Bruce Springsteen

Table of Contents

Albums

The Rising (2002)

The Rising cover

  1. “Lonesome Day”
  2. “Into the Fire”
  3. “Waitin’ On A Sunny Day”
  4. “Nothing Man”
  5. “Countin’ On A Miracle”
  6. “Empty Sky”
  7. “Worlds Apart”
  8. “Let’s Be Friends (Skin To Skin)”
  9. “Further On (Up the Road)”
  10. “The Fuse”
  11. “Mary’s Place”
  12. “You’re Missing”
  13. “The Rising”
  14. “Paradise”
  15. “My City of Ruins”

“Come on up for the rising.”

The upbeat opener, “Lonesome Day,” forecasts the album’s mood pretty well. Cloudy with a chance of rain. Springsteen perfected the art of marrying sunny synth lines to darker lyrical themes in 1984 with Born In the U.S.A. (his last album with the E Street Band prior to this one, incidentally), but it always came off as a bit forced, like he wanted to write Top 40 pop songs but also wanted to write “important” songs, and the whole mess gave us “Born In the U.S.A.” at political rallies and “Glory Days” at baseball games.

But that’s mostly cynicism. And I’m not even saying you can’t have it both ways, which Springsteen manages on both albums. A less sinister hypothesis is that the dude simply has a knack for catchy melodies and something to say. “Lonesome Day” is effervescent, and Springsteen sounds like he can hardly keep his eagerness under control, yet the chorus is frustratingly restrained. When the song gets around to its “It’s alright, it’s alright” bridge, it’s downright cathartic. The string section—filling in for 1984’s synthesizers—and longing vocals underscore the darker lyrical themes and give the sense that, although “Hell’s brewing, dark sun’s on the rise” and “Deceit and betrayal’s a bitter fruit,” when Bruce Springsteen says it’s alright, by God, it’s alright. Born In the U.S.A. used the same elements to achieve much the same effect but left you with a feeling of despair and not hope. The Rising is bursting from the seams with hope, but it doesn’t take you there immediately.

“Empty Sky,” for instance, is ripe with Biblical imagery but avoids sounding heavy-handed by being subtle. Superficially, the subject matter of the verses has nothing to do with the “I woke up this morning to an empty sky” refrain. The song doesn’t give you any resolution—there’s no crescendo or clever turn-of-phrase that reverses the feeling of despair into one of hope. It ends like it begins, and in fact, the next song is even darker. Instead, the song wisely lets you draw your own conclusions, which tend to be more personal and affecting. The words never explicitly address their subject, achieving a similar effect through contrast as the “empty sky” that emphasizes what once filled it.

It’s an immensely uplifting album no matter how you cut it, even though there are tracks like “Mary’s Place,” a song about a party where Springsteen nonetheless can’t resist writing lyrics about Buddha, rain, and a girl named Mary (but the song’s true shortcomings are its weak hook and its excessive length). When the formula works, though, it’s a memorable and moving thing. “Waitin’ On A Sunny Day” works the contrasts to maximum effect (most obviously the lyrics about turning night to day, rain to sunshine, and all that crap), succeeding with its energetic arrangement of strings and brass. The title track (which sports more lyrics about skies and Mary and such) is aptly named; it builds up to a huge chorus, and it isn’t even disappointing when it turns out to be just a bunch of “la la las” because there’s simply too much energy for anything else. The album ends with “My City of Ruins,” where you’re again painted a bleak picture—“Tell me, how do I begin again?”—but the rallying cry, “C’mon, rise up,” somehow brings ample closure in spite of it all (or rather, because of it).

J.C. Fields

Last modified on Monday, May 13, 2019.