Kat: Bruce Springsteen's released a new album so it's time for a lot of people to pretend. Reality: It doesn't matter. LETTER TO YOU is another piece of faltering garbage and Bruce exists mainly to prove that Elvis at the end, 'Fat Elvis,' was not so disappointing because he let the body go. No, it's because Elvis got out of touch and corrupt, sailing around on David Geffen's yacht while hobnobbing with politicians -- Oh, wait. The yacht and politicians part was 'working guy' Bruce.
Reality, Bruce has released one great album since 1984's BORN IN THE USA -- that would be THE RISING. The long and hollow period between the two albums was enough to give many despair. But along came 2002's THE RISING and, if you were a fan, I was, you thought, "Well maybe this is a renewal?" Seven bad albums followed.
LETTER TO YOU makes it eight.
Is it all Bruce's fault?
He is the artist, after all. But reading Bonnie Stiernberg's latest garbage, I have to wonder how much mindless, fact-less, ego stroking comes into play? For those who don't know Bonnie, she's got her nose buried in men's balls -- as any brief check of her Twitter feed will reveal -- man, man, man and then a Tweet insulting Adele (and mocking people with accents).
I wasn't familiar with Bonnie's history of bad writing but, reading her latest, I knew she wasn't very smart or very talented. At INSIDE HOOK, she's produced a piece of . . . well, something which is entitled "Bruce Springsteen Is an Icon of Non-Toxic Masculinity. Why Do Men Keep Misinterpreting Him?" Reading the essay, I'm not only questioning whether Bonnie knows Bruce's music, I'm also questioning whether she knows masculinity -- toxic or otherwise?
For a gal worshipping at every male crotch she can nuzzle up to (John Mulaney, The Strokes, Willie Nelson, Ben Yar, Stephen Colbert, Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, David Waldner . . . again, in 22 Tweets, the only woman she names is Adele -- and it's to insult Adele), for a gal like that, she seems unclear on masculinity.
Among other things.
Alicia Keys released a strong album: ALICIA. And I was all set to write about it and how she gathered various strands (including Amy Winehouse) together to produce something unique and moving. And then? The weekend I was going to write my review, Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. Ruth was not a superhero. She was not the return of Christ, Muhammad or Buddha. She wasn't even the return of The Dancing Baby from ALLY MCBEAL. In a true and lengthy history of the Court, RBG certainly would not rank as the most liberal member of the court. But she was the finest jurist serving on it in 2020 and her death did shatter me to various degrees, no matter how hard I tried to keep it in perspective.
I can't listen to Alicia right now, it brings up that horrible weekend and probably will for some time. I will probably always now associate that album with the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and, while it's not on the level of 'where were you when JFK was murdered,' it's certainly more important than 'where were you when Poppy Bush threw up all over the lap of Japan's Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa.'
So, in a way, I should be thanking Bonnie. If she hadn't written such hideous, purple prose, I would probably still be avoiding music -- or at least avoiding writing about it.
"You're a bit like Roger," C.I. told me, "in that episode of AMERICAN DAD entitled 'Frannie 9-11' where he nearly dies from being nice but comes back to life when he gets bitchy." That's exactly what I'm like!
Let's deal with Bruce's bad album first. "I'll See You In My Dream" closes the album which is good. The 'chorus' ("I'll see you, I'll see you, I'll see you" -- oh, shut up already) is so bad that it would have stopped anyone listening from the rest of the album if it were the opening track. The lyrics to the verses make no sense and add nothing to the song. He sings it in a manner that's neither mournful nor celebratory -- indicating that even he, the songwriter, has no idea what he's singing about. Bonnie calls the song a gut punch -- clearly she's confused the term with "golden shower."
If you make it to that track, track 12, you've already endured a great deal.
That would include Bruce's phony country accent on "If I Was The Priest."
Even the title makes you cringe. He's not a priest, therefore, the rule is "If I were." He can never be a priest, the speaker in the song who wants the "girl over by the water fountain,' so it's if I were, not if I was. Now if Bruce weren't so hostile to women, he'd think of Gladys Knight and the Pips' classic "If I Were Your Woman," and he would have gotten the grammar right -- if nothing else.
The chorus really meanders and maybe Bruce thinks he's written a ''thinker,'' but he's just exposed how little attention he's paying to this latest attempt to cash-in and fleece fans.
Here's the meandering chorus, try to make sense of it:
Now if Jesus was a sheriff and I were the priest
If my lady was an heiress and my Mama was a thief
If Papa rode shotgun on the Fargo line
There's still too many bad boys trying to work the same line
Has the mind gone? Is that why the chorus goes round and round to eventually say basically what was already said in the first verse? "Janey Needs A Shooter" is another indication that Bruce's mind is gone. The 'melody' of the song is the worst melody he's ever composed -- and that's really saying something for anyone at this late date in the career. What is the "shooter man" Janey needs? Is it supposed to be sexual?
