Opinion: Rolling Stone’s ridiculous love affair with Bruce Springsteen

Published:  June 9, 2012 by Jeff Becker

If we ever needed evidence of why major US music publications lag far behind their UK counterparts (NME, Uncut, Q, Mojo) take no further look than at the Bruce Springsteen fanzine called Rolling Stone.   For a rag that produces such top notch and ball-breaking articles on politics, corruption on Wall Street, global warming, society and the environment, they’ve permitted their credibility in the music world to plummet to agonizingly new lows.

I used to like Rolling Stone.   While they’re quick to adorn their covers with the latest in riveting Lady Gaga and Katy Perry interviews, their true love for the past 40+ years is with baby-boomer rock.  You can barely flip 9 pages without the latest Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards or Aerosmith fucking update.   Hardly the pulse of rock in 2012 are they?    When I began reading Rolling Stone in 1982 these bands were still relevant and had established new trends and standards.  These are the same artists this magazine features some 30 years later!  However, Springsteen is clearly their Chosen One.  The mystery isn’t what’s the latest bullshit update on The Boss but instead who’s the editor at Rolling Stone with the hard on for him?   Mr. Springsteen I would be very afraid.  Somebody there is watching you.

Statistical facts are cool

The facts are this, courtesy of a great Slate magazine article earlier this year.   Slate provides the statistical evidence that is clear after flipping through any random issue of Rolling Stone.   Rolling Stone fortunately doesn’t give 5-star album ratings lightly (unless your name is guess who?).    Since 2000, Rolling Stone has only given 15 new records a 5-star rating.  That’s barely more than one per year.   Laughably, four of those have been new Springsteen albums – The Rising (2002), Magic (2007, with a cover photo that makes Springsteen look as tired as his music), Working on a Dream (2009), and Wrecking Ball (2012).   That means 26.7% of the records that Rolling Stone has given 5-star ratings to in the past 12 years are by Springsteen.  That’s amazingly inept.   As Slate also accurately pointed out Springsteen’s non-rock albums the past decade (2005’s folk record Devils and Dust and 2006’s We Shall Overcome) gathered 4.5 and 4 stars, respectfully from Rolling Stone.  Sure thing guys – let’s rate fucking Devils and Dust right up there with In Rainbows or a slew of other important, innovative rock, alt-rock or prog-rock records.   Does someone from Rolling Stonereally want to look us in the eye and tell us the Springsteen catalog since 2000 exceeds that of The Black Keys, Wilco, The White Stripes or Radiohead? Seriously.

More facts for the non-believers

Not yet convinced at the love affair?   Let’s grab the two recent random issues, #1157 dated May 24 and supplemental Big Issue, dated May 31, 2012.    The May 24th issue starts out innocuously for seven pages.  But then the hard-on for Bruce and all classic rock is unleashed faster than a can of hair spray at a Poison concert: Page 8 – we get our first recent Aerosmith photo and blurb.   Lord knows the fate of the music world was hinging on that performance. Page 18 – we find out the that Bob Dylan is receiving a presidential medal and Mick Jagger will be on Saturday Night Live.  Awesome.  Give me more.  Where can I renew my subscription RIGHT NOW? Page 20 – Springsteen’s Record Store Day release is pictured and mentioned as one of the 5 ‘choicest releases’.  Oh really.  How stupid I am.  Here I thought I stood in line that day for great bands such as Beach House, Gorillaz, Animal Collective, The Flaming Lips, Wilco, Noel Gallager, etc. Page 23 – only 3 quick pages later and we get a photo with Bruce paying with Jake Clemons and an article about Bruce playing at the Big Easy at Jazz Fest.   That’s great.  Thanks for throwing in a photo of Tom Petty too.  We’re tapping into the pulse of rock in 2012 now.   You bet. Page 32 – phew, I was afraid we’d make it 1o pages without a photo of Bruce, but nope a truly epic must-have photo of Bruce shows up on the RS Playlist page with his YouTube video of ‘The Weight’ at #5 by the Rolling Stone editors.  Sweet.  Can’t believe this video didn’t go viral, seriously.  How could that have been missed? After a couple sizable articles about Lionel Richie and Adam Lambert (yes, it’s true) we get to….. Page 41 – a great photo now of Bruce dancing with his niece Ruby at Madison Square Garden.  Another epic performance moment I’m certain.  Can’t believe we missed this show on Pay-Per-View.   But who needs PPV when you subscribe to Rolling Stone.   It’s like having Bruce’s diary delivered to you every two weeks for $14.95 a year. So that’s four Bruce blurbs, articles and photos within 22 pages of each – all unrelated.   I’ve got fucking motorcycle magazines that have less photos of motorcycles over a span of 22 pages than Bruce is featured in this ridiculously biased fanzine.  So, I finally decide to poke through the next RS issue (the Big Issue) in my mailbox and I think I’ve made it through to the end – nothing on Bruce.  WTF – did editor Jann Wenner get hospitalized or something?  No Brucey?  But breath a sigh of relief friends, Bruce makes his pictorial debut on the final page, #82, holding his guitar.

Lastly, don’t blame Bruce

Springsteen is a sure-fire rock and roll god – there is no doubt.  He’s earned it, lived it and he’s genuine.  The world of rock has been far greater with him involved.  But let’s not try and argue that Springsteen (or Aerosmith, or Tom Petty, or Dylan, or Jagger) have even one toenail on the pulse of rock, in any of its forms, in 2012.  The problem isn’t Springsteen – it’s the disproportionate devotion that Rolling Stone magazine has towards him.   I’m embarrassed to show this magazine to any credible contemporary music fan.  Rolling Stone tries to be everything for everybody but now they’ve become nothing for anyone.  We have to scratch and claw to get Radiohead on their cover but if I need to know what color of underwear Bruce is wearing, Rolling Stone is the place to go. The only reason issue #1157 didn’t have a 5-star review is because Bruce didn’t release a new album that week, but I’m sure we’ll know when he farts next.   We can’t wait for our next issue of Rolling Stone to find out exciting things like what allergy medication Bruce takes (which will have an accompanying pic of Bruce slamming a Claritin pill or blowing his nose into a Puffs Plus with Aloe). Credits:  Graphic and statistical quotes are both courtesy of the outstanding article on Slate found here:   http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2012/03/16/bruce_springsteen_s_rolling_stone_reviews_why_does_the_magazine_love_him_so_much_.html

2 thoughts on “Opinion: Rolling Stone’s ridiculous love affair with Bruce Springsteen

  1. Falling Bear

    “For a rag that produces such top notch and ball-breaking articles on politics, corruption on Wall Street, global warming, society and the environment, they’ve permitted their credibility in the music world to plummet to agonizingly new lows.” – I can only assume that you haven’t heard Wrecking Ball or not even heard it, but just read the lyrics. You must feel like the biggest moron on earth in the year 2012. Furthermore, stop trying to live your life to the soundtrack of a Radiohead song… what is he saying in those songs anyway? It’s hard to say anything relevant when you are INCOHERENT.

  2. Steve

    I’m a complete Springsteen nut. I own everything he has ever released. I’ve attended a minimum of 5 shows on every tour since 1978. Regarding this article, the writer is RIGHT ON THE MARK! Rolling Stone has their head buried in the sand (or perhaps buried up Bruce’s butt) when it comes to reviewing his music. Working on a Dream is about a 2 and 1/2 star album. Wrecking Ball and Magic are solid 3 and 1/2 star records at best. The Rising (ten years down the road) is about a 3 star album. Devils and Dust and Seeger Sessions should lead the pack at 4 stars each.

    Now as for live shows, it’s rarely ever less than 5 stars!

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