It is written in the New Jersey state constitution that all media outlets must write about Bruce Springsteen when he does anything musically relevant. Look it up, it’s there.
In all seriousness, the patron saint of New Jersey, The Boss, is still one of the most culturally and musically relevant and exciting musicians in the scene today. When The Boss drops a new single the world stops and listen.
So, with that being said, the panel at The Singles Party looked at his new single “High Hopes” the lead single off his upcoming January record of the same name. It should be noted that this is not exactly a new tune for The Boss — it was originally released on the 1995 Blood Brothers EP and it’s also a cover — originally recorded by The Havalinas. (Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello appears on guitars on this and numerous other tracks on the upcoming record)
Yet, despite “High Hopes” being a re-released cover song, it is still is the brand new single from Bruce Springsteen and by law, we are obligated to review this bad boy.
Nick Porcaro: The Boss is back on another victory lap following 2012’s phenomenal Wrecking Ball, and this time he graces us with…a cover. Bruce’s take on The Havalinas’ “High Hopes” starts with overtones of the electronic-organic style he explored last year before settling into a rollicking bounce that wouldn’t sound out of place on the streets of New Orleans. There are sassy backing vocals. There is a full horn section. Tom Morello stops in for some effects-laden guitar noodling. The execution is quite competent, sure, but no amount of frenetic layering or impassioned Bruce vocalizing can save the mediocre songwriting at the core of this track. Stick to the originals, Bossman. Verdict: One and done.
Mike Heyliger: I run hot and cold on Bruce, and I definitely was not a fan of Wrecking Ball. So I’m somewhat surprised that I like this song as much as I do. It’s pretty boilerplate Springsteen, but the guy’s in his sixties and I’d be a fool to expect anything new and innovative from him. At least he’s playing with a spirit that most artists in his age range can’t bother to muster. “High Hopes” has a live feel to it that I dig quite a bit. At this point, I expect Bruce’s lyrics to be “heartland politics blah blah blah” so I can’t say I paid too much attention to them, but at the very least I’d pop this song on every now and then and bob my head to it. Verdict: Add to playlist
Kelly Spoer: I know, I know, I’m a Jersey girl; it’s in my DNA to love Bruce. And I do, but I would never call myself a fan. I knew his singles and sang along to them in the car or when I was at a bar, but I never owned an album. Until the Seeger Sessions. “High Hopes” reminded me of that Seeger feeling. Having Tom Morello with his history of protest music helps too. And really, is anyone surprised that Bruce is singing this song at this time? No. He’s never been shy over his politics. The lyrics leave you wanting, true, but they convey the message perfectly. With, may I add, a pretty sweet guitar solo. I know that overtly socio/political music isn’t for everyone, but “High Hopes” is catchy enough to get you singing along long before you pay attention to the verses. Verdict: Add to playlist.
Joe Zorzi: I love Bruce. Everyone in Jersey loves Bruce. And that’s because he’s the best. I am totally digging his cover, “High Hopes”. It has a really fresh sound to it even though it’s not necessarily new. The guitar work from Tom Morello is pretty awesome and the main groove is… well, totally groovy and feels like New Jersey. It makes me want to do a little swing dancing. Verdict: Add to Playlist
Jason Stives: At 64 years old Bruce Springsteen has delivered more output and energy than most of his contemporaries (the sole exception being the 71 year old, Paul McCartney). While a devout fan of the Boss since I was young even a fan must acknowledge the limitations of one of his heroes. Since 2007’s superb Magic record, his output has fluctuated in quality all in the face of the current political plight ranging from the mediocre Working on A Dream to the often divided but still impacting Wrecking Ball. It was on the latter that the Boss took liberties with trying new styles and bringing fresh blood into the mix beyond his usual repertoire. He is allowed to indulge and switch up the routine every once in awhile.
So “High Hopes” being a cover comes as no surprise. He has done so before as he did on the cover-filled Seeger Sessions back in 2006. The hallmarks are all here; the harmonization with fellow E Streeters (assuming) the Boss’ naturally aging drawl, and the thumping anthem building sound. The added bonus here is Tom Morello who toured with the E Street Band in Australia this past year delivering a ripping but slightly subdued guitar riff. One must think that this was done to mirror the current outlook in this country but it’s hard to tell. Regardless with a new album on the way next month this sets the wheels turning again and even if its not what some usually expect it’s still a solid offering heading into 2014. Verdict: Add to the Playlist
Bill Bodkin: “High Hopes” will never be considered a “great” Bruce song. It’ll never reach the most sacred levels of “Thunder Road” or “Born in the USA”, hell it probably won’t even be on par with “We Take Care of Our Own” or “Cadillac Ranch.” Yet, this is still a damn good song. As Nick mentioned it definitely has this N’Awlins feel to it as if Galactic replaced the E Street Band for a session. This new, kind of outside the Bruce box feeling, is refreshing. Did we really want another working man ballad? (Yes, most fans probably did and yes, it would’ve been awesome). I admire Bruce for doing a song like much like I really dug how unusual “Death To My Home Town” off Wrecking Ball was. I applaud someone who could easily go on autopilot for the rest of his life and rake in billions still attempts to do things different, whether or not his audience embraces it (which I totally get). “High Hopes” is a good, energetic tune and I think is definitely worth adding to your playlist. Verdict: Add to Playlist.
Final Verdict: While we don’t think this is the strongest Springsteen track ever produced, the majority is definitely in favor of adding The Boss’ new tune to your playlist.