by Julia Chirls ’17
Since Bruce Springsteen arrived on the music scene with Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. in 1973, he has earned a massive following of loyal fans, and, with every release after, he has built upon his already sterling reputation. With his most recent release Springsteen looks to continue this trend.
High Hopes is unique among Springsteen’s 18 albums, as it consists entirely of covers, outtakes, and reimagined versions of songs from previous albums and live tours. The title song, “High Hopes,” was originally recorded in 1995 and released on Blood Brothers, an extended play (EP), alongside a movie of the same name. Springsteen wrote the 11th song on the tracklist, “The Wall,” around 1998 to share a story about his visit to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. and to honor Walter Cichon from New Jersey, a musician with the 1960s band, Motifs, who never returned home from the Vietnam War.
Despite some retouching and minor adjustments, High Hopes brings Springsteen’s widespread audience back to the 1980s and 1990s when the rock icon was at the pinnacle of his career. The amount of popularity gained from this exclusive album in such a short amount of time, beginning last November when the single “High Hopes” was released, reinforces that Springsteen’s talent, not to mention fans’ fervor, have not diminished.
“High Hopes” kicks off the album. The tune has a quick tempo and a catchy rhythm. The lyrics convey the frustration of having to live in fear and apprehension. “Give me help, give me strength/ Give a soul a night of fearless sleep/ Give me love, give me peace/ Don’t you know these days you pay for everything?” However, later in the song, the man will do anything to have love, peace, and a family. He simply asks, “What’s the price?…I got high hopes.”
Moving along the track list, the third song, “American Skin (41 Shots)” was inspired by the death of Amadou Diallo when he was shot by the police in 1999. Springsteen wrote the song in 2000, and it was released as a rare U.S.-only, one-track radio promotional single on CD-R in 2001. This song is filled with emotion, as it reveals that any American can face death, anytime, anyplace. It somewhat mimics the fear conveyed in “High Hopes.” “Is it a gun?/ Is it a knife?/ Is it a wallet?/ This is your life/ It ain’t no secret/ You can get killed/ Just for living in your American skin.”
Whether you are walking to school on a city street, reading in a chair outside your home, or shopping at a mall in suburbia, there is always a risk. A mother insists that her child never leave her sight, and a mother insists that her child always be aware of lingering hates. “Never ever run away/ And promise mama/ You’ll keep your hands in sight.”
The final song on the album, “Dream Baby Dream” has a slightly slower tempo, and I find myself swaying back and forth while listening to it. This song encourages people to always follow their dreams, always keep their heads held high, and always smile from ear to ear. “I just wanna see your smile/ Come on and dream, baby, dream/ Come on darling, keep on dreaming/ Open up your eyes/ Come on baby, keep on dreaming/ Open up your heart.” A clearly older Springsteen is preaching to his younger audience because it has so much to look forward to later in life, and the younger years are those during which people can decide where to direct those dreams and how to design those dreams.
On Jan. 26, Springsteen will embark on a world tour beginning in Cape Town, Africa and ending in Auckland, New Zealand on May 2. He will then be featured at the New Orleans Jazz Fest May 3.
First-year Julia Chirls is a staff writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.