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  • Writer's picturePete Chianca

Here's what the critics are saying about Springsteen's 'Only the Strong Survive'

Bruce in soul mode. (Photo by Danny Clinch)

You've read the Blogness on the Edge of Town review (you have read it, right?), but what are other critics saying about Bruce Springsteen's album of soul covers, "Only the Strong Survive"? Mostly, they like it — the consensus seems to be that while the faithful arrangements can make the proceedings feel a little stale at points, the tracks are well chosen, Springsteen's voice shines through, and his enthusiasm sells it in the end.

But if you'd like to take more of a deep dive, take a look at what some of these top publications and websites had to say. (Did we miss your favorite? Let us know in the comments or at and we'll add to the list.)


Blogness on the Edge of Town: "The vibe, merging the timelessness of the originals with an added layer of exuberant rediscovery, is, eventually, uniformly infectious."

Pitchfork: "In the place of his more characteristic touch is a confident, faithful, and occasionally synthetic-sounding accompaniment provided largely by Aniello as his one-man band."

Variety: "Instead of heating up and boiling over, “Only the Strong Survives” is often coolly reserved and occasionally dispassionate."

Rolling Stone (paywall): "Even if the arrangements occasionally feel static in their mimicry, Springsteen’s voice shines and sparkles."

NME: "Springsteen resurrects these classics as a means of celebration, pointing back to some of the strongest songwriters and vocalists of all time with 15 huge and heartfelt tributes, as opposed to just churning out shallow reimaginings." "Only the Strong Survive is still quite enjoyable in its own right: Not quite a revelation, perhaps, but a journey through the past that Springsteen had to take, executed with great musical precision and undeniable vocal passion."

Asbury Park Press: "Springsteen’s voice here is crushed velvet powered by a heartache override."

AllMusic: "It's enjoyable enough that it takes a minute to realize that Springsteen and Aniello aren't exactly re-interpreting these 15 songs: they're merely playing them for a lark."

Ultimate Classic Rock: "It's that thematic tie that holds together Only the Strong Survive, even when so many of the songs face the insurmountable hurdles laid down by the original versions."

Riff Magazine: "This is Springsteen’s voice at its best; thick and dripping with emotion; vulnerability, love and desperation (is there a difference? Maybe not on these songs)."

Pop Matters: "The familiar framework lays bare and adds pressure on, the centerpiece of all great soul music: the lead vocal. For this, the 73-year-old Springsteen mostly delivers."

Forbes: "What makes Only The Strong Survive such an effective collection is the diversity of the songs Springsteen selects."

USA Today: "Why choose a covers album as the solo follow-up to 2020’s “Letter to You”? Because it makes him happy. And, any eye-rolling aside, it will make you happy too."

Wall Street Journal: "When many of these songs were originally recorded, an LP might last for 30 or 35 minutes—the 15 tracks here last for 50, and there’s not nearly enough variation to justify that length."

Buzz: "Springsteen not only takes ownership of the tracks he covers but cooks up both a mighty soundtrack and remedy to this winter of ever-growing worldwide discontent."

Far Out: "Musically, Only The Strong Survive suffers from a general sense of malaise."

The Irish Times: "His voice has lost nuance through years of playing stadia. Still this is a joyful blast - grandad pop at its best."



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