Born in the U.S.A. (1984)


 
1. Born in the U.S.A. 2. Cover Me 3. Darlington County 4. Working on the Highway 5. Downbound Train 6. Fire 7. No Surrender 8. Bobby Jean 9. I'm Goin' Down 10.Glory Days 11.Dancing in the Dark 12.My Hometown

 

Ah, yes. Is there anyone alive who hasn't heard this album and then immediately fell in love with it? This was the album that "broke" him into uncharted levels of success never seen by most artists. You could easily argue it was well overdue. He had never made a bad album. In fact, every album he made up to this point was considered brilliant. So why was he finally being acknowledged as a superstar? What differentiates this from his first several albums? Well, you could argue that the songs are a bit more accessible (i.e. easier to fall in love with), after all, this album had seven top ten hits. Keep in mind that he had only one top ten hit on all of his previously albums combined.

He hasn't changed that much. He was older now, and it had been more than 10 years since his debut, so the songs tend to focus on characters well out of high-school and into the scary time of early adulthood, with seemingly more responsibilities that they couldn't quite handle. There are very few references to streets and hot-rods. Instead, Springsteen sings about unemployment, dead end jobs, failed (or failing) marriages, more unemployment, broken dreams and even more unemployment. He even sings a song about the good old days (Glory Days) that reminisces about better times. Sadly, from Springsteen's character's history, you have to wonder if those "glory days" were really that good in the first place. So, yes, there's a lot of disillusion here.

Ironically, the album was misunderstood by a lot of people upon release. This was in the mid eighties when people were more patriotic than ever. So when we heard Springsteen holler out Born in the U.S.A. amidst an album cover of him wearing red,white and blue in front of an american flag, well...it was easy to make that mistake. Even the president got it mixed up. But to Ronald Reagan's credit, the "mood" of the song didn't match the message. 30 years later, I still hear this song during American celebrations and 4th of July firework shows (he would release an alternate, much more suitable version on the box set Tracks several years later that was a holdover from the Nebraska sessions).

If there was anything else negative to say about this record, it was that listeners actually started to get tired of hearing this album. "Tired" is actually a kind word - "sick of" may be a better description. This goes not just for Springsteen fans, but anyone who casually listened to top 40 radio. Millions probably switched the station at some point because, well, there was such a thing as "too much Springsteen". The first single, Dancing in the Dark came out in April of 1984, and in September of 1985, they finally released the last single, which was My Hometown. As someone who wore out the record three months after it was released, I was honestly getting sick of hearing it as well. Not to mention that Bruce, himself, was turning into a bit of a celebrity - so we got to see him on videos, magazine covers and t.v. gossip shows everywhere.

This was a necessary price to pay. You can't argue the quality of the songs. They were all brilliant. Even though seven of the twelve were "chosen" to be singles, any of these songs would have been chart busters had they been released. It's almost as if he intended to purposely release a "greatest hits" album without anyone first hearing the songs. Because of this, in retrospect, it's easier for me to enjoy the non hits like Working on the Highway and Bobbie Jean a lot more than a song I became sick of, such as I'm on Fire and Cover Me. The whole album, though, is incredible start to finish. Sure some naysayers dismiss it, but only because of the above reasons and/or that it just became too "crowded" to be a Springsteen fan. He no longer belonged exclusively to New Jersey.


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