by Allison O’Leary
There are a number of reasons why I would say Bruce Springsteen is cool. For one, Springsteen himself is a very cool man. In my opinion, Bruce Springsteen’s coolness peaked around 1975-1992, when he had the whole carelessly political, deeply troubled, woodsy vibe that drew in so much of his audience. Pre-’75, ol’ Bruce kind of reminded you of that one guy in your political science class who won’t take his damn newsboy cap off and keeps misquoting Kafka. Greetings from Asbury Park, Bruce. Move on. Springsteen’s heightened cool phase brought us several great albums, including Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town and completely excluding Nebraska. It was in 1984 that the iconic album Born in the USA came out and changed everybody’s minds on topics like railroad work, baseball, and politicized patriotism. Songs like “No Surrender” and “Glory Days” completely revamped America in the way of sentimental rebellion, exactly as Bruce had planned it.
Post ‘92, Springsteen hit a rough patch that seems to have continued for the past fifteen plus years. After Tunnel of Love, the jams that were so consistently churned out for the past two decades slowed their roll. Some might argue that Bruce’s later stuff has a more mature sound. I say he simply burned out. However, Bruce’s coolness aged like a cheap East Coast wine. While his je ne sais quoi is not quite as strong as it has been in the past, it’s good to know that he’s currently enjoying his nice horse ranch while desperately trying to connect to the working class. He is, after all, still the Boss.
All that being said, I will acknowledge that there are also plenty of reasons why Bruce Springsteen at any point could be considered uncool. For one, most of Springsteen’s songs, while brilliantly written, don’t really make a lot of sense. If you’re into heavy guitar and screaming about cars, or New Jersey, or a teen pregnancy that led to a severely unhappy marriage, maybe Springsteen is the ticket. If, like me, you’ve spent many an hour trying to figure out what the hell “Blinded by the Light” is about, you might want to reconsider. For the most part, one’s connection to Bruce Springsteen’s music, or Springsteen himself, must be purely nostalgic or emotional. For instance, the entire The River album reminds me strongly of my father’s upbringing in rural Fairbanks in the ‘70s. Springsteen is a way for us to bond, other than vaguely talking about sports knowledge or women. Do I consider healthy father-daughter relationships to be cool? Definitely.
In conclusion, is Bruce Springsteen cool? I really couldn’t say. The concept of coolness is, in my opinion, highly subjective and somewhat outdated, much like the success of Springsteen’s musical career. If Bruce really wanted to popularize himself with the millennial generation, he would make his memoir Born to Run into a musical featuring every single one of his songs from his five best albums. Now that would be cool.
Allison O’Leary has lived in Anchorage, Alaska her whole life, though she loves traveling. She is an Early Honors student with dreams of running her own nonprofit in the future. She loves Bruce Springsteen, cooking, hiking, and poetry. Her family is from Ireland.