Monday, April 2, 2018

Great Moments in Springsteen Cinema History: Ready Player One

If you haven’t heard, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Ready Player One is chock full of 1980s pop culture. This includes a host of instantly recognizable Top 40 pop songs from the decade. But then suddenly, surprisingly, amidst the traditional tunes, appears none other than Bruce Springsteen’s “Stand On It” – a lesser known b-side to "Glory Days" that was apparently released on the soundtrack to the Danny Devito comedy Ruthless People before also appearing on Tracks.

How did Spielberg choose this song – of all Springsteen songs, of all '80s songs – to feature in the movie? There’s plenty of evidence of Spielberg’s appreciation for the Boss. Whether it’s red carpet photo bombing, opening night seats at Springsteen on Broadway or vacations in Naples, Italy (with Daniel Day-Lewis in tow – imagine the conversations the three of them were having!). I like to imagine this was Spielberg’s first chance after decades of admiration to fit a Springsteen song into one of his movies, and he decided to use it as an opportunity to bring more attention to one of his personal favorites. Perhaps “Hungry Heart” or “Glory Days” would have felt too obvious for a Springsteen fanboy.

This is the beauty of the Bruce Springsteen catalogue. Beside the iconic pop hits, there’s a treasure trove of decade-specific songs just waiting to be rediscovered. I’d wager that the majority of Ready Player One audience members this past weekend were likely to hear “Stand On It” and recognize it as something distinctly created in the '80s without even noticing it’s Springsteen. Maybe you'd recognize his voice, but it sounds pretty different than his big hits. I like to think a contingent of that audience scrolled through the soundtrack listings and with pleasant surprise, developed a new appreciation for Springsteen.