The Freedom of Music

February 1st, 2009

freedom-of-music-headerOne likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush - Spirit of Radio.

Super Bowl Sunday. The end of the NFL season, where football pools, betting lines and ageing rockers credibility goes to die.

sidebar-1Ever since Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake proved without a doubt that you can no longer claim rebel status unless the cameras are rolling, Super Bowl half-time shows have featured acts that, 30 years ago, would have been apocalyptic if the record company said they should play the Super Bowl.

This years half-time show will feature Bruce Springsteen, the once future of rock and roll, now more like the farmer of rock and roll, milking every last drop from it’s drying teat. Bruce will be on full display, in a non-Janet Jackson way I hope, to promote his new album, Working On A Dream, which was released last Tuesday. The question I can’t help ask myself is, why? Why does Bruce Springsteen think he needs to play second fiddle to a football game to sell a few records?

The reason can probably be found in the record (bunch of MP3’s actually, but that doesn’t ring). It’s terrible. The interesting thing is it my first instinct is, not bad. Catchy, you might say. But upon further review, even that’s not really true.  Compared to other new releases this week, The Best of Hillary Duff say, or Mariah Carey or Liona Lewis, it may well be a work of genius. But when you compare it to Bruce Springsteen, this is a dismal failure of Springsteen’s quality filter.

It’s not a problem unique to Springsteen: The Stones and Paul McCartney are two prominent examples that come to mind. But who’s making music that you will listen to this time next year anymore?  The last Stones album, A Bigger Bang? Not when you have Let it Bleed or Made in the Shade to listen to? Bob Seger’s Face the Promise? Better choice than others mentioned here, but not compared to Live Bullet or Night Moves.  Even the newer acts I like. Will I really  listen to Kid Rock or the Foo Fighters five years from now? Maybe one of the above, but there won’t be many. So Springsteen is not unique in this regard.

Yet, if you are a fan of Springsteen, can you be faulted for expecting better? This is the guy who left Fire and Because the Night off of an album because they didn’t fit. How many songwriters never wrote a song as good as either? How many modern acts have zero songs in their repertoire as good as those two? Springsteen gave them away. And it’s not just the seventies. The Rising is one of the best albums of the last ten years. In fact, if you cut it down to eight songs, forty minutes - the same restrictions Born to Run or Darkness on the Edge of Town were recorded under - you have an album that belongs with the aforementioned. It’s all the bloody filler that hurts the Rising, the extra time that CDs allow that turn every disk into a double album length epic.

But the downhill slide for Springsteen was not out of the blue: Magic, his last CD,  suffered from lack of quality songs, save for two or three. And The Seeger Sessions was clearly an ironic cash in on a socialist icon: political in intent, larcenous in fact. But this one. How did the guy who left Fire aside let every song on this album past his crap filter? Their is not a redeeming song, not a point to hang your hat on. It’s bad, boring and meaningless from start to finish. For the first time in twenty-five years, I won’t be buying a Springsteen album, I have no interest in going to see him live lest he play this rubbish, and then treat me to a political speech I have no ineterst in hearing. This is one working man who is fed up with the so called “working mans hero,” and will save my hard earned money for more deserving entertainers. And that is a sentence, I never thought I would type.

Brian Gardiner Springsteen is still Boss, The Freedom of Music, This Week on my I-Pod

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