Bruce Springsteen has come out with a new album, an event that gladdens the hearts of millions of his fans in the United States and around the globe.
With a recording career spanning almost four decades, including several top 10 singles; 17 albums, at least 60 million LPs sold in the U.S. alone, and hundreds of sold-out concerts, Bruce is a bona fide rock-and-roll superstar and pop culture giant.
He's also the worst, most boring and overrated “rock star” in history.
Taking into account that musical tastes are extremely subjective and “unquantifiable” exercises, allow me to state that I find Bruce's music tuneless, uninspiring, uncreative, unmoving, tiresome, dull, repetitive, pointless, cloying, forgettable and wholly lacking in either musical quality or originality.
To be fair to Springsteen, I will concede that he's no worse than hundreds, perhaps thousands, of rock musicians and pop groups who somehow secure recording contracts and pollute the airwaves with equally horrid musical sludge.
Indeed, for every truly great artist like David Bowie, The Beatles or Bob Dylan, there are scores and scores of mediocre performers who exist solely to fill the seemingly unquenchable demand for music from the public.
Before all you Bruce-lovers pour your hatred and scorn upon me, let me declare that I'm well aware that Springsteen has a veritable army of devoted fans, that he's reportedly a nice man who has raised a fine family and donates to charities.
But none of that has any bearing on the quality of his music, which is absolutely putrid.
His lyrics are insipid and simple-minded -- while he is attempting to make the same declarations about Anerican society as Bob Dylan did 40 and 50 years ago, Bruce's work completly lacks Dylan's irony, humor, grandeur and sheer poetry.
Some would argue that the very fact of Bruce's longevity supports the notion of the value and integrity of his music. To that point, I'd respond that many dubious “artists” and celebrities have enjoyed lengthy careers and broad acclaim -- within and outside of the pop music realm.
However, what truly infuriates me most about Springsteen (aside from his inexplicable popularity and success) is the way he seeks to portray himself as a “voice” for the dispossessed and blue-collar Americans whose jobs, lifestyles and aspirations have been wiped out by the decline of manufacturing and by corporate greed.
Need I point out the hypocrisy of a multi-millionaire like Bruce claiming to represent the poor and working class?
Need I also point out how Bruce himself has extravagantly prospered in a capitalist economic system he has repeatedly condemned as “unfair,” “cruel” and “exploitative”?
Even John Lennon (a great songwriter, but also a rank hypocrite in many ways) admitted late in his life that the militant left-wing “activism” he once espoused was largely phony and driven by the guilt and embarrassment he felt having amassed such enormous wealth.
Would Bruce – who is worth at least $100 million, perhaps much more – ever make such a dramatic, cathartic admission?
His whole “image” and “persona” is intimately intertwined with his identification with the working class and their problems.
Such a confession would bring his entire business empire down like a house of cards.
Bruce seems to be obsessed with being an updated (and better-looking) version of Bob Dylan, or even a modern-day Woody Guthrie – but he comes off as a shrill, third-rate imitation copy.
Moreover, there exists a hilariously wide gulf between Bruce's leftist politics and the views of a broad swath of his mostly white male fan base. Bruce espouses a decidedly anti-authoritarian, anti-corporate, anti-conservative, anti-Republican Party stance -- however, many of his most devoted fans find such political views offensive and absurd.
This became crystal clear to me in 1984 when President Ronald Reagan (and many of Bruce's fans) misconstrued the lyrics of “Born in the USA” as a patriotic anthem (that song was actually about the problems and sorrow of a Vietnam veteran).
I believe this “confusion” over Bruce's “message” has lasted all these years and partially contribute to his adulation.
I also recall during the 2008 presidential election when Bruce endorsed Barack Obama and appeared at a campaign stop with the then-Illinois senator somewhere outside Philadelphia.
It was a surreal moment – the Harvard elitist and community organizer -- and the washed up, filthy rich rock star speaking up on behalf of the “common people.”
There's yet another – perhaps insidious – element to Springsteen's popularity.
Bruce is one of the few prominent white rock-and-roll stars still standing. As hip-hop climbed to prominence in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, many white fans clung tighter to Springsteen as being “one of them.”
Indeed, Bruce represented a familiar and comforting “white symbol” amid a pop music culture increasingly populated by black rappers and others.
I know white Springsteen fans that have referred to purely racial considerations to defend their attachment to him.
Bruce himself is reportedly an avowed anti-racist who would probably be appalled by such sentiments – but, having to walk a fine line, he can't afford to alienate a significant portion of his record-buying and concert-attending fans.
Bruce is now 62 – SIXTY-TWO – just three years away from the mandatory retirement age for most of us and qualifies as a senior citizen. But he still dresses and talks like someone less than half his age. He's, of course, not alone in this delusionary self-deception -- Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart, and scores of other aged dinosaurs can't deal with their advanced age and pretend they're youthful, relevant and vital.
Bruce is basically a lucrative “corporate entity” masquerading as a troubadour for the masses – he has actually become a self-parody, but most of his besotted fans don't seem to get the travesty that he truly is.
When true music lovers compare him to such genuine, authentic, hard-living artists like Hank Williams Sr., Ledbelly, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard who truly suffered and lived tumultuous lives, Bruce is nothing but a phony, bourgeois poser.
What stirring melodies has Bruce writen? What immortal songs has he composed? I don't see any.
As a punchline, let me add that Bruce's latest record is titled “Wrecking Ball” -- provide your own joke.