I think I heard Bruce talk about Born In The USA sometime and I believe that he said then that you have to be able to keep several ideas in your head at the same time. I assume (as a Swedish person) that you're brought up being told of how lucky you are to be born in such a great country as the U.S. and you hear about all the ideals of freedom and justice but then this character, while still being just a kid, gets shipped off to the other side of the world to witness the U.S. "liberating" a country. Bombs falling. Young people, kids, dying on both sides. Lives destroyed. The contrast between the ideals and the reality. That's what this song is. That's what Bruce claims to have spent his life as a songwriter and poet describing... the gap between the American dream and the American reality.
As I said, you have to be able to keep several ideas in your head at the same time. There can be no light without darkness. Look at songs like Badlands, The Promised Land and Born To Run for example. The core message of those songs is that things are pretty shit right now but someday we might reach some sort of higher potential. Someday we'll get out of here and find something better than the cards we've been dealt. Bruce songs aren't simply about hope, they're about finding hope in the darkness. This I relate strongly to. Sometimes I feel so weak I just want to explode and tear this whole town apart, sometimes I feel that I just want to find one face that isn't looking through me, that I want to find someplace I belong, someplace where I can spit in the face of these badlands.
When I feel bad I don't listen to Bruce because I want to pretend that everything is good and hear someone sing about having no troubles. When I feel like shit I listen to Bruce and the music just hits me in the deepest part of my soul because he's telling me about how shitty he feels. There is a connection and I can relate to the pain and I feel that can be a stronger connection than just relating to happiness. It's not some sad and gloomy, feeling sorry for myself, "everything is so bad" approach but it is the addressing of reality.
In this dark chaos of all the negative feelings however Bruce manages to create something even bigger when he manages to instill hope. He creates hope in the darkness. The hope that there just is a chance that things are going to get better. The idea that "heaven is waiting down on the tracks", that "we'll keep pushing until it's understood and these badlands start treating us good", that "I ain't a boy, no I'm a man" and that I can "believe in a promised land". The message he gets across strikes so deep on so many layers because it addresses the hope, the pain, the love and the sorrow simultaneously.
Then there are songs like Born In The USA and Darkness On The Edge of Town which have different messages. These songs focus on the things that are bad and the things that feel bad and are a reflection upon these things. An attempt to come to some wise conclusions based on looking at the problems from the characters´ perspective.
Born In The USA is a powerful song and I do feel that the original album version has a lot of weight and depth in many ways. The other versions manage to achieve weight and depth through a more appropriate approach to the verses and the story being told but there is something about Max´s mighty drumming, the simple synth riff and Bruce´s gut wrenching vocals that gives it a sense of "heavy-ness" if you ask me. I would never see it as a happy and inspiring anthem. It's an angry protest song. ANGRY. I feel angry when I listened to it and that is when the drums and the vocals make sense. It's supposed to piss you off. Bruce is not singing about how happy he is to be born in the usa he is singing about his friends who got shipped off to Vietnam to go die in the service of a bullshit war for no reason along with hundreds of other american kids and the vietnamese homes and families that got destroyed. It's worth listening to because of its heavy message but if I was Bruce I would also be ashamed of how misinterpreted the song has been and I would feel really sad over people abusing what is a strong and powerful message and perverting it into a stupid "YEAAH AMEERICAA #1!!!!!" thing.
If anyone feels like it is an uplifting anthem to them then I have no right to say that they're wrong for feeling that way. However there is something much bigger and deeper to be found in it. To me the music that Bruce makes manages to capture so many aspects of the human spirit and that is the power of music. It creates something bigger than simple words or sounds could ever do on their own.
It's been a long time since I last sat up and wrote a bunch on this forum late at night but I have to get up in about seven hours and I know that I need way more than eight so I'm just gonna try to sleep really hard and then I might be able to compensate for the amount of time I should have spent sleeping.
Goodnight Europe, good day/evening America and good morning Australia.