The United States is finally showing signs of recovering from the malaise that's plagued it for the past four (or so) years, and yet I haven't heard a significant voice in music dedicate a body of work to the alarming social inequities. It seems like people would rather listen to mindless pop music from artists like LMFAO, Katy Perry and Bruno Mars, which is perfectly fine. People can listen to whatever the hell they want and that's their prerogative. But when an album like Bruce Springsteen's Wrecking Ball comes around, you have no choice but to pay attention.
Don't get me wrong, there have been some musicians who were willing to go the Woody Guthrie route and point out the wrongs of Wall Street (Tom Morello as the Nightwatchman is an example), but they are few and far between. That's what makes Springsteen's powerful message stand out. The Boss is pissed off and not afraid to show it. (He's said this is the first time he's written about a guy in a tie.) The urgency expressed in the album's underlying message has been missing from mainstream music for some time, and it's sad that someone hadn't felt compelled to speak up sooner.
It seems like whenever a star takes a stand on an issue, it's overlooked or scoffed at. That's why Marvin Gaye's What's Going On? is more of a critical darling than commercial success. Or maybe that's the effect that Bono has had on musicians taking up causes. His overbearing reach to try to save the world has been noble, yet extremely annoying and has led to him becoming the butt of many jokes. Thus, many emerging musicians are best served keeping their mouth shut about issues for fear of it harming their bank accounts. The Dixie Chicks were one of the last groups to take a stand and now they're a cautionary tale to what happens when you say what's on your mind.
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What do we want from our favorite musicians? Do we want to be mindlessly entertained or hear their social views? Do we want to go their concerts and watch a wild, choreographed spectacle? Mindless pop music takes us to another place and serves as a form as escapism, I mean, who wants to face reality when we deal with it every day?
That's why I'm glad Springsteen made this album. Wrecking Ball has been universally praised and rightfully so. After several mediocre albums (by his standards), Springsteen tackles issues that many in the entertainment community have yet to address. Maybe it's because he has enough money where he can freely say what he wants or is at a point in his career where he doesn't give a shit about what the fat cats think, but either way, if an inspired Springsteen is our watchdog, then we're in good shape.
For an artist to speak up against the evils of banks and corporations is a tremendous risk. I assume that's why pop stars would rather sing about partying or stretch themselves by tackling love rather than big business. When you play it safe and don't piss anyone off, the chances of having sustained success increase. That's the reason we should be thankful for Bruce Springsteen and his willingness to address the tough topics that many shy away from. Wrecking Ball proves that if the voice is loud enough, people have no choice but to listen, even if they don't want to. Hopefully in due time pop stars will be willing to take chances and push themselves like Springsteen did here.