Friday Fun: Boss Top Ten, #9--"Lonesome Day"

"Lonesome Day" (off of The Rising (2002))
Concert Footage:  Rose Center, New York (U.S.A.), 2002

2002's The Rising is my favorite Springsteen album.  A large part of that has to do with very idiosyncratic and personal reasons, which I will get to in a future post.  But another big reason is that The Rising is the most diverse album tonally and sonically.  You have very slow, punishingly sad piano ballads like "You're Missing," and you have aggressively upbeat, positive songs like "Waitin' On a Sunny Day."  You have songs about crumbling communities ("My City of Ruins") and songs about things getting made right ("Counting On a Miracle").  You have straight forward rock songs ("Mary's Place") and you have more experimental tracks ("The Fuse").

If there is anything that joins these songs together, it is their complete refusal to adopt a Manichean view of the world.  Every song on the album that is basically positive contains within it a thread of sorrow and pain, and every song about loss intermixes a thread of hope (except, arguably "You're Missing").  I would argue that this is reflects life as it actually is.  Very few of our experiences are purely good or purely bad, especially when we are able to get a bit of distance from the experience.  This reality is subtle and nuanced and hard to represent in songs.  It's easy to write one note tracks about how good or how bad things are; it is much harder to represent the complexity of life.

"Lonesome Day," the opening track, is the best example of this reckoning with the complexity of life.  The music sounds positive and upbeat, and so if you don't listen to the lyrics you can assume it is a light-weight song.  But the lyrics are much more ambiguous.  The speaker is going through some tough things--learning something new and perhaps unwelcome about his or her significant other, some personal conflict, some personal betrayals.  Maybe these are separate things, and maybe they are all the same incident, but either way these events seem to be legitimately tough times.  But there is no despair in the song, because the speaker knows he or she can get through it.

Hell's brewin' dark sun's on the rise
This storm'll blow through by and by
House is on fire, Viper's in the grass
A little revenge and this too shall pass
This too shall pass, I'm gonna pray
Right now all I got's this lonesome day

The message of "Lonesome Day," and in many ways the message of The Rising as a whole, is that life is hard, sometimes very hard, but we can get through it because we are more resilient than we think we are.  It neither minimizes the bad stuff or discounts the promise of getting through the bad stuff.  That's why "Lonesome Day" is a genuinely inspirational song, as opposed to some saccharine bit of positive thinking.  Hell may be brewing, but this too shall pass.


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