brucespringsteen-nebraska

To Bruce Springsteen, Concerning “Nebraska” | A Letter to You

Welcome to Nebraska, Bruce Springsteen. We await your concert at the CenturyLink Center tonight, but first, we need to talk. It’s about Nebraska.

Let’s start with what your Nebraska is: a beautifully haunting concept album. Now, for what it’s not: an accurate portrayal of the state. How you’ve misled and betrayed us.

Sure, the humming, low-fi ambiance and occasional wailing perfectly encapsulates the relative bleakness of the Midwestern badlands. But it stops there. From beginning to end, that sound hardly changes. Thus, one is left with the implied idea (intentional or otherwise) that Nebraska, as a whole, is static. It didn’t take long either to discover that the homogenous sound simultaneously attracted and repulsed a handful of Nebraskan listeners.

When pressed, 24-year-old former Lincoln resident Ian Kubick succinctly summed up the general response elicited by a majority of the six Nebraskans (unscientifically) polled. “I think the album’s sound is pretty accurate in its portrayal — when you are driving through the countryside,” Kubick says. He quickly adds, “When in the cities, it seems trite and anachronistic.”

From this ambivalence, questions arise: If you, Bruce, are able to masterfully create a mood, why don’t you accurately portray the vibrancy and variety found in Nebraska’s few major cities? Why is this album brimming with muted madness when there are so many different sounds and words to fill the void?

Perhaps this is your answer: Each song is a ballad that articulates the pain of a litany of broken people. From the title track, “Nebraska,” (which tells the story of Nebraskan native and mass murderer Charles Starkweather) to the concluding song “Reason to Believe” (that attempts to depict the crippling weight of betrayal and abandonment), you present us with people beaten by and buckling under the thumb of an unsympathetic reality. Nebraska is a story of people who either succumb or shatter; there is no happy ending.

Placing both analyses side-by-side, a larger picture forms. Although the album is called Nebraska, you are clearly writing about larger, more universal concepts.

Alex Diimig, a 26-year-old Omahan, offered some insight on the subject, saying: “The song isn't about Nebraska. The landscape just creates a setting of a void. A feeling of being lost emotionally. But it speaks to people everywhere, though probably more so to those have driven through western Nebraska.”

While both poignant and true, I still have to admit that an album like Nebraska probably won't be quoted by many state-funded PR groups. Your loss, Bruce. Your loss.

Meagan Jungman is one of the newest Hear Nebraska writers, and hopes Bruce Springsteen will understand that she was just doing her job, and that there are no hard feelings. Bruce Springsteen will be playing the CenturyLink Center in Omaha at 7:30 p.m. She would like someone to go, and pass on her message, if at all possible. Reach her at meaganj@hearnebraska.org.