Bruce Springsteen and Madonna are subcultures now!!!

Pop music critic
Madonna, performs live onstage after the 64th annual Eurovision Song Contest held at Tel Aviv Fairgrounds on May 18 in Tel Aviv. (Michael Campanella/Getty Images)
Bruce Springsteen released his new album “Western Stars” on June 14. (Danny Clinch/Danny Clinch)

Bruce Springsteen and Madonna have new albums out — and that’s nice for the millions who still love Bruce Springsteen and Madonna. What about the other billions of sentient listeners out there? These two deities of American song are currently scheduled to live forever, but in the 21st century their new music feels culty and peripheral. Turns out, even for superstars drawing breath at the highest levels, certain pop-laws just can’t be violated. Mass culture always becomes subculture. Like a ripple in the water, the center becomes the fringe.

Springsteen and Madonna are wise enough to know this, so instead of trying to win new congregants, they sing to the faithful. It isn’t quite “fan service,” or whatever you want to call the dark art of appeasement. Instead, they’ve each created albums that don’t seem aware of just how strange they are. His is called “Western Stars,” and it’s crowded with sweeping strings and cartoon tumbleweeds. Hers is called “Madame X,” and it’s jammed with motley rhythms and confused virtue. His goes down way too easy — especially when he sings about trains, horses and “a chain-link fence rusting away.” Hers goes down way too hard — especially when she sings about wokeness, Supreme hoodies and “positive vibes.”

For both Bruce and Madonna, all this strange work sounds strenuous, probably because they each have such massive legacies to uphold. Madonna once gave shape to pop’s future (Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, etc.) while Springsteen once gave shape to rock’s past (Bob Dylan, Creedence Clearwater Revival, etc.). Their blazing comet tails crossed on MTV back in 1984, when they were each setting the zeitgeist to melody with indelible hits (“Like a Virgin,” “Born in the U.S.A.”). But whereas those songs seemed to bloom into the world out of absolute necessity, the ditties on “Madame X” and “Western Stars” seem content to exist quietly inside their own terrariums.

Both albums start auspiciously enough. Madonna recounts a beautiful drug-dream over a soothing reggaeton pulse: “I took a pill and had a dream/ I went back to my 17th year/ Allowed myself to be naive/ To be someone I’ve never been.” Meantime, off in the Western sunset, Springsteen sings a friendly melody from the perspective of a happy hitchhiker: “Maps don’t do much for me, friend/ I follow the weather and the wind.” Both songs allude to vast horizons, and the vastness makes for weirdness. Before long, Madonna is swapping awkward rhymes with Quavo of Migos while Bruce is singing along with a string orchestra that he seems to have recruited from a bank commercial.

These two could — should? — take these new songbooks straight to Las Vegas, a city where no one criticizes and all major credit cards are accepted. It’s a land of make-believe and make-money where pop stars can stack unfathomable fortunes performing the most-legible, least-disciplined versions of themselves. The big, hammy hook of Springsteen’s “There Goes My Miracle” would go over like crazy in Vegas. Same for Madonna’s “Dark Ballet,” during which our hero’s vocoded voice sings about witch-burning to a melody plucked from Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker.”

They think they are part of our reality but they just can’t be. He’s Bruce Springsteen. She’s Madonna. All of the music that they’ve each made over the past 30 years carries at least some of this latent sadness.

And nowadays, Bruce and Madonna sound saddest when they really show us their voices. We hear them best whenever they float a bright note on a long breath. They sound exposed, vulnerable, more like human beings than bronze busts. But how it all lands ultimately depends on what kind of human being you are. Nonbelievers might hear important people making unimportant music. The devout might hear proof that nobody really knows the right way through this life.

https://www.washingtonpost.com...m_term=.ff7752af9120

____________________________________

The SPL Rocks!

 

Pulled up to my house today
Came and took my little girl away!
Giants Stadium 8/28/03



Oats

Original Post

I rather like this trio of lines:

"Instead, they’ve each created albums that don’t seem aware of just how strange they are. "

"Madonna and Bruce have always been real people with real ears pitched to the real world, but on “Western Stars” and “Madame X,” both suffer from varying degrees of tone-deafness."

*admittedly taken out of context but still a great line.

Regarding these two albums... "how it all lands ultimately depends on what kind of human being you are. Nonbelievers might hear important people making unimportant music. The devout might hear proof that nobody really knows the right way through this life."



Are you a devout fan of the church of Bruce or a nonbeliever? 

 

____________________________________

The SPL Rocks!

 

Pulled up to my house today
Came and took my little girl away!
Giants Stadium 8/28/03



Oats

I can't really make an informed comparison here. I've never really given Madonna a hard listen. She has made great dance music fluff, if you know what a fluffer is.

It seems she has made a daring album at a critical point in her career, and if one thinks Bruce has as well (I don't!) then maybe you see a basis for a comparison.

