Obama, Jeep, that other thing: So far we were dead wrong about Springsteen's 'surprises'
OK, so it's only March, and there's every chance that Bruce Springsteen will eventually get to every one of the promised surprises that we predicted earlier this year. (OK, maybe not the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra one, but the others.) But so far, we're batting a straight .000.
To recap, here are the Springsteen 2021 surprises so far:
1) The Jeep ad, a.k.a. "The Middle"
It managed to piss off tons of people on both sides, but seemed to draw some relatively positive reviews from people in, you guessed it, the middle. Ironically it was the subject matter (the suggestion that we should seek compromise in a divided country) that got most people riled up, rather than the fact that rock's biggest anti-sellout had finally done a commercial. Maybe next time he should just try plugging a product -- "Born to Run" Special Edition Nikes, maybe?
2) The DUI arrest
Granted, this isn't something that was planned, per se, but given that it happened in November and Bruce made his promise in January to E Street Radio's Jim Rotolo that 2021 would have some surprises, he may very well have had this in mind. (Surely he didn't think it would pass unnoticed.)
In a development that surprised absolutely no one (at least once the details emerged), the bulk of the charges were dismissed, with Bruce being fined $540 for drinking in a "closed area" of Sandy Hook Park in New Jersey. And who amongst us hasn't drank in a closed park? Or the woods? Or the parking lot of a Stop & Shop? (Sorry, was just getting nostalgic for a minute there.)
So while it may have caused a brief stain on Bruce's stellar reputation, it may have been worth it for the terrible courtroom sketch and this (virtual) courtroom exchange:
Judge Anthony Mautone: “Mr. Springsteen, I need to ask you how long you need to pay that fine?”
Bruce Springsteen: “I think I can pay that immediately."
From the Jeep ad proceeds, no doubt. (Worth noting that the ad is back up after being unceremoniously pulled awaiting the case's outcome. Jeep of little faith.)
3) The Obama podcast
Now, this one was big, and totally unexpected. Bruce and Barack, hanging out, shootin' the breeze for our listening pleasure on Spotify. I always suspected their friendship had been a bit exaggerated, but no, apparently they are truly buds -- and judging from the first three episodes of "Renegades: Born in the USA," they bring out the best in each other.
All three are must-listens, the first two tackling race in America and featuring some truly moving memories of Clarence Clemons related by a clearly wistful Springsteen. (And also Obama riffing about the line that references him in "Get Out," which was wild.) And the third, on music, features some fine presidential warbling from Obama, and the story behind his "Amazing Grace" moment. (Warning: They play it at the end, so bring tissues.) Gigwise does a good job summarizing many of the highlights, if you're not a big podcast person.
Not everyone loves it -- Politico called it "genially pointless," while Raw Story went so far as to say that its "larger message is lost in their unabashed egomania." (!!) But I think those opinions miss the point -- that America is hungry for thoughtful conversations about serious subjects from people who are well-spoken, sincere and whom we actually trust. For those of us that share their worldview, Bruce Springsteen and Barack Obama can offer that at this very precarious moment in time -- and it's appreciated.
Elsewhere in Bruceworld
Anyway, that's a lot for less than three months, but whatever surprises Bruce has in store for the rest of the year, you can count on one thing: We'll probably do a lousy job of guessing what they are.
Meanwhile, here are some other Springsteen headlines you can count on:
There's yet another collection of live Bruce covers on the streaming services -- check out "Songs Under Cover Vol. 2" on Spotify here
Bruce Springsteen Day could soon be a thing in NJ, apparently (NJ.com)
Far Out magazine picks the best song from each Bruce Springsteen album, and gets some of them right