Bruce Springsteen nails his mail
Bruce Springsteen is nicknamed ‚ÄúThe Boss‚ÄĚ for a reason.
Not only is it because of Springsteen‚Äôs penchant for ‚ÄúMonopoly‚ÄĚ, but also his gravelly vocals, poetic ballads and relevant themes truly make him ‚ÄúThe Boss‚ÄĚ in rock and roll history.¬†
‚ÄúLetter to You,‚ÄĚ Springsteen‚Äôs 20th studio album, was released Friday, Oct. 23, to mostly positive reviews. Narrated in his classic crooning style, the songs often use second-person references directed to the listener. Furthermore, its simple musical structure, accompanied by expressive lyrics, contributes to an overall theme of nostalgia, aging and reminiscence.
The album is saturated in sentiments, drawing upon cliched themes within the genre and Springsteen‚Äôs past music to recreate the style of his ‚Äė70s heyday.¬†
Though ‚ÄúLetter to You‚ÄĚ might not be the most original album in terms of sound, the simplistic power of a man singing about the fundamentals of life with a guitar cannot be denied.¬†
The first track, ‚ÄúOne Minute You‚Äôre Here,‚ÄĚ is the perfect example of what Springsteen aims to express within this album. Over a soft melody, Springsteen quietly rasps, ‚ÄúOne minute you‚Äôre here, next minute you‚Äôre gone.‚ÄĚ This song is not innovative and did not contribute anything new creatively to the music scene. In fact, it‚Äôs formulaic down to the descriptions of country scenery and the chorus of ‚Äúbaby, baby, baby.‚ÄĚ¬†
However, it is not Springsteen‚Äôs musical innovation that draws his fans. The melodies are pleasant, the lyrics are elegant and his voice is full of emotion. What he lacks in melodic variation, Springsteen makes up for with his homegrown storytelling ability.¬†
In the titular track, ‚ÄúLetter to You,‚ÄĚ¬† Springsteen uses the second-person ‚Äúyou‚ÄĚ to address the audience. ‚ÄúI took all the sunshine and rain, all my happiness and all my pain,‚ÄĚ he sang. ‚ÄúAnd I sent it in my letter to you.‚ÄĚ He speaks to the listener directly, communicating the personal nature of this album yet also inviting them to open the envelope and read the story of his life.¬†
Throughout the rest of the album, Bruce Springsteen tells the story of Bruce Springsteen, reflecting upon his past and the lessons he learned.¬†
In ‚ÄúLast Man Standing,‚ÄĚ Springsteen sings about the inevitability of time and how he keeps ‚Äúfaded pictures in an old scrapbook‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúhe‚Äôs the last man standing now.‚ÄĚ There is a sense of urgency in the strumming guitar and the almost-forced high notes of the melody. Springsteen laments the absence of someone he merely calls ‚Äúyou‚ÄĚ, representing his lost youth and things he can no longer do.
The next track, ‚ÄúThe Power of Prayer,‚ÄĚ carries the same sentiment. The beat, melody and singing style are similar to ‚ÄúLast Man Standing‚ÄĚ as Springsteen continues his love affair with a bygone time. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a fixed game without any rules,‚ÄĚ he sings. ‚ÄúAn empty table on a ship of fools.‚ÄĚ
Other than merely reminiscing about his youth, Springsteen recreates the socially-conscious lyrics of his Vietnam War years. In ‚ÄúHouse of a Thousand Guitars,‚ÄĚ he sings, ‚ÄúThe criminal clown has stolen the throne, he steals what he can never own.‚ÄĚ Then, in ‚ÄúRainmaker,‚ÄĚ he sings, ‚ÄúRainmaker says white‚Äôs black and black‚Äôs white, says night‚Äôs day and day‚Äôs night. Says close your eyes and go to sleep now.‚ÄĚ Much like his earlier songs, Springsteen hid a political message beneath twangy guitar and energetic melodies.¬†¬†
Springsteen ends the album with the song ‚ÄúI‚Äôll See You in My Dreams,‚ÄĚ equally conventional and equally beautiful as the song that started the album. ‚ÄúFor death is not the end,‚ÄĚ he reminds his audience as his voice slowly fades out, ‚ÄúI‚Äôll see you in my dreams.‚ÄĚ
The album ‚ÄúLetter to You‚ÄĚ by Bruce Springsteen is not revolutionary, and it is not meant to be. It is both heartwarming and heartbreaking as Springsteen‚Äôs wizened yet strong voice sings in imitation of himself fifty years ago. The sound of the album was unoriginal, yet the emotions and flowery prose was anything but.¬†
Hats off to ‚ÄúThe Boss.‚ÄĚ
By Cathy Li, Staff writer
Photo courtesy of CUINDEPENDENT