Monday, February 2, 2009

Super Bowl pt III: a corrective

Posted By on 02.02.09 at 05:18 PM

Kind of confused by the knives out for Bruce Springsteen today. Some notes:

"But how does a Springsteen fan reconcile his feel-good post–9/11 patriotic anthems with his Fall-Out-Boy-meets-Elton-John stage antics?"

Springsteen's patriotism has always seemed one and the same with his showmanship--in other words, one of the pleasures of America is the transcendent power of cheeseball popular music and the dissonant messages contained therein. Cf. "Born in the U.S.A."

Or, better yet, "The Rising." When he refers to "feel-good post-9/11 patriotic anthems," I can only help but assume that he's referring mostly to "The Rising" and its ilk.

I dunno. "The Rising" is a song about dying in a fire. It was, IIRC, inspired by the firefighters who died on 9/11. Here's the bridge:

Spirits above and behind me
Faces gone, black eyes burnin' bright
May their precious blood forever bind me
Lord as I stand before your fiery light

Slipping that sort of vivid memento mori into a fist-pumping radio anthem (and a campaign theme song! seriously!) is why I love American popular music. Bob Dylan's arguably-greatest song, the deep cut "Blind Willie McTell," is a meditation on this theme and worth thinking about. I am eternally grateful to one of my professors for introducing me to that song.

Yes, "The Rising" is a feel-good song, but it's feel-good in the way that, say, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" is feel-good. The dissonance is part of the point. It's about something wonderful and terrifying, and that it's so popular is paradoxically unsurprising and a small miracle.

"Having Conan’s sidekick on drums doesn’t help sell the workin’-man image, either." (same post)

Max Weinberg is not "Conan's sidekick" any more than Branford Marsalis is "Jay Leno's former sidekick." He's the E Street Band's drummer who later went on to play on a TV show. He's also, and I did not realize this before, the Studs Terkel of rock drumming. I really want to read The Big Beat: Conversations With Rock's Great Drummers.

"A Postmodernist would scoff and say nothing has changed, that Springsteen was always only merchandise. True, but in every possible way, Springsteen holds himself out as a force against such Postmodernist sophistication —on behalf of meaning, sincerity, and authenticity!"

The authenticity dodge! I've never found this question especially interesting, since the other options are 1) not being successful and 2) writing songs about being rich and successful. But: American popular music, and its British derivations, have forever been about making money by writing songs about being poor, not to mention getting laid by writing songs about not being able to get laid (cf. "Satisfaction").

"it closed somewhat jarringly (given the tune's subject matter of an aging jock who can't stop reliving the past) with 'Glory Days,'"

See above, and everything good about rock music.

"Ironically, during a pre-game chat, when Bob Costas asked the Boss why he decided to do the halftime show this year after he'd passed several times before, Springsteen cracked, "I have an album to promote, dummy. It's not rocket science." (same piece)

Ironically, he could not have been more sincere.

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