Bruce Springsteen - Born In The U.S.A.

Born In The USA was in fact Springsteen's seventh album, and, unlike much of his earlier work, it's unashamedly radio-friendly, and crammed full of pop/rock anthems, to the extent that 7 of the songs on here were top 10 singles in the USA. This makes it, although it's his biggest selling album with 15 million sales, also one of his more divisive, with some people saying that the lyrics are overly simplistic, and don't provide an accurate representation of his best work, as contained on albums such as The River. However, in spite of this, the majority of people applaud this album for what it is; a masterful collection of Springsteen again singing about issues that everyone can relate to.


The Songs:


1. Born In The USA. Arguably Springsteen's most famous song, this was infamously appropriated by the Republican Party for their 1984 National Convention, after they completely misunderstood the meaning of the song, taking it to be a celebration of American patriotism; something which is understandable given the strident nature of the song. Examining the lyrics though ("I'm ten years burning down the road, nowhere to run, ain't got nowhere to go"), it's clear that this is an anti-war protest song, of the type that Springsteen has made throughout his career, and was thrown into even starker relief by his recent support for US Presidential candidate, John Kerry. One of the most anthemic and strongest songs on here, this gets 5/5.


2. Cover Me . After the statement of intent of the title of the track, this is more of a love song, that reminds me slightly of Bon Jovi at moments. It's not one of the better songs on the album, although it has a very upbeat feel to it (as did Born In The USA), which is typical of the album as a whole. It's also got a squealing guitar solo, which raises it above the mediocre album track that it might otherwise have been. 3.5/5


3. Darlington County. Again changing feel, this has a definitely folksy atmosphere, with Springsteen singing about him and his buddy Wayne (could you get much more stereotypical") going to small town South Carolina from New York, and promising that him and Wayne are "two big spenders". Again, drawing on Dylan comparisons, Springsteen doesn't have what could be described as a great voice, but here it's particularly obvious that it's effective in it's rawness. The song eventually goes into a Hey Jude style coda, turning this into a genuine stadium anthem. 4.5/5.


4. Working On The Highway. Played at a much faster pace than the initial three songs, this is driven by clapping in the background, which effectively replaces the snare drum so evident up till now. Lyrically, it's another Horatio Alger story gone wrong, with Springsteen singing "Someday mister, I'm going to lead a better life than this", before disappearing to Florida with a girl, after which he gets arrested. This clearly shows that in spite of the feel of these songs, and the idea of Springsteen as an All American man, he provides a very cynical, almost warped look at the American Dream, and it's particularly clear on this, largely due to it's more frenetic tempo. 4.5/5


5. Downbound Train. Although the album as a whole seems upbeat, there are exceptions. This is most definitely one of them, with the song being sung from the point of view of someone who has just been laid off at work, and synthesizers in the background adding yet more pathos to this. Lyrically, this deals with love, and the effects of losing your job on this, and emotionally, it's one of the most effective songs on here, particularly when Springsteen is left singing virtually by himself, showing an emotional side not generally associated with him. 5/5.


6. I'm On Fire. If this song were released today, it would probably get banned. Opening with the lines "Hey little girl is your daddy home, did he go away and leave you all alone, I got a bad desire", it's unashamedly twisted in it's lyrical ideas, and again tears away the veil from everyday life, and forces us to confront issues we don't want to see. It's a very understated song musically, with little to nothing going on, which makes the listener focus even more on the lyrics, along with the fact that this could usefully be longer (it's the shortest song on the album). 4/5.


7. No Surrender. After the previous two songs, you would have been left wondering where the mood of this album went. It's back in full strength here, with the feel, and indeed the lyrics here reminding me very heavily of Springsteen's epic, Born To Run. Dealing with the joy of music, and with the opening line, "We busted out of class, had to get away from those fools, we learned more from a three minute record than we ever learned in school", this is a delightfully upbeat romp through a song that shows The Boss at his crowd pleasing best. 5/5.


8. Bobby Jean. This has another slight change of mood, largely as it's based around a piano, but it's very much in the mould of the upbeat pop reputation of this album. With Springsteen saying goodbye to his childhood friend Bobby Jean though, it's yet another song on here that on the service sounds far happier and upbeat that it actually is, when you listen to the lyrics. It falls somewhere in between the really crowd pleasing songs on here though, and the more downbeat songs, and perhaps suffers slightly from this, although a blistering saxophone outro provides a different and very good touch at the end. 4/5.


9. I'm Goin Down. We're back in slightly angtsy love-related mood here, with the repeated chorus of "I'm going down, down, down, down", referring to a girl who used to me far more in love and interested with the narrator here than she is now. Again, there's a saxophone that provides an unexpected sting in the middle of the song, which changes the complexion of the song, which is mainly driven by a persistently thudding bassline hidden under the anguished vocals. 4.5/5.


10. Glory Days. Opening with a bluesy chord sequence, unsurprisingly enough this rapidly turns into a story of the high school sports god who's stuck in his "glory days", talking about them in bars, as does the ex-high school beauty. Although it's another stereotype, this arguably provides the key to Springsteen's appeal: he takes stereotypes in his lyrics, and clothes them in such a way that we understand them, and, quite naturally, can identify with them, as shown here by his admission that he does the same thing. 4.5/5.


11. Dancing In The Dark. Although this follows the same sort of formula as many of the songs here, for me it lacks some of the freshness, or little individual touches that the better songs on here do. It zips along nicely. thanks to a guitar line that fades in and out, along with the seemingly ever present snare drum, but it just doesn't live up to the standard of the album, along with the lyrics, which seem somewhat tired. 3.5/5.


12. My Hometown. As a closing song, this is incredibly effective. Dealing with the first time with racial tension, it also deals with how life moves on without changing, with Springsteen singing of how his father told him that "this is your hometown" at the start, before relaying the same information to his own son at the end of the song. Musically, it's softer than most of the songs on this album, which gives it an air of understated beauty, adding to the air of overall helplessness and sense of not being in control of your own destiny which really makes this song one of the highlights of this album. 5/5.


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