Bruce Springsteen’s new single, “Hello Sunshine,” doesn’t officially arrive until midnight, but the Boss knows which side his bread is buttered on and has allowed SiriusXM’s E Street Radio to play the song earlier on Thursday — which it has, multiple times, although his voice is basically the only thing in the single that sounds even faintly like anything else on the all-Bruce station.
Indeed, 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 long has been preparing fans for something different.
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 of the era, “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston,” and maybe a little of Bob Dylan’s “Lay, Lady, Lay,” too.
The song opens with a gentle brushes-on-drums rhythm as Springsteen croons, “Had enough of heartbreak and pain/ I had a little sweet spot for the rain/ For the rain and skies of grey/ Hello sunshine, won’t you stay.”
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’s lyrics seem to be urging the listener away from embracing depression. However, its broader context is likely to become clearer, as it usually does with the Boss, when the album arrives on June 14.