Given Springsteen’s ongoing fascination with the working class and the disenfranchised underbelly of America, he shares more with the world of hip-hop than he might appear to at first glance. If you take away the beats and the tongue-twisting rhymes, plenty of Slim Shady’s material wouldn’t sound out of place being performed by the E Street Band. And hey, it looks like they get along OK, doesn’t it?
The original Springsteen wannabe, bless him — what Springsteen was to New Jersey, Mellencamp was to the Midwest. In fairness, he’s never ducked the Springsteen comparisons, performing “Born in the USA” as a tribute to the Boss when the latter received a Kennedy Center Honor in 2009 — and, of course, he’s also written plenty of fine songs in his time. But it’s hard to escape the feeling that his best lines — like “Life goes on/ Long after the thrill of living has gone” from “Jack and Diane” — could have walked straight out of a Springsteen song.
The Gaslight Anthem
If there’s one band apart from The Hold Steady who frequently get cited as Springsteen-alikes, it’s The Gaslight Anthem. The comparisons are pretty obvious — The Gaslight Anthem are from New Jersey, after all, and specialize in the sort of heart-on-sleeve all-American rock that Bruce purveyed with such success during the 1980s. The band themselves have tried to play down the connection — “I could pretend like he’s this amazing, big part of our life, but the connection is something the media came up with,” Alex Rosamilla told The Toronto Star in 2010. “To anyone who thinks we’re copying Bruce Springsteen, I would say, ‘Fuck you.'”
Jon Bon Jovi
The poodle metal version of Bruce! JBJ shares Springsteen’s Jersey roots and fondness for tales of working class disaffection, but dressed them up in spandex and a succession of hairstyles that could only have ever been conceived in the 1980s. Happily, at some point during the 1990s, Bon Jovi realized that the world didn’t need a band that crossed Motley Crue with the Boss, but by then, the damage was well and truly done. (And it’s hard to take romantic blue collar anthems seriously when you’re looking at Richie Sambora’s sex face.)
The problem with ’80s-era Springsteen is that pretty much everyone misunderstood him — the Republican party (who, as we discussed recently, used “Born in the USA” on the campaign trail in 1984, much to Springsteen’s horror), the media (who wanted to cast him as some sort of all-American patriotic hero), and also plenty of the bands who came after. Like The Killers, for instance, who took a delivery of all the Born in the USA-era bombast they could find for Sam’s Town, with none of the subtle undercurrents of discontent that went with it. Result = ughhhhh.
Blame Canada! Blame Canadaaaaaaaaaaaa!
Despite La Gaga’s Upper East Side convent upbringing, she’s apparently just a blue collar rocker at heart. “I’m actually really obsessed with Bruce Springsteen,” she said during a Google-sanctioned interview last year. “My father used to play a lot of Bruce Springsteen records when I was a kid, and he was blue collar America. And in a way, I related to Bruce because I watched my father, a blue collar American citizen, relate to Bruce and I think that in a social way, my fans feel blue collar. They feel like they’re the underdogs that will someday be the winners. And I took the influence of Bruce on my father in my life to create [Born This Way].” Um, yeah. If you say so, Stefani. But given that the whole Gaga character is more about postmodern image creation than reality, we’re regarding this whole thing with suspicion.