Music as Poetry: Modern Springsteen

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Last week I talked about poetry, so this week I thought my Thursday post would be about music as poetry instead. I was thinking of alternating the weeks and, besides, I haven’t found any really amazing poetry this week, so music it is! I have talked about Springsteen on this blog before, in fact it was my first ‘music as poetry’ post, but the example I used back then was of very early Springsteen music. Since then, I’ve listened to more and more of his discography, and I thought I would branch out to some of his more recent music.

A friend pointed out to me a little while ago that when you listen to a Springsteen song, you feel it first and then you hear the words. I’d have to say this is true. When I listen to a new song, I pay attention to the way Springsteen sings his lyrics and how forceful he is in conveying his message. I recently looked at the lyrics to one of my favorite songs of his, “Backstreets” and was surprised by some of the lyrics and how poetic they were. Today, we’re going to focus on another song whose lyrics surprised me — “You’ll Be Coming Down,” a song from Springsteen’s album Magic.

First off, I wanted to say that the video I linked to above has only part of the song included. If you want to get the whole effect, I’d definitely recommend listening to the song in its entirety.

For reference, here are the lyrics to “You’ll Be Coming Down:”

White roses and misty blue eyes
Red mornings, then nothin’ but gray skies
A cup of coffee, a heart shot clean through
The jacket you bought me gone daisy gray-blue
You’re smiling now but you’ll find out
They’ll use you up and spit you out now
Your head’s spinnin’ in diamonds and clouds
But pretty soon it turns out

You’ll be comin’ down now baby
You’ll be coming down
What goes around, it comes around and
You’ll be comin’ down

Easy street, a quick buck and true lies
Smiles as thin as those dusky blue skies
A silver plate of pearls my golden child
It’s all yours at least for a little while
You’ll be fine long as your pretty face holds out
Then it’s gonna get pretty cold out
An empty stream of stars shooting by
You got your hopes on high

You’ll be comin’ down now baby
You’ll be coming down
What goes around, it comes around and
You’ll be comin’ down

For a while you’ll go sparklin’ by
Just another pretty thing on high

[Sax solo]

Like a thief on a Sunday morning
It all falls apart with no warning
Your cinnamon sky’s gone candy-apple green
The crushed metal of your little flying machine

You’ll be comin’ down now baby
You’ll be coming down
What goes around, it comes around and
You’ll be comin’ down

You’ll be comin’ down now baby
You’ll be coming down
What goes around, it comes around and
You’ll be comin’ down

If we look at this song as a whole, I think it’s meaning lies in the idea of life as a wheel. I can’t remember where I first heard it, but there’s the idea that life is a wheel and at one end are the good times and bad times are at the other end. The wheel continuously spins and at many different times throughout your life, you’ll either find yourself on the good end of things or the bad end of things. I think that’s what this song is about — a reminder that you may be doing well now, but the bad times are just around the corner. That may seem like a pessimistic idea or theme to convey, but I feel that it’s a warning and a reminder to treasure the good times you have now. It’s a reminder that you should live in the moment.

We can see evidence of this grim reminder in the lines, “You’re smiling now but you’ll find out / they’ll use you up and spit you out now.”

Unpacking the song a bit more, we can see that there is a myriad of complex lines and interesting images. All together, the song is a veritable color wheel as he mentions white, blue, red, and gray all in the first two lines. The images that Springsteen included in this song create a very optimistic feel and a colorful sort of image as you listen to it even if he is talking about the bad times you might have in the future.

My favorite lines, by far, are near the end of the song: “Like a thief on a Sunday morning / It all falls apart with no warning / Your cinnamon sky’s gone candy apple green / The crushed metal of your little flying machine.” Again, the lyrics are talking about hopes being crushed and things changing for the worse, but the imagery is spectacular. Candy apple green is a very evocative color and makes me think immediately of green apple candy that I used to eat as a kid.

The heart of this song is in the colors that Springsteen evokes throughout and the way he matches his inventive lines with the melodies of the song. That’s why I consider this song to be poetry — the images used in the lyrics and the way the words fit together are poetic to me. As we said before, you can tell that he has carefully chosen the words to fit into this song, the care taken is what makes it poetic.  It’s a song that I thoroughly enjoy and I hope that you do too. Please share your thoughts in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan

2 thoughts on “Music as Poetry: Modern Springsteen

  1. Thor January 9, 2014 / 1:13 pm

    Interesting. My interpretation is a little darker than yours. I’d say that “white, blue and red” is the USA. Dull colours could reflect pride gone… and the jacket could be a uniform… you = President Bush… coffee for the president and death for his serving soldiers… cinnamon = dessert colour… either a war reference or a reference to the landscape of Texas… Pearls being handed on a silver platter = Bruce serving a “pearls for swine” dish for the President.

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