Bruce Springsteen, the Hipster Hero

In this month's issue of Spin (The 100 Greatest Albums 1985-Now, with Dr. Dre, Bono, and Beck on the cover) on page 26, nestled right below a timely article titled "Mormon Was the Case" about the morally clean response to a Snoop Dogg/The Game show in Salt Lake City, there is a tiny article with the inconspicuous title, “Is Bruce Springsteen a Hipster Hero?” written by one Ms. Elizabeth Goodman. While the 135-word blurb succeeds in answering this question, more importantly, it begs two additional questions: who the hell is Elizabeth Goodman and how dare she reduce Bruce Springsteen to a hipster hero?

Who is Elizabeth Goodman? Award-winning music journalist? Self-proclaimed hipster judge? Tight-lipped goth type just out of NYU? Summer intern / Alpha Phi vice-president from Arizona State? You know, I don’t care, and it doesn’t really matter, now, does it? All she is to me is some ignorant priss who thinks she can reduce Bruce Springsteen, a hero to millions of fans around the world, to just a hipster hero. But before I proceed to rip into Spin’s best, brightest girl wonder intern, I must say that before reading “Is Bruce Springsteen a Hipster Hero?” I thought I was totally uncool for admitting that Bruce Springsteen is my favorite musician of all-time. The hipsters of yesteryear always condescendingly slapped me with the mainstream label (“You might as well listen to John Mayer and Jack Johnson, loser”), but thanks to this article, the tables have turned. While before I hesitated to go near the word, "hipster,” for fear of being laughed out of Silver Lake, now I can really embrace the term as one that really says who I am!

Now, after Elizabeth Goodman has officially christened a wandering Gen-Y disaster like me with the hippest label in the land, I can finally find meaning in my life, which was been put into serious contemplation mode (along with my respect for Spin magazine) by the following article:

Is Bruce Springsteen a Hipster Hero?

With his broad choruses and unironic storytelling, Springsteen epitomizes average American taste.

Don’t be too quick to jump to that gun, Goodman. You’re dead wrong. The only chorus that could be classified as “broad’ is that of “Born in the U.S.A.” That’s a no-brainer, but you should probably have a brain if you’re planning on venturing any further after this powerful introductory sentence.

And might I add that there is a hint of snobbery in your epitomizing of average American taste. It’s as if you’re taking the chorus of “Born in the U.S.A.” literally, when in fact the unironic storytelling in the song exposes the greater ironies of the title, which you would surely know if you’d bothered to listen to the lyrics.

But the great thing about hipsters is that they think they’re so much better than squares.

But is he also a hush-hush hipster fave? Since 1978, when Patti Smith released “Because the Night” (cowritten by Springsteen), the Boss (who has just finished his Devils & Dust tour) has led a double-life as the idol of ubercool rockers.

Okay, back in ’78, Bruce Springsteen was an ubercool rocker, and he still is. Your idea of a double life would mean that Springsteen would try to aspire to please self-important snobs like you. You should have interviewed these ubercool rockers of yours and asked them why they love Springsteen’s songs so much. It’s not because he fulfills your definition of hip. He doesn’t even care whether he’s hip. Throughout his career, he has succeeded where many musicians have failed, in balancing creativity/innovation and accessibility, appealing to a diverse worldwide audience while staying true to himself, not giving in the pressures of the music industry that can compromise every artist’s creativity. While Bob Dylan has sold himself to Starbucks and Victoria’s Secret, and every romantic comedy movie trailer seems to scribble disrespectful graffiti on the legend of Motown, Bruce Springsteen refuses to lend himself to product placement.

The evidence? Conor Oberst is a huge fan: The boy king joined Springsteen’s 2004 Vote for Change Tour. David Bowie recorded Springsteen’s “Growin’ Up” for potential inclusion on 1973’s Pin Ups. Ryan Adams, the Strokes, the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs’ Nick Zinner have been spotted partying to DJ-spun Springsteen tunes in New York City. Springsteen’s sound resonates in recent releases from Adams, the Hold Steady, and Ted Leo. The verdict: Yes, Springsteen is the Boss of regular folks and fans of the Strokes!

Well, Judge Goodman, I think the only thing I can say to your verdict is that I hope your discovery leads you to check out some of Springsteen’s greatest albums (might I recommend his Greatest Hits package for starters). Maybe you’ll see why your hipster heroes love his music so much, and you will never dare write an article like this again. As for Spin magazine, I can only shake my head in wonder. Maybe I’m getting older and you’re skewing your target audience younger, but any self-respecting music journalism periodical should demonstrate a little more respect for one of the most influential artists in rock and roll history. And that he’s influential shouldn’t be “news” to anyone except, sadly, your interns.


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