Both artists are populists of different styles who reached the peak of their fame sometime around 1984.

That's about the only common ground I see.

Bruce is one of the greatest songwriters in the history of recorded music.

Madonna is the grandmother of slut - pop.

When an artist has to dress up in fake garb (from exposed bras to bogus eye patches), or undress in order to sell their music, I lose interest quick.

Let's talk about Roseanne Cash or Lucinda Williams, maybe.

I've never given a rat's ass about popularity. I don't care about what others like. But I want to hear a good song.

Meh.  He kind of forces the comparison to show off his "insightfulness", which is really just disdain in disguise.  The easiest stance to take for a critic when reviewing new work from an established artist is the one he takes: "It's overblown and the artist is out of touch."  If Springsteen had rewritten Born To Run it would have been, "The artist is desperately trying to recapture his past and fails miserably."  It's the critic's version of the easy, Vegas-y vibe of which he accuses them.  Dismissing is easy, listening is hard.  His point about Springsteen's message being "Don't forget about men!" is a perfect example.  Is there a more ham-fisted, falsely "woke" response in 2019 than to accuse misogyny and privilege?  Cheap and lazy response. 

Interesting piece. The Madonna album is disappointing, in that musically it's quite good, but lyrically, it goes off the rails more than a little. Meanwhile, the new Bruce album is, of course, somewhere between very good and absolutely great. 

But I think they were going for different things, and as cogent as that piece could be at times, I feel like he really missed a central point, which is that Bruce is NOT trying to stay relevant, whereas Madonna is—and I can't fault her, or any artist, for that. You can critique the end result, which in this case is decidedly spotty, but I don't think there's anything inherently problematic with an artist trying to change and keep up with the times. And massively rich and famous as she is, I think that especially goes for females. 

Meanwhile, this bit: 

Springsteen has made a Western-themed album about men struggling to reclaim their dignity in an America that’s slowly fading away. His message for our changing world: Don’t forget about men! 

seems to really miss the mark. There are a lot of people saying exactly that, but Bruce ain't one of them. If there's any relation to the silly, odious Men's Rights type movement here, it's in Springsteen showing how getting older as a white man doesn't need to mean you turn bitter or resentful or scared—that you can do it with at least a certain amount of grace and acknowledgment that if things didn't turn out exactly the way you'd expected, well, that's true for almost everyone, and sometimes it's your own damn fault. (And sometimes it's not...but it's pretty much never the fault of The Other, despite how much easier it is to blame Them.) And maybe it's still not too late to keep trying or to try again. 

I feel this album is an itch that Bruce had openly mentioned scratching since 1986. I find it to be the third such album-itch he has scratched, the others being "Nebraska" and "Ghost of Tom Joad." The author seems to think this is a new direction, but we know it is just a detour.

Scott Peterson posted:

I feel like he really missed a central point, which is that Bruce is NOT trying to stay relevant, whereas Madonna is.

Okay Oats, this is my Take 2 (LOL).

Scott's quote above is where I'm going with this. Also, the critic's mention of Bruce's "tone-deafness" irks me to no end.

As I see it, exactly which demographic does Bruce have to remain relevant to?

Bruce has always written about the concerns he sees around him. He writes to his age group and for the most part his audience has grown with him. I'm not saying his fan base is staring down 70, but the characters in his songs were in their 20s in the Born To Run era, as were many of us. We have followed those characters to where they - and we - are today.

If Bruce trying to be hip or stay with trends, it would be seen as delusional mistake.

When Bruce chooses to do something, he makes it relevant.

Furthermore, much of the subject matter is prevalent in his life. All we can ask of an artist is to reflect what he sees, what his times are.

As for the style of music on Western Stars, it perfectly suits the characterizations of the people he is writing about. It might not be your thing. That's fine.

But no half-assed critic, should be thinking they have better ideas of what Bruce ought to do.

A couple of weeks back, Backstreets.com highlight this article. I read it in full but did not realize at the time that it would connect to Bruce's newest work.

It is an interesting read if you can spare the time.

https://www.rollingstone.com/c...ca-white-men-841576/

CrookedCrutch posted:
Scott Peterson posted:

I feel like he really missed a central point, which is that Bruce is NOT trying to stay relevant, whereas Madonna is.

Okay Oats, this is my Take 2 (LOL).

Scott's quote above is where I'm going with this. Also, the critic's mention of Bruce's "tone-deafness" irks me to no end.

As I see it, exactly which demographic does Bruce have to remain relevant to?

Bruce has always written about the concerns he sees around him. He writes to his age group and for the most part his audience has grown with him. I'm not saying his fan base is staring down 70, but the characters in his songs were in their 20s in the Born To Run era, as were many of us. We have followed those characters to where they - and we - are today.

If Bruce trying to be hip or stay with trends, it would be seen as delusional mistake.

When Bruce chooses to do something, he makes it relevant.

