By Sanho Kim.
Earlier this year, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band began their Summer of ’17 Tour in Perth, Australia. Springsteen had been politically vocal during last year’s presidential election, publicly endorsing Clinton and denouncing Trump. This year in Australia, he continued to stand by his stance: he spoke of a “New Resistance” during a Perth show, and later in Melbourne called himself and the band “Embarrassed Americans”.
Politics aside, as a Super Bowl halftime show performer and critically acclaimed songwriter, the Boss is more than just an 80s icon. His The River Tour with the E Street Band was ranked as the highest grossing tour of 2016, having earned a total of 268.3 million dollars.
Bruce Springsteen stands out in the field mostly due to his music. His catalog of songs is both enormous and critically acclaimed, enabling him to easily rock on for more than 3 hours without a “bathroom break” moment. From buzzy pop to decadent rock to American folk-rock tunes, the Boss’s works are easily masterpieces.
Giving the readers a peek into the rocker’s career and art, the following subjective list shows Bruce Springsteen’s Top 15 songs.
Comment below if you have any other Springsteen songs to share!
15. “Wreck On The Highway” (The River)
This song is a perfect fit for The River album. Springsteen finds both romance and reality. With his voice dreamily echoing beyond the calm, sleepy instrumental, this melancholy in the middle of the night is expressed perfectly. The song is a simple, honest narrative of a man witnessing a “wreck on the highway”. It depicts a passing, yet poignant thought by shedding light on the drama and hidden emotions in our everyday life.
14. “Long Time Comin’” (Devils and Dust)
Although it is a song from the Devils and Dust album, Bruce Springsteen had been playing this song since the 90s. The familial lyrics that speak of shedding one’s dark childhood and building a better life can be seen as personal, as Springsteen has been vocal of his troubled relationship with his father.
Conversely, it is one of the most universal and relatable songs written by Springsteen — it talks of trying to be happy with a family, of raising children, and of working for a good life. Giving off the strong American folk vibe, “Long Time Comin’” is as fresh and hopeful as morning dew on a field of gold.
13. “Factory” (Darkness On The Edge Of Town)
When asked about his favorite Springsteen songs, the Boss’s father picked songs that were written about him. One of these is a smooth fit in the anger-filled, gritty album Darkness: “Factory”. Again, Springsteen uses simple yet honest words to depict the lives of Americans — in this case, factory workers — in a poignant and haunting way.
12. “My City Of Ruins” (The Rising)
Initially written for the decayed New Jersey city of Asbury Park, this consoling song has been relevant for quite a while over the years. “My City Of Ruins” is both a tribute to and a call of hope for a damaged town. It has respect for the fallen and encourages hopefulness, and hence, it has been frequently used for occasions such as 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy.
11. “The Rising” (The Rising)
Well known for being played at Obama’s presidential inauguration, this shattering track was written after Springsteen saw footage of firefighters climbing one of the World Trade Center towers during the September 11 attack. The moving song builds up steadily to an upbeat Hallelujah-like climax as the narrator contemplates life on the brink of ruin.
10. “Jungleland” (Born To Run)
A 9-minute epic decorating the conclusion of “Born To Run”, “Jungleland” highlights the most dramatic and tragic romance in the entire album. As the desperate characters start to lose hope and fall to ruin, Clarence Clemons begins his celebrated saxophone solo, as if to pay tribute to the sad beauty of their story. It is concluded with Springsteen’s howls in the distance of the night.
9. “Atlantic City” (Nebraska)
Also known for being covered by The Band, this stripped-down solo track was recorded in Springsteen’s bedroom with very modest equipment. In the absence of the thriving E Street Band — mainly the barren, thin sound — it stands well as the story of a fleeing pair of lovers, and the dangerous gambling scene of Atlantic City, New Jersey. When played live, however, the melancholic instruments of the band produce a sophisticated accompaniment that brings the lights of Atlantic City back to life.
8. “Streets Of Fire” (Darkness On The Edge Of Town)
With no great background story, monumental solo or pages-long lyrics, “Streets Of Fire” tends to be dismissed as a mere segment of the “Darkness” album. However, the song actually thrives in that modesty. While calmly building up to a roaring climax, it is an unpretentious and guttural song that expresses the rage and darkness which has also been featured as the main theme of the album — not to mention, it is one of the best vocal performances in Springsteen’s career.
7. “Brilliant Disguise” (Tunnel Of Love)
After a ruined marriage and a scandalous love affair, Springsteen began to approach the subject of love in a different, mature way. Thus, “Brilliant Disguise,” from the “Tunnel Of Love” album, is no mere love song, but is a deep reflection of marriage, adult love, and relationships.
6. “Badlands” (Darkness On The Edge Of Town)
The song is set off by a curt drum introduction, bringing the whole Darkness album back to life with its first track and second single, “Badlands”. Badlands is a standard yet uniquely powerful Springsteen song, with a strong, punk-influenced riff making use of the words of a broke and angry man desperately trying to succeed. Ranked as Springsteen’s second best song by Rolling Stone, “Badlands” is refreshing and hopeful yet coarse with reality.
5. “No Surrender” (Born In The U.S.A.)
Many may doubt that this popular, upbeat song may be ranked above so many others. Even Springsteen himself considered leaving it out of the album, and only at Stevie Van Zandt’s insistence did he include it. Regardless, “No Surrender” is Springsteen’s most glorious and blissful song, as the 80s-specific guitar and chorus resonates vivaciously with Springsteen’s clear voice. The song in fact grows more meaningful to this day, as the notion of the E Street Band’s long-lasting friendship and success is becoming a main theme in their live shows.
4. “The Promised Land” (Darkness On The Edge Of Town)
Following the ideas featured in “Badlands”, the narrator of “The Promised Land” faces despair and hardships, yet determines to endure and overcome them. With Bruce Springsteen’s hard-set, passionate vocals, the instrumentals are especially noteworthy; the guitar-saxophone-harmonica solos, accompanied by Roy Bittan’s piano, are the ‘promised land’ expressed in terms of music.
3. “Born To Run” (Born To Run)
Ranked 21st in Rolling Stone’s “The Greatest Songs Of All Time”, “Born To Run” is arguably Springsteen’s most successful song. With eleven tracks recorded only for the guitar, this perfected title track is in itself a passion-filled, explosive record.
2. “The River” (The River)
Based on the earlier life of Springsteen’s sister Ginny and her husband, “The River” is the core of what the double-album is all about — bare, raw life that has to be shaped around reality, not dreams — and the dreams that are thus lost in adulthood. Introduced by a blue harmonica intro, along with the rich guitar tingling with a pang of nostalgia, “The River” is both personally and universally soulful.
1. “Thunder Road” (Born To Run)
“…Well the night’s busting open
These two lanes will take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels…”
“Thunder Road” has been and remains till date the best introduction to Bruce Springsteen for anyone who hasn’t grasped the feelings of his music and lyrics yet. Indeed, it opens the “Born To Run” album in the best way possible — the romantic, yet down-to-earth rush of the harmonica. It is a part that “sets the scene” for all: the album, the song, Springsteen’s career success, and the fan’s experience with his music. Delicate but straightforward, “Thunder Road” is a call for escape and hope; it gives vent to, on behalf of all who dream, their aspirations, faiths, depressions, and passions.
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