology. You live and die by the symbol in many ways. You serve at the behest of your audience’s imagination. It’s a complicated relationship.”
Meanwhile songs like Glory Days continue the theme of lamenting broken dreams, and songs such as My Hometown show hopefulness for future generations.
This may have been the album that made Bruce Springsteen a superstar but with last year’s release of his accompanying track to Mickey Rourke’s comeback hit The Wrestler being well received, The Boss leaves behind these laments and proves himself worthy of the title that classics such as this album afforded him.
Drop-d Rating 9/10