“It’s about popular music. It’s about being in a rock band, over the course of time. And it’s also a direct conversation between me and my fans, at a level that I think they’ve come to expect over the years.”
It has reached the point where every time a video I am watching goes into funky, raw, “authentic” hand-held video mode, I nearly puke.
The latest, unfortunately, are the videos for Bruce Springsteen’s newest album. As if the video is not a bad enough sign, here’s one that’s even worse: the subject is music. Yes, Bruce Springsteen is putting out an album about how music is important. How his fans expect this “conversation”.
I loved Springsteen back in the 1870’s when he released his first albums. All right– 1980’s, actually. “Born to Run” remains a classic. I was also always a Dylan fan so, naturally, I was drawn to Springsteen because he had great lyrics and his band really rocked. Nobody ever argued that Dylan was a great singer, and neither was Springsteen, but at least he could screech with more enthusiasm.
Years go by. I find myself admiring Dylan’s singing more and more, at least until the 1990’s, and Springsteen’s–even on his first albums– less and less.
And now, “Letter to You”, and the limitations of Springsteen’s voice are laid bare. And, perhaps, the limitations of his music. Without the cars, the working class angst, the oppressive union jobs, the girls named Sandy or Terry– what’s left for Springsteen? Is his mind expansive enough to move into deeper territory, more intriguing perspectives, more subtle inflections?
The videos are awful. First cheap trick: black and white. Second cheap trick: hand-held jerky camera movements, as if some documentary crew just managed to sneak into the studio. Third cheap trick: shots of the wife. It may sound harsh, but I always picture the wife needling the husband into putting her into the video. I should be there. I’m your wife. I sang backup in the band back in the 80’s. Fourth bad sign: drone footage of an unidentifiable man walking through snow-covered fields, without a single close-up or establishing shot to let us in on whether that’s actually Springsteen thinking profound thoughts or a stand-in.