6 - 10
6. “You’ll Be Comin’ Down” - Magic (2007)
To me, Magic was Springsteen’s best album of the Aughts (and not just because it was the best concert experience of my life). Packed with incredible imagery, austere stories, and potent sound, the record rocks in every way you want it to. “You’ll Be Comin’ Down” is the most poetically gorgeous piece in the lineup. It’s hard to set aside.
Choice Lyrics: “Like a thief on a Sunday morning / It all falls apart with no warning / Satin sky’s gone candy-apple green / The crushed metal of your flyin’ machine.”
7. “Livin’ in the Future” - Magic (2007)
This may be the most deceptively depressing song ever put to paper. Its cruelty is in part due to Springsteen’s affection for joyful music contrasting against bleak lyrics, but here he takes it even further. “Don’t worry, darlin’”, he repeats again and again, only to follow the comforting phrase with the knowledge that they’re “livin’ in the future, and none of this has happened yet”. The lyrics below break your heart, yet the Boss presses on with an extra loud sax solo by the Big Man and a refrain of “Na na na na” over and over to drill in his point.
Choice Lyrics: “My faith’s been torn asunder / Tell me: is that rollin’ thunder? / Or just the sinkin’ sound of somethin’ righteous goin’ under?”
8. “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” - Magic (2007)
Another heartbreaking anthem, “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” sounds like a light, breezy summer song about pretty girls. Without listening closely, it very well could be that and it would still be terrific. However, the last few lines of the story show a darker side of the story. Thankfully, Springsteen provides his character with a rare, positive outlook on his travails, breaking the album’s cynical streak.
Choice Lyrics: “She went away. She cut me like a knife / Hey beautiful thing, maybe you just saved my life / In just a glance, down here on Magic Street / Love’s a fool’s dance—I ain’t got much sense, but I still got my feet.”
9. “The Wrestler” - Working on a Dream (2009)
Though this doesn’t fit in with anything else found on the overtly optimistic album, “The Wrestler” is a beautiful example of how unadorned songwriting can still be influential when meticulously structured. Written for the Darren Aronofsky film of the same name, Springsteen’s track deserved the Golden Globe it won and the Oscar for which it wasn’t even nominated.
Choice Lyrics: “These things that have comforted me I drive away / This place that is my home I cannot stay / My only faith’s in the broken bones and bruises I display.”
10. “Death to My Hometown” - Wrecking Ball (2012)
OK, he got one right. “Death to My Hometown” is a uniquely powerful bit of songwriting when paired with its aggressive musical backing. It’s direct, featuring shotgun blasts, a refrain of “no’s”, and resonating diction throughout. Hearing it as a follow-up to “My Hometown” from Born in the U.S.A. only adds to the song’s power.
Choice Lyrics: “I awoke from a quiet night. I never heard a sound / The marauders raided in the night and brought death to my hometown.”
A Few More of Note:
“Wrecking Ball” - Live at Giants Stadium (2009)
“My Lucky Day” – Working on a Dream (2009)
“Terry’s Song” - Magic (2007)
“I’ll Work For Your Love” - Magic (2007)
“Old Dan Tucker” - We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions”(2006)
“How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?” - We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Session (2006)
“All the Way Home” - Devils and Dust (2005)
“Lonesome Day” - The Rising (2002)