the take

TropeWatch: Bruce Springsteen, Lover of the Magnetic Fields

From left, Bruce Springsteen; Stephin Merritt.Photos: Getty images

This morning the Times’ Kelefa Sanneh observes in his review of Friday’s Bruce Springsteen “open rehearsal” in the Meadowlands that a song from Springsteen’s unbelievably hyped new album, Magic, sounds like the Magnetic Fields. The observation is shoehorned into the review awfully awkwardly, since Springsteen didn’t even play the song during the show: “Notably absent,” Sanneh writes, “was ‘Your Own Worst Enemy,’ a new song that bears a pleasing and wholly unexpected resemblance to the work of the indie-pop band the Magnetic Fields.” It’s almost as if Sanneh had read this provocative comparison a bunch of times already and was desperate to be the first to claim it for the Paper of Record. Almost as if!

After the jump, we trace this trope from the most disreputable of bloggy sources all the way to the august pages of the New York Times.

Gawker, September 10:

If the new Bruce Springsteen track “Your Own Worst Enemy” isn’t the perfect cover song for Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields — if not being an actual tribute — we’ll eat Clarence Clemons’ sweaty hat. Also “Girls In Their Summer Clothes.”

17 Dots, September 17:

Bruce is major label, obviously … but his love of indie bands has been fairly well documented. But nowhere is that more obvious than on the song “Girls in Their Summer Clothes,” which arrives square in the center of the new record … I could be imagining things, but to my ears it sounds to me like the Boss has been listening to a good amount of The Magnetic Fields.

Fluxblog, September 27:

Everyone is saying it, and everyone is right — [“Girls in Their Summer Clothes”] sounds quite a bit like the Magnetic Fields, to the point that it’s impossible to imagine that Springsteen wasn’t trying to write his own mid-tempo Stephin Merritt drone-ballad.

The Observer, September 30:

On ‘Girls in Their Summer Clothes’, Springsteen is a minor-key crooner, whose wry downturns sound remarkably like Stephin Merritt (who records as the Magnetic Fields), an indie singer songwriting minnow compared to Bruce.

Related: So Is Bruce Springsteen Cribbing From the Magnetic Fields or What?
A Small Arena Audience Helps Drill the E Street Band Into Tour-Ready Shape [NYT]
Reason to Believe [Gawker]
charm of the jersey strip? [17 Dots]
I Can Hear Nem Chinese Guys Beating On Nem Drums [Fluxblog]
Is Springsteen still the Boss? You bet… [Guardian]

TropeWatch: Bruce Springsteen, Lover of the Magnetic Fields