Bruce Springsteen is arguably rock music’s greatest ambassador when it comes to connecting to the little guy. Has been for decades. It’s no surprise that he’s up to his old tricks on 2007’s ‘Magic’, then. One other thing about Springsteen that is worth noting is that, much like U2, Metallica, and the Rolling Stones, he absolutely refuses to give up the idea that he’s still the world’s biggest rock star. This is very much the context of Springsteen records and it just wouldn’t be a Springsteen record if it weren’t. He’s been able to keep up this mantle with relative ease, especially compared to U2 and Metallica, who have been reamed by seemingly everyone including their own fan bases over the years. So, what does the Boss have to offer us on ‘Magic’?
This record comes charging out of the gate with “Radio Nowhere”, which was used as a single from the record. A song about a man struggling with isolation, clearly Springsteen is attempting to make a commentary on the state of economic and social anxiety in the United States circa 2007. This subject, of course, is tackled with Springsteen’s trademark American optimism. This is an undeniable element. Springsteen has long been one of the most uniquely American artists in popular music. He represents us at our best. He is democracy executed fairly; he’s proper unionization; he’s laughter and joy; he’s a champion of us all. Maybe all of this is difficult given today’s society, but it’s an essential element to any Springsteen record. This unshakable optimism continues in the track, “Livin’ in the Future”, while tracks like “Your Own Worst Enemy” have a much more combative spirit towards this social anxiety and are a bit more foreboding. This emotion of the record is best realized in the tracks “Long Walk Home” and “Devil’s Arcade”. There are few, if any, who can handle this kind of subject matter with the grace and the charming, optimistic kindness that Springsteen is able to. You never feel like you’re being left to your own devices when the Boss is at the helm.
So, it goes without saying that Springsteen has produced yet another damn solid record here. Many will argue that this record doesn’t reach the plateau that his 2002 classic ‘The Rising’ did, but it does have this going for it: It’s much more consistent. Sure, ‘The Rising’ probably has a better set of classic songs overall, but this record is stacked wall-to-wall with solid tracks. Even though ‘The Rising’ does have an inherently more artistic flow, one would be foolish to write this record off. Perhaps unfortunately for Springsteen, every record he releases from here on out is going to be compared to his 21st century peak. This record is without a doubt one of the better 21st century Springsteen records that isn’t ‘The Rising’. In fact, it’s probably the best one. In many ways, it’s just as good if not better than ‘The Rising’, but that just won’t fly in the masses. After all, it isn’t nearly as memorable overall, seeing as most of the best moments are located at the very top of the record. Still, Springsteen proves he’s one of the greats…As if he ever won’t.