Born In The USA
As other commentators have noted, Springsteen established a pattern where he alternated between commercially oriented albums (Born To Run, The River) and darker and more idiosyncratic works (Darkness On The Edge Of Town, Nebraska). If Nebraska was one of his most difficult albums, then Born In The U.S.A. is his most mainstream work, spawning seven US Top Ten singles and transforming Springsteen into a cultural icon. The album’s success is warranted, as the material is consistent and consistently catchy. It’s well paced and extremely accessible, but it’s difficult to not miss the more ambitious earlier albums while listening to it.
As undemanding as Born In The USA is, it’s certainly not so substandard that fans should skip it altogether. The hits are mostly irritating, such as the simple synth hook of ‘Glory Days’ and the dance-able ‘Dancing In The Dark’. However, the charming ‘My Hometown’ takes strength from its simplicity and is a fitting closer, while the synthesizers of ‘I’m On Fire’ give it a mesmerising atmosphere. ‘Cover Me’ is a perfectly respectable rocker, with a great guitar solo, while ‘Bobby Jean’ is a strong album cut.
I prefer his earlier work, but Born In The U.S.A. is not quite a vapid commercial monstrosity either.