Magazine article The American Conservative

The Boss Is Back: Magic

Magazine article The American Conservative

The Boss Is Back: Magic

Article excerpt

WHEN MOST POP STARS have an album to promote, they dutifully go to the expected outlets, like MTV's "Total Request Live." But Bruce Springsteen is no ordinary pop star. He's a cultural institution, and it seemed natural that promotion for his new chart-topping and critically acclaimed album, "Magic," saw him interviewed not on some tawdry MTV showcase of ephemerality but on CBS's "60 Minutes."

Predictably, Springsteen's outspoken comments on the Sunday night news show made headlines. A few days before the episode aired, the Drudge Report ran a "flash" spotlighting of some of the Boss's most provocative political comments on what was then the upcoming show.

In response to charges that Springsteen's criticism of certain extralegal tactics of the war on terror somehow made him "unpatriotic," the rocker maintained that such claims were "just the language of the day ... the modus operandi for anybody who doesn't like somebody ... criticizing where we've been or where we're going. I believe every citizen has a stake in the ... direction of their country. That's why we vote... It's unpatriotic at any given moment to sit back and let things pass that are damaging to some place that you love so dearly and that has given me so much."

Springsteen elaborated further on his problems with the foreign-policy missteps of the current administration: "I think we've seen things happen over the past six years that I don't think anybody ever thought they'd ever see in the United States. When people think of the United States' identity, they don't think of torture. They don't think of illegal wiretapping. They don't think of voter suppression. They don't think of no habeas corpus. ... Those are things that are anti-American. There's been a whole series of things that ... I never thought I'd ever see in America."

For those who still insist that "9/11 changed everything," that entertainers are forever obliged to "support the troops" Toby Keith style and avoid making politically charged statements, Springsteen's nationally televised criticisms of the Bush administration were apparently too much to bear. Fox-News talking head Bill O'Reilly, along with some chick who routinely appears on his show to "analyze body language," took Springsteen to task twice within the span of a week for being a "very liberal guy" who lacks an ability to "back up his opinions with facts."

"Violations of habeas corpus, Bruce? When and where? Attack on the Constitution? How so? Now we've invited the singer on this program to explain, but of course, he declined, perhaps understanding that his words have consequences," O'Reilly claimed in his usual blowhard manner, adding, "if he couldn't prove his points, he would be held accountable right here. Pop stars, as you know, are rarely held accountable."

What O'Reilly seemingly doesn't understand, or more likely, refuses to concede for the sake of his own self-aggrandizement, is that Bruce Springsteen doesn't need him to prove his bona fides or to hold him "accountable." Springsteen is arguably the most gifted singer-songwriter--not to mention best live performer--of his generation, and today, not far from his 60th birthday, he is as relevant as ever, saying things that many other "pop stars" wouldn't dare say for fear of losing their recording contracts or "heavy rotation" status.

Springsteen's willingness to risk media opprobrium and speak out on these issues commends him, and the new album--aptly titled "Magic"--is proof positive that, even as he reaches the end of his career, he hasn't lost much as a singer, a lyricist, or a front man. Indeed, like Bob Dylan, he's one of the few stadium-fillers who have managed to rock into their golden years.

The album starts off strong, with the hard-rocking "Radio Nowhere," a song that manages to at once critique the vapidity of American radio and the poignancy of lost love. "I was spinnin' 'round a dead dial / Just another lost number in a file. …

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