Friday, January 20, 2012

The Meaning of "We Take Care of Our Own"

I will try to do a review of Springsteen's new album "Wrecking Ball" when it comes out in March.  In the meantime, the music critics are having a field day with "We Take Care of Our Own," the single released today.

Anyone who listens to the song will hear a Springsteen-like call for an inclusive American community that will only prosper if citizens care for one another.  This is Springsteen's civic humanism at its best.  There are echoes here of our recent economic hardships, Katrina, and a search for meaning ("home") in it all.  Springsteen, as he so often does, calls us to fulfill the promise of America by loving others.

Over at NPR, Ann Powers compares the arrangement to a cut from he 80s band "Flock of Seagulls."

Here is Chris Philips at Backstreets:

The ultra-anthemic "We Take Care of Our Own" marches in with one of Springsteen's most martial rhythms — a kickdrum on every downbeat — since "Badlands." And you better believe it has some of the same "trouble in the heartland" concerns, too. But then there's that chorus: rousing, uplifting, and positioning "We Take Care of Our Own" to not only be Springsteen's most misinterpreted song since "Born in the U.S.A.," but misinterpreted in precisely the same way. With its imagery of flying flags, it's practically begging for it.

And there are takers. The L.A. Times' Randall Roberts describes the song as "an affirmation of national glory," with a chorus that reveals the song to be "about the country and hardship, but also about community and pride." The Atlantic Wire cheerily reports, "it's really, really good. This is to be expected, because it's Springsteen, and also because the song involves flags, loyalty oaths, and going through life with a heart-as-big-as-all-outdoors."

Of course, perhaps even more than with "Born in the U.S.A.," even half-listening to the verses brings the awareness that the chorus is not as rah-rah as it sounds. This is a song of searching, and not finding — searching for mercy, for love, for work, for spirit, for the American promise, and, recalling "Long Walk Home" from 2007's Magic, for "the map that leads me home...."