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The Best Bruce Springsteen Songs, Ranked


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I haven't actually read the list yet, but Steven Hyden is my favorite critic of this century, so I assume that even as I'll be gobsmacked by how wrong the list is—because such lists are always wrong, even when I'm the one who's making them—it'll be well-written, engaging, insightful, and humorous. 

https://uproxx.com/indie/best-bruce-springsteen-songs-ranked/

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15 minutes ago, Paolo's Circus Story said:

SPOILERS

"Backstreets" at #1, "Jungleland" at #12 and "The Promised Land" at #30 are big HMMMMMMMM???? moments for me, but this is a really good article and list regardless. 

As I said, such lists are always, always, always wrong, and Hyden's great. 

More specifically, "Backstreets" doesn't make my Top 3, which has been static for a long time, but I suspect a highly defensible argument could be made for it. "The Promised Land" is too low...but I'd say, if anything, "Jungleland"—which I love passionately—is too high. 

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14 minutes ago, Scott Peterson said:

As I said, such lists are always, always, always wrong, and Hyden's great. 

More specifically, "Backstreets" doesn't make my Top 3, which has been static for a long time, but I suspect a highly defensible argument could be made for it. "The Promised Land" is too low...but I'd say, if anything, "Jungleland"—which I love passionately—is too high. 

A very good read! It's a bit annoying sometimes that Bruce has written over 50 great songs, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading through the choices and what you had to say about them. 

And while I'd have loved "I Need You" to get into that Beatles rundown, I'm happy at least that "Norwegian Wood" is in there :)

That said...

The top three has to be "Born to Run", "Thunder Road", "Jungleland". "Backstreets" might make my top 10, though I'm not too sure, and "The Promised Land" definitely would. 

Where would you have '"Jungleland" ranked?

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I don't agree with a lot of that list but unlike many other writers, the writer here doesn't pretend to know what is best or not because it's his actual opinion and you can genuinely believe that he loves the songs in that order. Great write-up. 

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'ranking Springsteen’s songs is an invitation to personal misery. Bruce fans are famously fanatical, and will inevitably take issue with anyone’s list. As a Bruce fanatic myself, I was positive that I would hate my own list. The man simply has too many songs that mean a lot to me. How could I possibly arrange them in a satisfying order?'

I love this... So true. ^^^

 

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Great read, thanks.

I mostly agree with the author, not necessarily with his rankings (I can't pick a suitable pair of shoes in the morning, I can't rank anything, I most definitely can't rank Springsteen's songs:D), but with his observations, and his thinking.

I'm glad I'm not the only one not very fond of The Rising album, and how you need to hear a Joad show to actually appreciate the album.

Tunnel is a masterpiece, I like to see BD so high.

Why isn't Hyden a member here?

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1 hour ago, Paolo's Circus Story said:

The top three has to be "Born to Run", "Thunder Road", "Jungleland". "Backstreets" might make my top 10, though I'm not too sure, and "The Promised Land" definitely would. 

Where would you have '"Jungleland" ranked?

With the standard caveat that such lists are not only entirely subjective but always always always wrong: I love "Jungleland" but think “Racing in the Streets“ absolutely demolishes it as a song. 

BUT. That then brings up the question of "what is a song?" which, I think, is at the heart of many (not all!) of these list debates. The great Bill Flanagan book, Written in My Soul, is a collection of interviews with great songwriters, such as Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Paul Simon, Pete Townshend and, yes, Bruce Springsteen. He talks about why he focused on who he focused on: 

"performers whose songs could be performed solo on acoustic guitar without losing their sense or impact [...] out of the rock tradition anteceded by Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly. [...] Guthrie and Leadbelly did not affect all rock & roll as Hank Williams and Robert Johnson did. Guthrie and Leadbelly are part of a somewhat specialized, more folk/less pop-oriented current that has always flowed around and under the mainstream."

and points out its limitations (such as the resulting exclusion of brilliant artists like Brian Wilson, Paul McCartney, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, David Bowie and the Clash). 

In his interview in the book, Jackson Browne says, 

"There are records and then there are records. [...]

