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Ward Sutton on "Born in the U.S.A."

Posted by Christopher Shea  October 28, 2009 10:51 AM

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An album (and posterior) whose politics were misunderstood

Looks like I'm not the only one within the Globe's orbit who appreciates the illustrator Ward Sutton. Last week I praised his review of "Where the Wild Things Are" as reimagined by Dave Eggers. This week he's got a savvy take, at Boston.com, on the reception of the song "Born in the U.S.A.," a dark tune whose anthemic tone led to numerous misreadings. ("Born in the U.S.A," the album, is a quarter-century old this year, but the song itself is older, as Sutton discusses.)

George Will, among others, proved himself to be no Greil Marcus when it came to interpreting lyrics: "I have not a clue about his politics … but flags get waved at his concerts … punctuated by a grand, cheerful affirmation: 'Born in the U.S.A.!'" Cheerful?

Though I agree with Sutton that the album's lyrics are, for the most part, undermined by the happy-synth treatment, the song "Born in the U.S.A." never sounds anything but bleak to me, the chorus the very definition of double-edged. And listen to how raw the vocals are in the verses. But Sutton's overall argument that Springsteen deserves blame for the album's confused reception is pretty hard to dispute.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
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