Bruce doesn't really have a history of sexy songs. "I'm On Fire" strikes some as sexy and, if you're into thirty-year-old men sleeping with underage girls, whip out the vibrator and go to town, sister. (Why do I think Bonnie already has?) "I'm Going Down" has a promising chorus but, sadly, it's not about Bruce doing that and I honestly can't picture someone as selfish as him being very enthusiastic about performing cunnilingus. Bruce really hasn't been able to get it up enough musically to do sexy with rare exceptions like 1980's "Drive All Night" (THE RIVER) and, of course, 1992's "Cross My Heart" which I could certainly relate to ("I was lying there with something sweet and salty in my mouth") but who knew Bruce was, like me, Liz Phair and many other women, a blow job queen?
At this point, Bruce is so pathetic he has to drool over himself. He's jerking it on "Last Man Standing" which is all about how a lot of rock stars have died but he's still, yes, standing. Elton John made a similar boast back in 1983 and it wasn't true then either but at least Elton made it catchy. Bruce? If you've ever wondered what diarrhea set to music would sound like, "Last Man Standing" and it's chug-chug-pause-chug-chug rhythm provides you with the answer.
"The Power of Prayer" may be the best song on the album in that it's not annoying, the lyrics are pedestrian but you can follow them and he sings them in a better voice than elsewhere on the album.
In it, he sings of "this magic moment" and, for LETTER TO YOU, it's the closest thing to magic on the album. But, let's be honest, it's pure filler. That's all the bulk of Bruce's career has been: Filler.
Which takes us back to Bonnie who wants to write some sort of pro-Joe Biden political treatise and uses what she thinks she knows about Bruce Springsteen as her foundation.
As Jeff Bridges tells Michelle Pfeiffer in THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS, "Once the sweat dries, you still don't know s**t about me."
Bonnie wants you to know that masculinity is evidenced in "photos of Springsteen kissing or otherwise being affectionate onstage with Clemons." That's Clarence Clemmons. Let's be clear, before Bruce was kissing Clarence onstage, he'd already been kissing Little Steven on stage. For years. And let's be clear, because Bonnie isn't, Bruce was swapping spit, these were soul kisses, tongue kisses, French kisses. She's not clear on that. There's so much she lacks clarity on and that's obvious in this garbage paragraph:
It’s astounding how, so many years later, some men who claim to be Springsteen fans have so gravely misinterpreted him. “Born in the USA” is the obvious example, embraced by the right as a flag-waving anthem (most recently by the Trump campaign) when it is in fact a searing criticism of war, poverty and the way our country abandons its veterans. Chris Christie, whose beliefs are polar opposite of Springsteen’s, claims to be a superfan. But it’s not just his political views that get overlooked or twisted; there’s a very specific type of macho guy who has somehow missed the point who loves to yell “Bruuuuuuuuuuce” and latches onto the Boss because he sings about cars and girls and looks the part.
"Bruuuuuuuuuuucce" is the cry at any of his concerts. Am I the only one seeing Bonnie sneering at the working class, by the way? That's who she appears to be panning and they're the same ones who made him a star and they're the same ones who are his core audience. It's because he sang about cars and girls that so many of the men Bonnie's spitting on bought Bruce's albums in the first place. His songs are also the reason The National Organization of Women named him "the twinkie" (not The Boss -- a name, by the way, already owned by the great Diana Ross before Bruce tried to appropriate it). Bonnie seems unaware of Bruce's long history of sexism as well as the response of NOW and other feminist organizations to that sexism.
Oh, well, she misses Joe Biden's assault of Tara Reade as well -- misses it or ignores it on purpose.
But she wants to attack men who supposedly misinterpret "Born In The USA"?
She ignores the women in Bruce's audience, please note, because they don't fit her supposed 'toxic masculinity' theme. But she knows nothing about "Born In The USA" including the fact that we, on the left ,widely interpreted that song and that album by the cover photo which appears to be Bruce taking a whizz on the flag. That take on the 1984 album was so common that Bruce himself was asked about it in his 1985 ROLLING STONE interview. He denied it.
We should also deny Bonnie's ridiculous claim that "Born In The USA" "is in fact a searing criticism of war, poverty and the way our country abandons its veterans." It's none of those things. It certainly isn't ''searing''-- not, about anything. But it's not a critique of war. "Sent me off to a foreign land to go and kill the yellow man." I mean, maybe it's racist? Maybe the song is racist? "Yellow man"?
The song's not political and I'll come back to that in a second but let me share a story from this time period, 1984. I shot photos of Bruce for a profile. I shot some while he was giving the interview and probably had 30 minutes after the interview to get some more shots. Jon Landau carefully managed and created Bruce who, left to his own devices, is very boring and not very smart. Jon had shoved Howard Zinn's writing on Bruce. In the interview, it was clear that Bruce was not a political person or a political thinker or much of anything but he would cite Zinn and badly misrepresent Howard. After the job, the writer and I went for drinks and marveled over what a poser and pretender Bruce was until we looked at each other and wondered: Did Bruce even grasp that? He truly was that stupid. Even the most basic arguments Howard Zinn put into writing were misrepresented by Bruce.
So maybe Bruce thinks he wrote an anti-war song? That's my point in sharing.
