Springsteen lightens music for Obama era

NEW YORK Wed Jan 28, 2009 6:19pm EST

Singer Bruce Springsteen holds up his Golden Globe award for best song ''The Wrestler'' from film ''The Wrestler'' at the 66th annual Golden Globe awards in Beverly Hills January 11, 2009. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Singer Bruce Springsteen holds up his Golden Globe award for best song ''The Wrestler'' from film ''The Wrestler'' at the 66th annual Golden Globe awards in Beverly Hills January 11, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Meet the new Boss.

After years of excoriating the Bush administration for what he believed was the hijacking of American values and ideals, Bruce Springsteen is welcoming the Obama era with a noticeably lightened tone, both political and musical.

Springsteen's "Working On A Dream" album, released a week to the day after President Barack Obama's inauguration, turns inward and addresses relationships and aging in lush arrangements with a sound evocative of classic 1960s pop music.

"In terms of lyrics, it's a much more personal album, focusing on themes like romance and maturity rather than expressing outrage sparked by government policies," said Entertainment Weekly music critic Simon Vozick-Levinson.

The album stands in stark contrast to 2007's "Magic," on which he railed against the war in Iraq and the erosion of civil liberties. Touring for that album, he told fans that America was now known for voter suppression and illegal wiretapping.

"MOMENT OF OPTIMISM"

The new album isn't the only thing to raise the Boss's profile lately. Springsteen appeared at Obama's pre-inaugural concert, won a Golden Globe award for the title song for independent film The Wrestler, and will be the halftime act at Sunday's Super Bowl.

Experts say the new record and more relaxed approach to politics is simply a reflection of the changing times.

"Working on a Dream is loosely evocative of the moment of optimism and engagement in the Obama administration," Jim Cullen, author of "Born In The U.S.A.: Bruce Springsteen and the American Tradition," told Reuters.

"Working on a Dream" is the fourth Springsteen album produced by Brendan O'Brien since 2002, and music watchers say its sound was clearly influenced by 1960s pop hits by Roy Orbison, The Turtles, The Byrds and The Beach Boys.

"It's a throwback to (his) musical heritage of melodic 1960s pop," said Cullen. "There's an aural lushness ... with a dense smooth background," incorporating multiple keyboards, several guitars and a synthesis of the sound of strings.

The 59-year-old Springsteen and his long-time group the E Street Band will kick off a tour in San Jose, California, on April 1, then head to Europe at the end of May.

While Springsteen's legions of fans will no doubt scoop up the new album and concert tickets, their idol's decision this month to sell a "Greatest Hits" compilation solely at Wal-Mart riled some.

Wal-Mart is know for its anti-union stance and has faced criticism from those who believe their cut-rate prices overwhelm "Mom and Pop" businesses.

"Doing a deal with Wal-Mart goes against his principles that he has said he has stood for," said Charles Cross, author of "Backstreets: Springsteen, The Man and his Music."

(Editing by Christian Wiessner, Mark Egan and Philip Barbara)

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