Let me start by saying that I do not hate Bruce Springsteen. I am, however, mostly indifferent toward and mildly annoyed by Bruce Springsteen. He has written a few good songs over his five-decade career, but his music is tedious, his persona inauthentic and his fans grating. Mostly, I'm someone who thinks we—as a nation, as a people—should have something better to talk about than a retirement-age rocker who was last relevant during the Reagan administration.
Bruce Springsteen is coming to town next week to play 1980's The River in full, so people will be talking about him. Here are some points you can share with them about why the thing they like is bad and why they should feel bad.
Chris Christie loves him.
If you inspired Chris Christie, you did something very wrong.
Bruce has lots of money and power. If he's so woke, and so strongly opposed to the corrupt Christie regime—the despot has literally forced dissenters into crushing rush-hour traffic to punish them, which is akin to waterboarding in the mind of your average New Jerseyian—why isn't he doing more to oppose it?
He culturally appropriated blue-collar America.
Bruce banks about $80 million per year and has been rich for a long, long time. The River, the record he's rehashing on this tour, was released a month after I was born—and I'm old. When this guy sings about the closed steel mills of "Youngstown"—the steel mills where my grandfather worked—it's essentially audio ruin porn, about people he's never met and places he only saw out the window of a shiny black limousine. The only part that's offensive to me is that other similarly situated people (see above) believe his work speaks to something authentic.
Bruce's music is made by and for wealthy middle-aged white men, guys who keep an old Corvette the garage for sunny summer days. Their America is dead, largely by their own hand. You want to sing some songs for the downtrodden working class today, Bruce? Go down to Subway and ask the longtime sandwich artists about how they lost their shift meals because pedophile Jared decimated the company's sales. But I realize it's more majestic to talk about the rusty abandoned steel mills standing above the empty lot where my father's boyhood home once stood.
He big-timed his band.
On the Jersey Shore bar band circuit, the font of Bruce's mythology, everyone in the band gets paid the same. Mad Dog, Boom, Little Steven—they get paid the same. Bruce abided this arrangement for a long time, longer than most stars would. But in 1989 he tossed his band out like Frito bag on the turnpike. He spent a decade without them, recording two crappy records and "Streets of Philadelphia," in that time. Eventually, the Boss hired the Employees back. Their financial arrangement is different now.
A shitty seat to his show costs $115.
That's double what Garth Brooks charged at Moda Center last year. Garth had to play five shows to get everyone in who bought a ticket at that price. And Bruce? He just charges more and plays one show. Who's the real blue collar hero here? Trick question: The real blue collar hero is the guy who busted his back working two doubles to get Taylor Swift tickets for his teenage daughter.
His shows are way too long.
Springsteen defenders will point out that their guy earns his money by playing a four-hour show. I've seen Bruce live—he's fine. But no one needs a four-hour show, or to hear The River in its 80-minute entirety. It's self-indulgent. Bruce needs to stick to the hits. If Courtney Cox can't dance to it, he shouldn't play it. Here's your setlist, Bruce: "Hungry Heart," "Glory Days," "Born to Run," "Dancing in the Dark," "I'm On Fire." Then shut it down.
He hasn't been relevant since the Reagan administration.
Speaking of shutting it down… How much crazy political shit has happened since Bruce said anything meaningful about politics?
It's a pretty safe bet that among the millions of middle-aged white male fans he has, there are a few wearing "Make America Great Again" hats who see a strong connection between Bruce's nostalgia for an era where these guys were still useful to America and the glowing orange despot who promises to return their glory days.
Hell, I can think of one right off the top of my head—Chris fucking Christie.
All the worst music critics love him.
I'm not going to name names, but the deification of Springsteen is tightly bound to the most noxious strain of rockist music criticism, the one that still holds Mick Jagger as a credible sex symbol while also bemoaning the fact that the kids are so into Kanye's sneakers.
He emboldened New Jersey.
Jersey is fine, but best when it's playing a character or supporting role. Nobody wants Jersey attached to the project as a lead, and when it is, you've got a surefire bomb. An incomplete list of bad Jersey things that likely would not exist without Bruce Springsteen: Snooki, Garden State, Bon Jovi, Mike "The Situation" Sorriento, Chris Christie.
SEE IT: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band play Moda Center, 1 N Center Court St., on Tuesday, March 22. 7:30 pm. $65-$150. All ages.