I was in the fourth grade when Bruce Springsteen released his Born in the U.S.A. album back in 1984. At the time, I was hearing songs from the album as current singles on the radio, and I really didn’t truly understand the lyrics to a lot of them. However, there was something about the music that grabbed me as a kid. And when I got older and could better appreciate the lyrical content of many of the songs, I came to realize why Born in the U.S.A. had become such a classic album from the 1980s.
The album opens with the title song, which is a song that has become misunderstood through the years. On several occasions, Republican lawmakers have tried to use the song for their campaigns, but every time, Bruce Springsteen has asked these candidates to “cease and desist.” Even though the song may be titled “Born in the U.S.A.,” it’s not the gung-ho patriotic song that some people seem to think it is. If you listen to the lyrics, you’ll realize it’s a song condemning the Vietnam War.
The next song on the album is “Cover Me,” which is basically a song where the speaker is trying to find someone to be their love. “Darlington County” tells the story of two men going to Darlington County trying to find work; however, the story ends with the speaker’s buddy getting arrested.
“Working on the Highway” is a song about a guy who works on the highway, meets a young girl and runs off with her, only to have her family come and get her and have the speaker arrested. “Downbound Train” is a song about a man who’s down on his luck, who loses his job and loses his love.
“I’m on Fire” is the shortest song on the album, and it’s a song about a man who strongly desires a woman. “No Surrender” is a song about having high hopes during youth, only to lose that hope with age. In “Bobby Jean,” the speaker is lamenting the fact that someone they were close to has moved on without saying goodbye.
“I’m Goin’ Down” is a song about how a romantic relationship loses its spark over time. “Glory Days” is a song where the speaker encounters people from his high school days, and how those people spend their time reminiscing about those times. “Dancing in the Dark” is my all-time favorite song on Born in the U.S.A., and it’s definitely one of the most musically upbeat songs on the album. It’s a song where the speaker is looking for something to add a spark to their otherwise dull life. The album closes with “My Hometown,” where the speaker is lamenting how much his hometown has changed over time, and how the economy has gotten bad enough that he and his family have to consider leaving.
With the lyrics for many of the songs on Born in the U.S.A., Bruce Springsteen was able to capture the realities of the working man and those who were downtrodden in the mid-1980s. By wrapping these lyrics up in a 1980s rock sound that appealed to the mainstream, he was able to get the messages in these songs into the consciousness of many people in the public. In some respects, some of the songs are as relevant today as they were in 1984; I especially think this is the case with “My Hometown” and “Glory Days.” Born in the U.S.A. is definitely deserving of being considered a classic album from the 1980s.
I wrote this review after listening to a copy of Born in the U.S.A. that my husband and I purchased.