Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Hold Tight To Your Anger - Why People Hate Springsteen

Inspired by the discussion over at Reddit, it is time for us to take a short aside from our normal Springsteen lovefest and enter the dark world of the Springsteen haters.  When running into someone who doesn't like the Boss, the editors here at Legends of Springsteen react like Jerry Seinfeld's mother: "He's a wonderful, wondeful man!  How could anyone not like him?"  However, I feel it is important to understand why they dislike Springsteen, as it could help us understand our own fandom more.  I've assembled the five most common critiques I've heard of Springsteen, and ranked them by how important I personally see them in affecting someone's opinion of a musical artist.  That being said, let's start with a doozy:

5. His Politics: Many people may argue that this should be higher on the list, perhaps even number one.  From his ardent support of Obama and Kerry, to "41 Shots", to the "phoniness" of a millionaire making millions while singing about the poor and downtrodden, there's a lot there to angry up the blood of conservatives (just sit down for a beer or two with our contributor OB and you'll hear all about it).  However, I've ranked this fifth for a multitude of reasons.

First, the process of become a fan of a musician doesn't start usually with finding out their political identity.  You hear some songs, then you hear some albums, then you find out more about their life, then you create a fawning internet blog about them, etc.  There's many bands I listen to now where I couldn't name a single member of the group, let alone know their political leanings.  There are some outliers where you can know their politics before even listening to their music (i.e. Lady Gaga), but that is generally not the case.

Second, aside from a few tracks in Wrecking Ball, Bruce's political causes were positive, promoting empathy rather than assigning blame.  "Born In The U.S.A." and "41 Shots" were not calls to condemn those who sent our troops to Vietnam or the New York Police Department, but rather songs to shed a light and sympathize with the struggles of the returning veterans and the poor of the inner city.

Finally, whether you agree with his politics or not, I think you have to show him some respect for being honest with his opinions in today's heated political age.  Many celebrities choose not to make any bold statements, because, as Michael Jordan once said, "Republicans buy sneakers, too."  While I don't think anybody has an obligation to use their celebrity to promote a cause, I find it more respectable than dodging the issues and remaining a blank slate.

As someone who is fairly liberal, I am a fan of many artists and performers who lean to the right, such as Adam Carolla, Frank Miller, and Norm MacDonald.  I've been able to enjoy their work while not letting their specific opinion cloud my judgement (especially if the work has nothing to do with their politics).  I also think it is interesting to listen to someone with a different world view than mine - the world would be pretty boring looked as something the same way.  Just be sure your music is catchy, or I won't give you the time of day.

4. He's An Old White Guy: This applies more for those "kids today", but perhaps can be applied to multiple generations.  Bruce's act is all no-nonsense - he gets up there, and blasts out his music.  There aren't any props, no explosions, no wacky outfits, etc.  And, because of that, he seems "lame".

Mind you, this isn't to criticize other musicians who rely on an image - that's been a staple of pop music forever.  However, they own the "cool" factor today, just as Bruce and his leather jacket did in the 70s.

I assume those Bruce-haters that use this excuse are on the younger side, so there's still hope for them.  On a personal note, I'll share with you a dark secret that I"ve kept hidden in my past: in high school, I hated the Beatles.  It was just old, campy garbage to me.  Slowly, I started to like their later, more experiment stuff, but still didn't like their early pop songs until I was perhaps 19 or 20.  It will take everyone time to develop their true musical taste, where they aren't concerned with how liking a particular musician will make you seem to your peers.  Which segues nicely into reason number 3.....

3. Springsteen Fans: Imagine going to a Justin Bieber show, and being surrounded by thousands of screaming preteen girls.  Now, I have nothing against preteen girls, but it sounds like a scene I want no part of.  Now, instead of teenage girls, you are surrounded by middle-aged white dudes.  And then imagine that those middle-aged white dudes have the exact same amount of unbridled enthusiasm when Bruce comes on stage as those little girls have for Bieber.  While it might sound great for you, as a Springsteen fan, it may sound like a nightmare scenario for others.

It's a tough stereotype to battle.  Every time I go to a concert, I feel like I can count the number of black people with one hand - and those are mostly the ones in the band.  So, I don't disagree with the fact that middle-aged white guys have built Springsteen's mansion.  However, judging an artist by the people who enjoy them relates strongly to my previous point, and is a fairly immature attitude to have.  If you enjoy a certain type of music, who cares who else does?  It is also a self-fulfilling prophecy: you aren't enjoying Springsteen because you don't see people like you enjoying Springsteen.

2. His Pop Songs: When I think of musicians I don't really care for, it is only because of the limited amount of songs I've heard.  I'm not going to scour through all their albums and judge their entire body of work.  And, frankly, who has time for that?

In regards to Springsteen haters, it is probably because they have only heard a few of Springsteen's biggest hit songs.  "Glory Days" and "Dancing In The Dark" aren't in the top 60 of Springsteen songs as chosen by the fans, yet they are probably two of Springsteen's most widely known songs in the general populace.  It is not unreasonable to assume that these type of songs turned someone off from the Boss.  If you hate Springsteen based on limited knowledge, I'd implore you to explore this blog: I guarantee you will find something you like.

1. His Voice: Well, we've come to the part of the post that I really can't defend.  The previous four excuses I've chalked up to immaturity, lack of knowledge, and general uptightness.  But Bruce's voice clearly has people who will hate it no matter what.  As one comedian said, "Springsteen has the voice that everyone uses when they call in sick for work."  It's a funny line, and absolutely right.  This is just a matter of taste, and if someone has gotten past his politics, his fans, and his pop songs, and STILL hates Springsteen, you just have to shrug your shoulders and move on.  Not everyone has to love Springsteen; it is their loss, not ours.  To quote Wayne's World: "Led Zeppelin didn't write tunes everybody liked. They left that to the Bee Gees."

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