"Each of us—me and my closest friends—hopes to make a record. There are records I love that are not good songs but are great records. [...]

"Phil Spector and the Beatles made records. Records that stay records. "Walk Away Renee" is a good song but it's not a great record. I think a lot of my records are that way. They're not so well made. [...]

"Motown made those records the way they made the '55 Chevrolet. It's still beautiful and it still drives. [...]

"I didn't stand up and take notice of anything until Bob Dylan. I liked the Beatles; you heard them all the time. But I wasn't really aware of how clever, how well-made, some of those records were. But record-making stuff can get in the way of writing a song, too. A lot of times in an arrangement you'll say, "This sounds great, let's do it!" It may be a great effect but it may not make it a good song. And I think in most cases I have to try to write the song. But I find I'm really attracted to record making."

So. Those two bits had a perhaps overly large impact upon the way I evaluate parts of an artist's oeuvre. And for all that the testifying, death-defying, legendary E Street Band brings to most of Springsteen's songs, a huge percentage of them would be just (or nearly) as powerful (if very different) were he to perform them alone on an acoustic guitar or on the piano (if he were a slightly better pianist, perhaps). 

Not so much with "Jungleland." And while I would LOVE to hear him perform it solo—or, perhaps even better, just him and Nils—and I love the original studio recording and I at least like and often love the various live performances over the years, as a song, going by the perhaps utterly arbitrary definition laid down in my young psyche, it can't come close to some of his more straightforward pieces of art. 

And, of course, as always, I could be completely and totally wrong. :) 

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32 minutes ago, Scott Peterson said:

. The great Bill Flanagan book, Written in My Soul, is a collection of interviews with great songwriters, such as Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Paul Simon, Pete Townshend and, yes, Bruce Springsteen.

It is indeed a great book, but beware the Bruce Springsteen interview is only in the paperback edition and not in the original hardcover edition.

Bruce was too busy first but found time for an interview for the second, paperback, edition.

On the other hand, buying the book only because there is an interview with Bruce Springsteen in it does not justice to the rest of the book, great and often very interesting interviews.

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10 Greatest                     10  Favourites

              In no particular order.

 

Incident.                             PIAN

NYCS.                                 Frankie

BTR.                                    Backstreets

TR.                                       DOTEOT

Backstreets.                       Loose Ends   

Jungleland.                         LITF(Magic)

RITS.                                     MLWNLYD

DOTEOT.                               Hungry Heart

The River.                            I'm Goin' Down

Atlantic City.                        Youngstown

 

 

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On 8/6/2020 at 10:34 PM, A Saint in the city said:

 The fact that there is no LOHAD or TPYP in the top 100 makes this list irrelavent. 

Sorry. 

Anytime I see a list of things definitively ranked best to worst I automatically assume it's irrelevant. It doesn't matter if it's one persons opinion or Rolling Stone mag polling a bunch of critics and averaging them out,  it's irrelevant. But that doesn't mean they're not fun to look at. And tear apart.

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Yeah, anyone getting mad over this song vs that song and writing off the author are dramatically missing the point. It's about fun discussion and enjoying Hyden's writing on Bruce, which is one of my favorite things to read. Bruce does feature heavily into his wonderful book Twilight of the Gods, but I really think he needs to write a whole book about Springsteen one day.

This piece he did for Grantland back in the day is great too. A fun exercise. Again, chill out when you read it, especially if you're a Joad fan. Clearly from the new rankings he has said he has come to appreciate that album.

 

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On 8/6/2020 at 3:21 PM, Paolo's Circus Story said:

Backstreets" at #1, "Jungleland" at #12 and "The Promised Land" at #30 are big HMMMMMMMM???? moments for me

As I’ve said in the past... this is exactly why I personally just CANNOT ‘rank’ his songs/albums; but rather ‘group’ them: 

-Can’t live without 

-Love, Love, Love! 

-Love 

-Like a lot

-Could take or leave 

-Don’t really care for, but can listen if you love it and we’re in the car together!! 

-Actively dislike (less than 10...)  

Yeah... the majority are def in the first 3, followed closely by group 4!! 

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