He didn't. He wrote an upbeat, arm punching song with a chant of "Born In The USA." Bonnie can try to misrepresent that all she wants but no amount of whoring on her part will erase the line "I'm a cool rocking Daddy in the USA" from the end of that song.
Oh, yeah, that.
Bonnie's a lying whore.
The point of the song is that we are beat down and we survive in the US. That's not a song I'd write, I'm much more political. (I'm also not talented in music -- nor is Bruce anymore). But that's the song he wrote. About "a hometown jam" and how that leads him to Vietnam, about a friend who dies there, about a jobless USA . . . He just sings jottings. And then he adds the triumphant chorus. People didn't misinterpret the song, they got it. It's liars like Bonnie and Bruce himself who are mangling the song today.
We're the American mongrel and we will survive -- that's the sentiment of the song which really isn't all that political and certainly isn't a new boast.
Fat Elvis? Pumped Bruce? What's the diff, right?
Bonnie's unaware of pre-1984 Bruce. She's apparently equating masculinity with biceps (which is so in keeping with her gendered and sexist view of the world). In 1983, Bruce got a weight set. Suddenly, he had a career. He really didn't before. He'd taken his theft of the Spector sound as far as he could and it had resulted in very little.
In 1980, he had dropped to gold status. THE RIVER sold half a million copies in the year of its release. B-b-b-ut it's certified platinum!!!!! That year it was. But it was a double-disc. If you sell 500,000 of a double disc album, they certify you platinum. Weren't you paying attention when Bruce's box set LIVE 1975-85? That overpriced set did not sell like crazy in 1986. It was certified gold and platinum the following year. That was not for one million single units sold. The boxed set had five albums. Each sale of LIVE 1975-1985 counted for not one sale but for five sales due to the multi-album nature. So, within a year of its release, LIVE 1975-1985 sold 220,000 copies which is about right for a bloated and over-priced item.
So THE RIVER saw him struggling. He'd worked up to million selling single disc albums by then -- BORN TO RUN and DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN. And I'm talking about real-time certifications -- check BILLBOARD -- not when the back catalogue started selling because of BORN IN THE USA. But now THE RIVER had only sold 500,000 copies and, worse, the follow up NEBRASKA had only gone gold. He'd been hyped like crazy (Jon Landau was a journalist before managing Bruce and a lot of people owed Jon favors) -- making the covers of NEWSWEEK and TIME and yet failing to deliver in terms of hit songs. From 1973 to 1983, Bruce had only delivered four top forty songs. "Born To Run" was not a huge hit. It only made it to number 23. "Prove It All Night" made it to number 33. "Fade Away"? Number 20. Surveying his poor track record, Bruce appeared to notice that his only really hit -- his only claim to one-hit wonder at that point -- was "Hungry Heart" which actually made it into the top ten, all the way to number five.
Unlike all of his failed attempts previously at the top ten, "Hungry Heart" wasn't metaphor heavy. It was a straight forward song from the opening line: "Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack/ I went out for a ride and I never went back." Now Bonnie might want to explore what sort of non-toxic masculinity that song reveals but I'll just note it was a straight forward song and that Bruce, as he freely admitted in the interview I took photos for, knew it was what the label wanted from him. Which is how you end up with BORN IN THE USA -- an album whose deepest lyrical image is "Now I work down at the car wash, where all it ever does is rain." No more convoluted and exhausting word pictures like the verses of "Born To Run," no more endless (and bad) metaphors. "Straight forward rock pays the bills," Bruce laughed in that interview.
That's one of the reasons Bruce hit big in 1984. The other was the fist pumping "Born In The USA." The song came out one month ahead of the Summer Olympics (which were held in Los Angeles that year). He was also helped by the cosmetic work he had done at Jon's insistence (he apologized for it in the interview): getting his teeth fixed to remove the gap between his front teeth. And then there was the gift of the weight set. Bruce bulked up in 1984. The scrawny, gapped tooth, gangling guy was gone. He was muscled. And as 1984 and 1985 went on, he just got more and more muscular. He became a pin up when promoting BORN IN THE USA. Yes, looking at the wheezy corpse today, it is hard to believe it, but, back in the mid-80s, Bruce was a pin-up. The more he pumped, the less he produced. He's shooting blanks at this point.
I'm not sure where to rank that on masculinity -- toxic or otherwise -- but I know that it happened.
I'm also not sure why you build an article around Bruce and his alleged non-toxic masculinity to begin with? Bonnie doesn't even know him. In fact, I think that between the photos I took and one time backstage at a concert, I've spent more time around Bruce than she ever has. Point being, why would a woman -- any woman -- go out on a ledge to vouch for a man that they don't know? Especially when said man has a sexist view of women in his songs and whose supposedly wonderful marriage is to a back up singer he bosses around while his first wife is barred by a non-disclosure agreement from speaking about him? Julianne Phillips was no backup singer. And that's one of the reasons the marriage didn't work. Bonnie won't explore that, will she?
Reality: Bruce has released yet another flaccid and bad album. Reality, the whoring is done by Bonnie Stiernberg whose initials are, appropriately enough, B.S.