Monday, December 1, 2008

Bruce Springsteen Officially "Jumps The Shark" With His NFL Partnership

Bruce Springsteen fans are shuddering in their shoes today as the world premiere of his latest single, "Working On A Dream" was premiered during Sunday Night Football and well, it may have been Bruce's ultimate "Jump The Shark" moment. There have been numerous moments in the past where we all thought Springsteen's holier than thou legacy was tarnished, but this is where the question is no longer a question but a fact. The song is a clich├ęd song that sounds as if it was written by a five-year old. One friend wrote to me and said it sounded like a Bon Jovi tune and I felt the person was off base, because I can't think of anything Bon Jovi has recently done that is as cringe inducing as this ("Bells of Freedom" comes to mind, but at least I give the Bon man credit for at least trying to be genuine). Even though I am sure Springsteen is optimistic of the change in the White House, I largely feel he missed the boat here. Regardless of change, the world is failing and at its feet in ways no one has seen before. In a time where unemployment is rampant, I need more than someone to tell me they're "working on a dream", I need them to tell me that the world is one messed up place I need my artists to bleed with me; I need them to tell me that there's a reason to believe and that it ain't no sin to be alive.

I have seen Bruce Springsteen in concert more than any other performer and his career is storied, but as the years go on, I am starting to feel as if he no longer has his hand on the pulse of the nation. This is a man performing at multi-thousand dollar fund raisers for big-whigs and the cost of these shows are an impossible ticket for his average fan (the average price with service fee's is over $80). There was a time where Springsteen understood his fans and their struggles. I no longer feel as of he does. In truth, with rare exceptions, most of Springsteen's work for the last fifteen-years has come from a distant third-person perspective. While he embodied a third-person storytelling early in his career, I always felt that those stories and struggles were coming from first hand experiences. How many hardships can a man have who makes around $100-million per tour? The less he reveals about himself, the less interesting his music gets. The last time he laid it all on the time was on the much misunderstood Lucky Town from 1992 and since then, only in certain songs has he really let us inside. I'm all for penning an optimistic and cheery tune, but in a world where there is mass confusion and chaos, this is the best Springsteen can come up with?

For years, Springsteen biographer Dave Marsh has ridiculed bands that went down these routes and deemed them as "sell-outs", ditto Springsteen's manager Jon Landau. They embody a holier than thou attitude and how they could be willing to allow their golden child to stoop to these levels. They have often maligned other acts that do such things and none of them have been as embarrassing as this one. It's hard to believe that Springsteen is actually co-opting his art with the NFL. This is something he has spent decades trying to avoid, but apparently he no longer can. In late 2005, Springsteen re-upped with Sony for a $100-million contract, a deal which brought a large amount of head-scratching throughout the industry. He hasn't had an album sell more than four-million copies in the last twenty-years (and it was a Greatest Hits disc). When U2 and Prince did the Super Bowl, it was entirely about the music. In U2's case, it was about healing in a post 9/11 world. I sat there and watch the Irish Band evoke pure passion, emotion and empathy through the television set. A near impossible feat considering their mega-status but they pulled it off. Bruce is co-opting his image, his music and his latest release with the NFL. This is something I would expect out of Bon Jovi (who is a self-proclaimed football fan), not Bruce Springsteen. This most likely is coming at the urging of Sony whom he sold his soul to. His last record, Magic only managed to shift two-million copies worldwide. Not an impressive number at all. The music industries rules have changed and instead of coming up with inventive new ways to market his music, Springsteen and his management have taken the easy way out by partnering with the NFL. This is a sad state of affairs for an artist who once stood for the little man and was against using his music on a poorly edited football reel. Apparently the multi-millions in his bank account have blinded him. How much success and money does one man need? Shouldn't the music be enough?

My only question is - can an appearance on American Idol be next?

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