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Bruce Springsteen is back at it again. The Boss noted that his 11th studio album, High Hopes, as “the best unreleased material from the band of the past decade.” Comprised mostly of finalized demos and B-sides, Springsteen’s latest studio release has been buzzing around Emerson campus since it’s release on January 22nd, and therefore deserves February’s Album of the Month. What makes High Hopes such a prestigious album? Besides the fact that the actual music is phenomenal rock & roll, the release has solidified Springsteen’s reputation as a living legend. The album was Springsteen’s 11th number one American release, placing him third for most #1 albums behind The Beatles & Jay-Z. In the UK High Hopes is his tenth number one album. Both the UK and American achievements solidify him as the fifth best selling artist of all time, behind legends such as U2 and The Rolling Stones.
The album has Springsteen reuniting with the E-Street Band, and is the first release since the decease of Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici. However, since most of the album is finalized demos from past recordings, Clemons and Federici still make notable appearances. Springsteen commented on the album’s achievements in an interview with the Today Show saying that it felt strange “to be recognized with the same prestige as some of my childhood idols.” When asked about the albums origins by Rolling Stone, Springsteen commented that he simply went into the studio, pulled out a large collection of unfinished tracks he had from the past 40 years, and put them together in a way he felt “wouldn’t waste the fans time.” He also added that the addition of Tom Morello brought “a whole new scope to the record” and made the E Street Band “feel like a powerhouse band again.” High Hopes was also the first release recorded while on tour. Springsteen noted the craziness of it all but that he “had material that was just kinda sitting there waiting,” and felt a need to record it. He noted his biggest dream, as a child was “to be able sit quietly in a circle with my idols, and softly strum my guitar.” Springsteen has achieved a lot more than that in his career, which now spans almost 50 years.
When it comes to the album itself, High Hopes is a lot more rock influenced than his 2012 release, Wrecking Ball. While Wrecking Ball had a hint of country in many of it’s notable songs, High Hopes starts off loud and boisterous with the title track. Tom Morello’s notable guitar shreds through many of the tracks and Max Weinberg dominates the drums. “High Hopes”, “Harry’s Place”, “Just Like Fire Would”, “Frankie Fell in Love”, and “The Ghost of Tom Joad” are the heaviest tracks on the album, and will make any “Born To Run” Springsteen fan satisfied. The softer tracks on the album, such as “Down in the Hole” and “American Skin (41 Shots)” encapsulates Springsteen’s pain and discusses everything from his best friends death to the pressure of fame. He closes the album with a cover of Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream”, a band that Springsteen said are “underground masters.” While closing an album with a cover song is a unique, and sometimes risky, choice Springsteen commented that Suicide gave influence to a lot of his past music such as Nebraska, and that it was time to pay homage to them.
With the album’s release came news of a new Springsteen tour both stateside and in Australia. While the U.S. tour only offers 15 locations (not one of them being in his home of New Jersey) tickets are being sold on eBay for over 2000 dollars. Judging by those ticket prices it is clear that a tour was long overdue, his last not being since early 2013. While fans have brought up disappointment of no Jersey date, Springsteen promises these first 15 locations are only the beginning. However Springsteen confirmed with Rolling Stone that future tour dates included Africa, and that he would love to get back to Texas.
It is clear that Springsteen has hit yet another high point in his career with the release of High Hopes, and shows no sign of slowing down despite his 50-year rock and roll odyssey. Continuing on his interview with Rolling Stone, they noted that he has other unreleased recordings he made during his Wrecking Ball sessions. When asked if these tracks would see their fruition, Springsteen laughed and said, “I don’t know, the only thing is this entire conversation where I don’t know what I’m doing.”
It’s evident that Springsteen has enough fame behind him that he can make whatever type of music he wants, and when he wants to release his 12th number one album, he will do so when he’s ready. February’s Album of the Month is Bruce Springsteen’s High Hopes because of the benchmark it has made in his career, and because it shows that in a world dominated by EDM and hip-hop, rock and roll still has a definitive place in the music catalogue.