Bruce Springsteen nails his mail

Bruce Springsteen is nicknamed “The Boss” for a reason.

Not only is it because of Springsteen’s penchant for “Monopoly”, but also his gravelly vocals, poetic ballads and relevant themes truly make him “The Boss” in rock and roll history. 

“Letter to You,” Springsteen’s 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’s past music to recreate the style of his ‘70s heyday. 

Though “Letter to You” 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, “One Minute You’re Here,” is the perfect example of what Springsteen aims to express within this album. Over a soft melody, Springsteen quietly rasps, “One minute you’re here, next minute you’re gone.” This song is not innovative and did not contribute anything new creatively to the music scene. In fact, it’s formulaic down to the descriptions of country scenery and the chorus of “baby, baby, baby.” 

However, it is not Springsteen’s 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, “Letter to You,”  Springsteen uses the second-person “you” to address the audience. “I took all the sunshine and rain, all my happiness and all my pain,” he sang. “And I sent it in my letter to you.” 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 “Last Man Standing,” Springsteen sings about the inevitability of time and how he keeps “faded pictures in an old scrapbook” and “he’s the last man standing now.” 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 “you”, representing his lost youth and things he can no longer do.

The next track, “The Power of Prayer,” carries the same sentiment. The beat, melody and singing style are similar to “Last Man Standing” as Springsteen continues his love affair with a bygone time. “It’s a fixed game without any rules,” he sings. “An empty table on a ship of fools.”

Other than merely reminiscing about his youth, Springsteen recreates the socially-conscious lyrics of his Vietnam War years. In “House of a Thousand Guitars,” he sings, “The criminal clown has stolen the throne, he steals what he can never own.” Then, in “Rainmaker,” he sings, “Rainmaker says white’s black and black’s white, says night’s day and day’s night. Says close your eyes and go to sleep now.” Much like his earlier songs, Springsteen hid a political message beneath twangy guitar and energetic melodies.  

Springsteen ends the album with the song “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” equally conventional and equally beautiful as the song that started the album. “For death is not the end,” he reminds his audience as his voice slowly fades out, “I’ll see you in my dreams.”

The album “Letter to You” by Bruce Springsteen is not revolutionary, and it is not meant to be. It is both heartwarming and heartbreaking as Springsteen’s 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 “The Boss.”

By Cathy Li, Staff writer
Photo courtesy of CUINDEPENDENT

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