Born to Run

Music review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
Born to Run Music Poster Image
Poetic teen anthems of desperation still resonate.

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this music.

Positive messages

Bruce Springsteen's musical world is populated with blue-collar down-and-outs, trapped in small towns, married too young, barely scraping by. But in almost every song there's a young guy who's got one more chance to get outta that town, or make it with the girl he loves; or making it with the girl he loves is going to save him from that town. There's a note of desperation, but there's loads of hope, too. Just the anthemic sound of songs like "Thunder Road" and "Born to Run" feels inspiring.

Positive role models & representations

Most of the characters in the songs on Born to Run feel that driving fast, or finding love, or breaking out of their little town will change their lives. They seem pretty desperate, and their goals aren't necessarily the goals a lot of educated parents have for their kids. But they do have a lot of hope and big hearts. Springsteen himself is a shining example of integrity and generosity. He is a member of the Musicians United for Safe Energy organization, and has performed at concerts benefiting Amnesty International, Hope for Haiti (earthquake relief), and other causes. He often uses the concert stage as a platform to speak about issues he cares about; he famously announced onstage at a concert in Charlotte, N.C., in 2009 that he was taking up a collection for the local food bank, starting with his own $10,000 donation.

Violence

Words like "hurt," "wounded," and "suicide" appear frequently in songs on Born to Run, but these refer to emotional wounds rather than physical violence, and the "death trap" and "suicide rap" in the title song have to do with feeling trapped by a place or a way of life.

Sex

On Born to Run, it's not always easy to tell where the driving ends and the sex begins. The most overt example of this is in the song "Born to Run": "Wrap your legs round these velvet rims and strap your hands cross my engines." But most of the driving references are as much, if not more, about freedom than sex. In the song "Backstreets," two people slow dance and spend a night together in an abandoned house, but no details are described. In "She's the One" the object of the singer's affection seems seductive; the song also mentions French kisses and filling "long summer nights with her tenderness." The last song on the record, "Jungleland," includes a couple in a locked bedroom whose "whispers of soft refusal" change to "surrender."

Language

"Hell" and "damn" are the most profane words used.

Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

In "Jungleland," a girl drinks "warm beer in the soft summer rain."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Born to Run was the third album by Grammy-winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bruce Springsteen. This was Springsteen's breakthrough record, rising to No. 3 on Billboard's U.S. album chart and receiving great critical acclaim; it's No. 18 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The poetic lyrics focus powerfully on the lives of small-town teenagers desperate for freedom and love; songs like "Thunder Road" and "Born to Run" equate cars and driving with both of these desires. Young people have sex in a couple of the songs, but there is nothing graphic in the lyrics or terribly suggestive in the musical tone. Profane language is minimal -- one "hell" and one "damn" -- and there's no violence to speak of, except for the certainty that some of these teenagers are not driving safely.

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What's the story?

BORN TO RUN, the third album by Grammy-winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bruce Springsteen, was a huge breakthrough record for this artist, rising to No. 3 on Billboard's U.S. album chart and prompting more than one music critic to label him the \"new Dylan\" because of his eloquent, original lyrics. The songs focus on teenagers' powerful feelings of love, loneliness, and desperation. Images of cars and driving, rock 'n' roll bands, and city summer nights are repeated, as they are on other Springsteen records. Each Bruce Springsteen song suggests a slice of blue-collar life where emotions run extremely high, and the characters feel they have \"one last chance to make it real.\" Bruce Springsteen is widely considered one of the greatest rock 'n' roll songwriters -- and live performers -- of our time, and many consider this album his magnum opus.

Is it any good?

Born to Run is a magnificent achievement of songwriting and musical drama. Each song feels cinematic, with a well-realized scene, characters, and situation, and the dynamic arrangements evoke strong emotions. And with its focus on blue-collar heroes, this album firmly established Springsteen's status not only as a great artist, but also as a champion of the common man -- an image that he has upheld over the years with his actions as well as his music. Born to Run is a must-listen for any Springsteen fan, and really for anyone who enjoys the work of fine singer-songwriters.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the desperate feelings of the characters in Springsteen's songs. Do you ever feel trapped like these people do?

  • Bruce Springsteen has been outspoken in his support of President Obama's election, and he has been an activist for social and charitable causes. Do you think artists should use their position to gain support for issues they care about?

  • Today, Bruce Springsteen is a multimillionaire who still writes very evocatively about the lower classes. Do think he's still down to earth?

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