Back when I used to own a car, I had Sirius radio and would cruise around listening to Bruce Springsteen's "E Street Radio." It was a simple thrill to drive 65 miles per hour down on the interstate, listening to The Boss scream about the highway being jammed with broken heroes on a last-chance power drive. I'm in my mid-to-late twenties, from the Northeast, and have always appreciated The Boss's emphasis on putting on a great live show and songwriting prowess. He's in my Top 3 Most Important American Songwriters of All Time, along with Bob Dylan and Paul Simon.
But according to an essay published on Salon, I'm supposed to hate him, for no other reason other than my age and the generation I was born in. Ej Dickson claims members of my generation -- the so-called millenials -- are "dismissing The Boss' music as lame 'dad rock.'" It's a silly blanket statement that I think that couldn't be further from the truth:
Let's break this down. Here's how EJ Dickson gets started:
Every few weeks or so, I’ll be talking to someone at a bar or club or house party, and the conversation will inevitably turn toward Bruce Springsteen.
I'm sorry, but every casual party conversation with friendly strangers "inevitably" turns towards a discussion about Bruce Springsteen? I would understand if you just caught a band perform at the Stone Pony or were on the heels of a Springsteen show at MetLife and wanted to share your completely kickass experience. But that can logically only happen once or twice a year, max. How are you not casually chatting about something a little more, um, topical? i.e.: The weather? Syria? Miley twerking? Those things are relevant in the cultural zeitgeist right now. Maybe it's time to talk about something at a cocktail party other than the impending doom Asbury Park faces from the threat of super-storms and global warming.
The exchange is usually as follows:
BAR PATRON/PARTY GUEST: So, what kind of music do you listen to?
ME: Oh, a little bit of everything … blues, jazz, funk, Bruce Springsteen (brief pause) … you know, my tastes are super eclectic.
BAR PATRON/PARTY GUEST: Um, why do you like Springsteen?
ME: So, you don’t like Bruce Springsteen?
BAR PATRON/PARTY GUEST: Ugh. No.
ME: (Shuffling away while muttering angrily, like an elderly woman being chastised for feeding pigeons) Well, you should.
This person will then enumerate the list of reasons why he dislikes Bruce Springsteen, usually employing four out of six of the following arguments:
He sucks because he’s old.
He’s old because he sucks.
He sings about being a member of the working class even though he’s made millions and millions of dollars over the past 30 years
“Born in the USA” sucks.
I've had a lot of passionate discussions about music over the years, but I can't EVER imagine having this exchange with anyone, no matter their youth or naivety. Most members of the millenial generation who enjoy music tend to respect legends like Bruce in a "kiss-the-ring"-type way. Speaking to CBS News this week, 28-year-old rapper/millenial generation member J.Cole said he wants his career to be just like Springsteen's. There's no denying The Boss paved the way for a certain type of songwriting and live performance ethos.
I'm relying on my gut instinct here, but I'm sure a scientific poll of opinion from most millenials would find that Bruce deserves to be enshrined and respected on a modern music Mt. Rushmore with Kurt Cobain, Eric Clapton, Ozzy Osbourne, Freddie Mercury, Hendrix, Keith Richards, Jim Morrison, and countless others. To their credit, the "Me" generation tends to embrace vs. reject. Also: When it comes to music distribution, Millenial generation has come of age in the GREATEST ERA OF ALL TIME, with literally millions upon millions of songs across all genres in the world imaginable at their fingertips via Spotify, YouTube, Google Music, iTunes, music blogs, etc. There's no excuses for not understanding where Springsteen fits in a complex cultural pie. They "get" what Godfather status means, mostly from watching mob movies on Netflix.
In my 24 years as a die-hard Bruce fan, I have had this conversation approximately eight or nine hundred thousand times.
See above. Obviously an exageration, but I'm still alarmed by the frequency you allege this discussion takes place. Conversations on musical tastes are always subjective and doomed for inevitable differences in opinion.
While the people on the other end tend to skew toward a specific demographic — white, male, in a creative profession, dating someone with bangs and an Egon Schiele tattoo — they come from a wide range of socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, from Bushwick installation artists to a bouncer I met in Ireland, who used his loathing for “Born in the USA” as a launchpad for a diatribe against Michelle Obama and the Gregorian calendar. Yet despite their many differences, these people have two things in common: They’re all around my age (i.e., in their early to mid-20s), and they all loathe Bruce Springsteen. The iron fist of Bruce hatred has come down on millennials, and it has struck even the best and brightest of us.
Adamently hating something just because your parents enjoy or embrace it sounds like the silly 1960s mentality that caused the counter-culture movement to simply implode on itself. Sans any deep, undiagnosed psychological issues about one's upbringing, the most obvious truth about your 20s maturation is that you inevitably become more and more like your parents, sometimes almost to the point where it's eerily similar. Stop hanging out with people with daddy issues. Even Elaine and Benjamin eventually got back on the bus:
It makes me sad that future generations of restless suburban kids who want more out of life than day trips to the city on the LIRR won’t listen to “Badlands” or “Thunder Road” or “I’m on Fire” and be able to put a name to the desire for speed, for movement, the itch in their joints and the hum in the engines of their cars that’s begging them to run or drive or fly as fast as they can to anyplace that’s bigger than them, anyplace that has enough room to spare for all their wanting.
Great popular music is a sonic postcard—a timecapsule, if you will—of the era it was created in. Bruce is a pulpy snapshot of growing up in the Northeast in the '70s and '80s. It belongs to an era millenials will never be able to truly indentify with except through the anecdotal experiences their parents lived. Our parents went through the same thing with their parents -- our grandparents -- and Frank Sinatra.
The great thing about music is that it evolves. It's an organsm that's never truly hits a statis. There will always be a fawning fondness for icons like Bruce, but those "restless suburban kids who want more out of life than day trips to the city on the LIRR" are blasting their generation's music: Danny Brown, Chance the Rapper... Taylor Swift, even.
There's nothing wrong with evolution.