You can only listen to Bruce Springsteen's "Letter To You" so many times in a row before the other people in your house start looking at you funny. (I'm not speaking from experience or anything.) So what else is there to do? Read about "Letter To You," of course.
There's no shortage of reviews, news and interviews, of course, but we like it when the think pieces start rolling out -- the ones that go just a little bit further than the typical review to take stock in how Springsteen's latest work fits into the way we're living our lives at this moment. And what a moment we're in right now.
Here are four that are worth your time in between your spins of "Letter To You." If you've seen any other good ones, let us know in the comments.
Granted I'm biased about this one, since I was one of the three so-called experts who took part in this experiment: I and my colleagues Chris Gavin and Rami Amou-Sabe listened to "Letter To You" for the first time together, and transcribed our immediate reactions to each track. That would make this sort of the opposite of a think piece, since there was very little thinking involved -- just reacting. But you may find some of our unfiltered remarks illuminating, even if some of our opinions have since evolved. (For instance, "The Power of Prayer" has grown on me, as I predicted it might -- so sue me.)
Here's an excerpt from our reaction to "House of a Thousand Guitars":
Chris: Churches and jails!
Pete: We’re in “Jungleland” territory.
Chris: Gimme the Magic Rat for 500! Beyond the themes of loss and death, there is a lot of secondary focus on music on this record. From bands to gigs on down to the instruments themselves.
Rami: The whole thing feels very much like a reflection of his career, like you said earlier about the legacy focus.
Pete: This is a musician’s record, seems to me … lots of it aimed at people who’ve ever been in a band, successful or not.
Chris: Pete, you’re definitely right about this. I’m thinking of my high school band’s gigs listening to Bruce. I would love to see Bruce and the band play a Jersey Knights of Columbus to kick off the next tour.
Rami: Don’t get me excited, Chris!
Maybe the best piece yet to come in the wake of "Letter To You," Bonnie Stiernberg at InsideHook.com takes a deep dive into how "emotional honesty and tenderness towards those closest to him are hardly new developments for Springsteen," and yet a certain stripe of fan -- you've probably sat behind him at a concert, watching him shotgun beers and blabber through every song that can't be fist-pumped to -- still seems to think he's some sort of macho frat bro. But it doesn't have to be that way, Stiernberg argues:
While there are still some fans who maybe haven’t been able to fully unlearn the misguided lessons they received as children about what it means to be a man, Bruce Springsteen offers them an excuse to take those first steps, to tap into their emotions, to smile and cry and talk about their feelings, because he outwardly fits their mold of what a cool guy should be.
The New York Times columnist David Brooks isn't always exactly the master of the hot take, but for this Atlantic piece -- part interview, part reflection -- he does a good job of nailing down what it must be like to be 71-year-old Bruce Springsteen, and what the rest of us can learn from that.
“When you’re young, you believe the world changes faster than it does. It does change, but it’s slow,” Springsteen told me. “You learn to accept the world on its terms without giving up the belief that you can change the world. That’s a successful adulthood—the maturation of your thought process and very soul to the point where you understand the limits of life, without giving up on its possibilities.”
Attaining that perspective is the core of successful maturity. Carrying the losses gently. Learning to live with the inner conflicts, such as alternating confidence and insecurity. Getting out of your own way, savoring life and not trying to conquer it, shedding the self-righteousness that sometimes accompanies youth, and giving other people a break. The owl of Minerva flies only at dusk, as they used to say.
(Note: He had me going until the owl.)
The Miami Herald's Leonard Pitts Jr. must not have the same access as David Brooks -- all his Springsteen quotes come from the Apple TV "Letter To You" movie, but they do just fine. As does Pitts's take on what we can take away from Springsteen's latest thoughtful work during this most unusual of years.
That’s the thing age knows that youth is slow to figure out, and it’s the moral of 2020, the wisdom whispered above snow-whitened trees. You get only so many star-filled nights and rainy midsummer days. Only so much baby laughter. Only so many carnivals. Only so much music. So it is always a good idea to take joy urgently.
That's the four, but here's one for honorable mention:
Frankly, I didn't really buy any of this, but you have to give points to Micah Wimmer for figuring out a way to write 1,300 words about Bruce Springsteen while on the clock for Fansided. Here's why he says LeBron James should listen to "Letter To You."
Perhaps if LeBron sat and listened to this record, he would see a bit of himself in it, drinking a glass of wine while thinking about past glories and the many roads he’s traveled the last 20 years. Of course, he’s probably too restless and busy getting ready for next season to do that.
Whatever you say, Micah.