Furthermore, much of the subject matter is prevalent in his life. All we can ask of an artist is to reflect what he sees, what his times are.

As for the style of music on Western Stars, it perfectly suits the characterizations of the people he is writing about. It might not be your thing. That's fine.

But no half-assed critic, should be thinking they have better ideas of what Bruce ought to do.

A couple of weeks back, Backstreets.com highlight this article. I read it in full but did not realize at the time that it would connect to Bruce's newest work.

It is an interesting read if you can spare the time.

https://www.rollingstone.com/c...ca-white-men-841576/

"We have followed those characters to where they - and we - are today."

The Senior Citizen Center??? 

However, in all seriousness... I was hoping someone would bring up the correlation between the album and the Mid-Western, Weatern suicide epidemic.  I did read that RS article.  It's poignant and you make a very valid point.  Not to bring politics into this thread but I hope someone in the White House read it also.

____________________________________

The SPL Rocks!

 

Pulled up to my house today
Came and took my little girl away!
Giants Stadium 8/28/03



Oats

The Senior Citizen Center???  However, in all seriousness... I was hoping someone would bring up the correlation between the album and the Mid-Western, Western suicide epidemic.  I did read that RS article.  It's poignant and you make a very valid point.  Not to bring politics into this thread but I hope someone in the White House read it also.

Love your reply, Oats!

I turned 57 the day Western Stars was released. Not quite ready for an AARP subscription just yet, but they are starting to send me shit!

IMO, once you read the RS article, you get where Bruce is coming from. It can't help but hit hard, especially after the author reveals his impetus.....well I don't want to spoil it.

Yesterday at Backstreets, they also brought forth some insight behind "Sundown," along with other connections to Glen Campbell, past and present.

I tend to read all opinions and takes on WS. They deeper those words allow me to dig, the deeper I find the music to be. This is compelling stuff!

Only problem is, I cannot stop playing the album. I'm probably up to 50+ spins by now. The songs feel like they have been with me my whole life. It's like I know the people Bruce is singing about, personally.

A bit about me. I work with seniors in my health care job. I see depression, anxiety and fear every day.  I am on the front line dealing with truly good folks who feel their worthiness and usefulness slipping away with each day. It is truly sad. My clients have included good men (and women) who are suffering from debilitating illnesses - Alzheimer's, PSP, Lou Gehrig's Disease. I know all about what "sundowning" is.

A thing that I think I do well in my job, is place myself in the shoes of others. It is scary to think what can happen with aging. It is also little wonder why many males take matters into their own hands, fingers on the trigger, cutting to the chase.

Like Bruce, there is also lots of clinical depression in my family circle, mainly with the in laws I love.

So, I get it.

I gather that not everyone can share my perspective.  I'm actually happy for those who can't.

In my opinion, the record is a masterpiece!

Thanks, Oats, for saying you read the RS article.

About the White House and what they read, I just wonder if they can read at all.

 

 

Unfortunately the majority of us with elderly parents will see this first hand and have to care and deal with their parents having those exact feelings and seeing the fear on their faces.  It's a look you never think you'd ever see in your parent's eyes  and on their faces.  It's never forgotten. 

____________________________________

The SPL Rocks!

 

Pulled up to my house today
Came and took my little girl away!
Giants Stadium 8/28/03



Oats

CrookedCrutch posted:

 

About the White House and what they read, I just wonder if they can read at all.

 

 

Cheers,

Hazy

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She said last night she read those letters...
And they made her feel one hundred years old...


Oats posted:

Unfortunately the majority of us with elderly parents will see this first hand and have to care and deal with their parents having those exact feelings and seeing the fear on their faces.  It's a look you never think you'd ever see in your parent's eyes  and on their faces.  It's never forgotten. 

Indeed

Cheers,

Hazy

--------------------------------------------------------------------

She said last night she read those letters...
And they made her feel one hundred years old...


Five days old but did you guys see the review by the long-time NYT critic Jon Pareles:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/0...rn-stars-review.html

"Amid Bruce Springsteen’s huge songwriting catalog, “Western Stars” is a side trip in place and time: a homage to a bygone pop era and a return to one of his recurring fascinations — the present-day American West as envisioned and, in the early 1990s, inhabited by a native New Jerseyan. It’s not an album courting new young fans or claiming any 2019 zeitgeist. It’s more like a speculative alternate history: What if Springsteen’s music had taken a very different direction at the start?

“Western Stars” arrives following the explicit autobiography and starkly staged sincerity of “Springsteen on Broadway,” even though it was in the works before those performances. Instead of trying to extend that revealing tour de force, the new album veers elsewhere; it’s an experiment in genre and narratives. Most (and perhaps all) of the songs are other people’s stories, not Springsteen’s own. In them, the West — California along with Arizona and Montana — can be a promise of open spaces and second chances. But more often, the western horizon is the end of the line, where Springsteen’s characters find themselves alone with their regrets."

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