I love Bruce Springsteen, anyone who knows me (and my Dad) knows that. His music and songwriting is life-changing and has had an incredible impact on the person I have become. It connects me to Dad, who introduced me to this incredible man; it resonates during the bad times and reaffirms during the good ones. Songs like Backstreets, The Rising, and Working on a Dream have been the theme songs of my life, as they were for millions of teens in the 70s and 80s. Though Bruce is different because he continues to put out new releases to this day (Look out for Jan 14!!), he is very much considered the voice of the previous generation, my Dad’s generation. As are some of my other favourite artists like Billy Joel, R.E.M, Paul Simon, Fleetwood Mac, Elton John and many others. Though I thoroughly enjoy the current releases from the artists of today, I want to explore (and ask for your input) who is our Bruce, Billy or Bob? Do we have one? Or have we not found them yet?
There’s something to understand about the aforementioned artists of my parent’s generation, they were born in a different time, under a different set of circumstances. Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen are “Cold War Kids” (from Leningrad by Joel), born into a world of uncertainty, and a very different America than we see today. They were children of the Kennedy era, the civil rights movement, and eventually the Vietnam War (Goodnight Saigon by Joel, and Born in the USA by Springsteen are examples of this influence). They had different stories to tell. That’s who they are, storytellers, contemporary poets, and have been described as ‘voices of the generation’. They started with just their guitar, or their piano, and a lot of people telling them they were no good kids that would never make it. While you can still see that many musicians use their pain, their joy, and their childhoods to fuel their music, sometimes I just don’t feel like it’s the same. Consider the other genres we have in 2013 like hip hop or electronic. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a little sad how much I like the song Talk Dirty to Me by Jason Derulo and 2Chains because of that catchy sax riff; I like this kind of music sometimes. I don’t think that these guys, some of which possibly grew up with a lot of racial prejudice and/or had to support siblings and parents during hard economic times, are any less deserving of their success. But the lyrics: women round the world don’t speak the language, but yo’ booty don’t need explainin’ aren’t exactly as emotional/inspiring/relatable as I’ll keep moving through the dark, with you in my heart, my blood brother. Unless you’re inspired to take some sort of feminist stand against the Talk Dirty lyrics…awkies.
Despite this, I may have some contenders. I absolutely adore Florence and the Machine and I love that she’s a different kind of storyteller. Her stories are often mythical or metaphorical, and the meaning derived often differs based on your personal Florence journey. The sound of her music is also beautiful, with the harp being a key feature of most of her songs. Another favourite is Green Day, maybe because they have the whole American rebel, question these crappy circumstances thing going on. Their album 21st Century Breakdown is my favourite because it captures this failure of the system notion that Bruce also explored years earlier (but with less swears). The Killers list Springsteen as a major influence, and I can see this especially the album Sam’s Town which includes great songs like When You Were Young and Bones that combine great raw sound with great lyrics. Even though I love these guys, I’m not sure they’ve really reached “Springsteen Status” or similar. There’s something about the journey you take with Bruce that just isn’t there for me. Bruce takes you through the backstreets of New Jersey, the dusty roads of Utah, and the southern towns of Texas.
Perhaps with times these artists will be a personification of the era, a voice of the generation, but I feel at the moment no one is quite “there”. A lot of artists are getting there, but there’s no one yet that I would call “Bruce of Gen Y”. But I would appreciate your thoughts! You may have a different opinion and I love that, and I want to hear it. A discussion about great music is one I’m happy to have any day of the week.