Music

Springsteen vs. Madonna: A Twentysomething’s Take on the Battle of the 80’s Superstars

Lots of music critics think they know what “the millennials” will think of 80’s titans Bruce Springsteen and Madonna releasing new albums.

I’m not your *average millennial, but I am  a member of the controversial generation of people born between 1981 and 1996.  And I’ll tell you right now:  we millennials value honesty and authenticity.

One of these artists seems honest and authentic; the other doesn’t.

Madame X presents your typical 2019 Latin- inspired pop offering.  It’s not bad, by any means.  But the medium is the message, and the medium is Madonna.  I’ve been seeing Madonna perform at awards shows and I think she looks ridiculous.  She whipped out holograms for her last Grammy performance.  Holograms aren’t cool.  Even if you’re dead.  I think Madonna has gone to great pains to look and seem young and hip, and she looks pained.  I adored her Confessions On A Dance Floor era where she wore leotards.  I even dug some of the Timbaland- produced Hard Candy.  2019 Madonna lives in a Portuguese castle.  She’s out of touch and it seems like she’s getting her information about pop culture from influencers on Instagram.  But hey, the US only makes up one part of the global market.  The Spanish and Portuguese speaking world will probably love Madame X.

Bruce Springsteen, on the other hand…

Now, here’s where I’m *really not the average millennial.  Ever since I discovered Live 1975- 1985 my sophomore year of high school, I’ve been like that Indian kid in Blinded By The Light.  I read Bruce’s autobiography Born to Run, then bought it on Audible to hear The Boss read it himself.  One time someone asked if I’d made a playlist a friend had on in the car, and another friend said,  “Nah.  Nat’s playlist would have more Bruce Springsteen.”  I took off work to buy tickets for his last tour.  I love Bruce Springsteen.

But, I have over 700 friends on Facebook and I have only ever met two other human beings my age who share my affinity for The Boss.

Bruce didn’t put in any extra effort to reach our ears.  He’s never courted a group of people based on an arbitrary grouping of birth years.  Bruce writes about themes all people experience:  faith, hope, hardship, and love for all types of people and things.

Bruce can get a little preachy and a little weepy.  While playing “Long Walk Home” on a short drive home, a friend complained,  “Bruce Springsteen is so self- referential.”  And he has created his own mythology.  You feel like Rosalita, Bobby Jean and all the Marys are still running around out there.

Western Stars is a sweeping sunset of an album, heavy on the finger picking and slide guitar.  It sounds like Will Rogers State Park:  The Album by Bruce Springsteen.  Bruce sings about the sunsets and sundowns of life.  Bruce is 69 now, and he’s aging.  But instead of fighting time like Madonna, Bruce embraces it.  “Tonight the Western stars are shining bright again”, he sings on the titular track.  Bruce goes to the gym every day and doesn’t do drugs.  Madonna gets Botox.  Her video for “Medellin” has a pretty heavy- handed vaping endorsement.   She looks like Dead Evita.  Bruce looks older, but he also looks a lot more natural.

I think I will like Western Stars more when I’m older.  In high school, my English teacher made us write an essay about which piece of art we thought would be the Grapes of Wrath of the Great Recession.  I almost wrote about “Working On A Dream”, but I thought “Queen of the Supermarket” was soooo stupid.  I wrote about Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” instead.  Now, I am the queen of the supermarket.

Bruce’s music grows with him.  That’s why Bruce’s legacy evolves, while Madonna’s is stuck in the 80’s.  Teenagers find immortal electricity on The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle and Born To Run.  Young adults feel youth fading and responsibility creeping in on The River and Born In The USA.  Middle aged people dive into complicated relationships on Tunnel of Love and Human TouchThe Rising united people after a tragedy.  And people love Bruce’s shows because he gives them emotions-  NOT holograms.  I don’t think Bruce Springsteen gives a shit his album came out the same day as Madonna’s (although his label, Colombia, probably does).  He’s not making music for the money.  He’s making music for us.

And there, dear readers, lies the moral of this story.  Be yourself.  Even you, Madonna.

And here are some old pics of these two babes back in the 80’s.  Because everybody loves that.

3 comments on “Springsteen vs. Madonna: A Twentysomething’s Take on the Battle of the 80’s Superstars

  1. Fabulous piece.

    Only one thing to add: I suspect Bruce has also had work done—he’s just had less of it, and/or been more fortunate with how it turned out.

    • So excited to get your comment! Ah yes, the infamous “work”… I didn’t know that but I’m not surprised. Thank you!

      • Very much my pleasure—I found it at one of the bigger Springsteen message boards. (It was approvingly linked.)

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