Title: Born in the U.S.A.
Artist: Bruce Springsteen
Album: Born in the U.S.A.
Sometimes a song is overplayed you can't really hear it anymore. Think "Smells Like Teen Spirit" or "Losing My Religion" (both songs I've featured previously in this blog). "Born in the U.S.A." has that distinction but it also has the misfortunate of being misunderstood as a jingoistic anthem for American patriotism, the irony of Springsteen's lyrics lost on a 1980s public high on economic prosperity in a pre-AIDS society. Why listen beyond the chorus? Life was pretty good in 1984 and Vietnam was a long time ago, man. Have a wine cooler!
If you can renew your ears for this song, it will blow you away. You can try to recalibrate the story for this decade if you like, but the military in this country has never been so revered as it is today. There are injustices against soldiers, but we rarely hear about them—just sing "God Bless America" and send them back for a third or fourth tour! But if you really know anything about Vietnam and the way the soldiers were treated upon their return from our first failed war, Springsteen's lyrics will strike you as incredibly powerful.
The arrangement is a musical coup: two chords repeated for nearly five minutes without a lilt in energy or interest. Max Weinberg's driving backbeat and copious fills dictate the ebb and flow of the band, which nearly comes apart at its seams near the end of the track. But it's Springsteen's vocal performance that steals the show, an achievement on par with John Lennon's "Twist and Shout" or Roger Daltrey's "Love Reign O'er Me."