Thursday, August 30, 2007

Radio Nowhere

"Radio Nowhere," the first single off of Bruce Springsteen's forthcoming album Magic, is powerful. The song hangs on a heavy chord progression which is totally contemporary. Over it, the song laments the lack of diversity on contemporary radio and how the repitition of five or six songs leaves everyone those five songs don't relate to feeling alienated.

As he is apt to do, Springsteen begins the song by evoking the American landscape in turmoil. Attacked by the drone of the radio, he imagines a "satellite / crushing the last lone American night." Elsewhere, the Boss is "searching for the Mystery Train." This reference to Elvis's essential Sun single, written and originally recorded by Junior Parker, brings to life the idea of earthy music made for enjoyment. "Mystery Train," and Presley's other Sun singles, pre-dates the time when people knew what rock'n'roll was supposed to sound like, and more importantly what rock'n'roll had to sound like in order to make some money. This allowed the music to have the room it needed to come to life, and the influence of the market means that thousands of artists who may have brilliant ideas fail to get signed because their music doesn't conform with Top 40 radio.

The line "I want a million different voices speaking in tongues" is brilliant. The idea of diversity is expressed through the variety of sounds made by a million different voices and the idea of speaking in tongues conjures up the idea of people making emotional music spoken from passion rather than thought. This truest way to express the self is where rock gets its unbridled energy. The line also, rather obviously, implies that rock is imbued with spiritual power; this has always been true of Springsteen's music.

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