While listeners of SiriusXM’s E Street Radio got an advance listen — actually several advance listens — Bruce Springsteen didn’t officially drop his new single, “Hello Sunshine,” until midnight ET — and released an accompanying lyric video as well.
While it’s great as far as lyric videos go, of course what really matters here is the song, which is a change of pace for the singer and a style of music he hasn’t really explored before. While details of the album, “Western Stars” — which has been completed for several years — have been kept under wraps until the official announcement arrived yesterday, Springsteen has been preparing fans for something different. (Read Variety’s review of the single here.)
In Variety’s 2017 cover story, he said, “That album is influenced by Southern California pop music of the ’70s: Glen Campbell, Jimmy Webb, Burt Bacharach, those kinds of records. I don’t know if people will hear those influences, but that was what I had in my mind. It gave me something to hook an album around; it gave me some inspiration to write. And also, it’s a singer-songwriter record. It’s connected to my solo records writing-wise, more ‘Tunnel of Love’ and ‘Devils and Dust,’ but it’s not like them at all. Just different characters living their lives.”
And “Hello Sunshine” bears that out on every count: It most immediately recalls the orchestral pop of the above artists and especially the melody and feel of Harry Nilsson’s 1969 hit “Everybody’s Talkin’” — think Campbell’s Webb-helmed hits “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston” too. A soft bassline, acoustic guitars, pedal steel and sweeping strings gradually embellish the song as the lyrics continue the clouds-rain-blues theme, with familiar references to walkin’ shoes, open roads and affection for stereotypically depressing things like rain, lonely towns — there are even mentions of both empty streets and empty roads: “You know I always liked that empty road/ No place to be and miles to go/ But miles to go is miles away/ Hello sunshine, won’t you stay …. You can get a little too fond of the blues/ [But if] you walk too far, you walk away.”
It might not be a stretch to say the song is urging the listener away from embracing depression, but armchair psychology is not the purview of the music critic for a reason, and the song’s broader context is likely to become clearer, as it usually does with the Boss, when the album arrives on June 14.