With another election on the horizon, most Americans are taking stock of what’s right and what’s wrong with their country. Bruce Springsteen is doing the same. On “Wrecking Ball,” his seventeenth album, the Boss takes aim at fatcat bankers and corporate executives who thrive while his blue-collar buddies struggle.
Mr. Springsteen, who’s sold over 120 million albums since the 1970s, surely belongs to the 1 percent. He still sides with the 99 percent, though, and “Wrecking Ball” is his angriest political album to date, filled with song titles like “Shackled and Drawn,” “Death to My Hometown” and “This Depression.” On “Jack of All Trades,” the narrator even wishes he had a gun to blow away whoever’s responsible for forcing him to clean out gutters, mow lawns and patch leaky roofs for chump change.
The lyrics may be dark, but Mr. Springsteen keeps the music bright and polished, beefing it up with usual melting pot of genres — everything from arena-sized rock ‘n’ roll to Southern gospel to Irish folk. And, just to keep things interesting, he springs a few surprises. There’s a rapped verse during “Rocky Ground,” for example, and many of the songs are built upon drum loops or electronic samples. Producer Ron Aniello makes sure everything sounds big, too — even the songs about the little guy.
Whenever he shoots for specifics, Mr. Springsteen hits the bull’s-eye. “We Take Care of Our Town,” a stirring tribute to community support, namechecks the relief workers who rushed to the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina. The title track — one of two songs featuring Clarence Clemons, who died last June — calls upon New Jersey natives to “raise up your glasses” in solidarity on the eve of Giants Stadium’s demolition. The themes are universal — bulldozers pave over the past in every city, after all — but the settings are local.
Not all its songs are so richly detailed, and “Wrecking Ball” stumbles whenever things get vague. “Easy Money” suggests a situation similar to the one framing his acoustic classic “Atlantic City” — the narrator is packing a gun and prepping himself for some sort of violent showdown in town, but first, he wants his girlfriend to put on that pretty red dress of hers. — Unfortunately, the story is full of holes, with a singalong chorus (“Na-na-na-na-na, whoa! Whoa!”) that packs a punch without connecting the dots.
videos and feel good about themselves instead.
Much has been made of cyberbullying and pedophiles who cruise the Internet, and of low self- esteem among preadolescents and adolescents, especially girls, as their brains continue to develop.
There have been similar “hot or not” memes in the past, but as more young people live their lives online, they’re clearly more aware of the potential for negative consequences.
“Negative feedback that is personal is rarely easy to hear at any age, but to tweens and teens who value as well as incorporate feedback into their own sense of worth, it can be devastating,” said Elizabeth Dowdell, a nursing professor at Villanova University in suburban Philadelphia. She has researched child Internet safety and risk behavior in adolescents in partnership with the Justice Department.
In another video posted by Kendal, she offers to “do two dares” on camera, inviting her open-channel audience to come up with some as she holds a little white stuffed monkey.
In heavy eye makeup and neon orange nail polish, a girl who calls herself Faye not only asks the pretty/ugly question but tells in other videos of being bullied at school, suffering migraines that have sent her to a hospital and coping with the divorce of her parents.
“My friends tell me that I’m pretty,” she says. “It doesn’t seem like I’m pretty, though, because, I don’t know, it just doesn’t, because people at school, they’re like, ‘Faye you’re not pretty at all.’ “
She narrates a slideshow of still close-ups of herself to make the judging easier ( she’s had more than 112,000 views) and joins other girls who have posted videos on another theme, “My Perfect Imperfection,” that have them noting what they hate and love about the way they look.
“I just don’t like my body at all,” says Faye as she pulls up her sweatshirt to bare her midriff.
Faye’s profile lists her age as 13. Tracked down in suburban Denver, her mom, Naomi Gibson, told ABC’S “Good Morning America” she knew nothing of the video until reporters started to call. “I was floored,” she said.
Faye told ABC she has been called names and gossiped about behind her back.
“Deep down inside, all girls know that other people’s opinions don’t matter,” she said. “But we still go to other people for help because we don’t believe what people say.”
A third girl who uploaded one of the pretty/ugly videos in September attempts a few model poses in childlike pedal pushers and a long, multicolored T-shirt after posing the question. She takes down her ponytail and brushes her hair as she stares into the camera.
“If you guys are wondering, I am 11,” she offers. Her video has been viewed more than 6,000 times.
“Communicate with your parents and clean your room!!! But take this terrible video down as you are a child and should not have this kind of access to the Internet,” one commenter pleads.
None of the three girls responded to private messages on Youtube seeking comment from the Associated Press. Ms. Gibson told ABC she was considering revoking her daughter’s Youtube privileges, but stopped short of demanding that Faye take down the video.
“Hopefully it will open up the eyes of the parents,” Ms. Gibson said. “The kids aren’t letting their parents know what’s wrong, just like Faye didn’t let me know.”
Youtube would not comment directly about the “Am I Pretty?” controversy, but it issued a statement advising parents to visit the site’s safety center for tips on how to protect their kids online.
The site’s posting policy prohibits videos and comments “containing harassment, threats or hate speech” and encourages users to flag such material for review, the statement said.
Emilie Zaslow, a media studies professor at Pace University in New York, said today’s online world for young people is only just beginning to be understood by researchers.
When the Internet is your diary and your audience is global, she said, “The public posting of questions such as ‘Am I ugly?’ which might previously have been personal makes sense within this shift in culture.”
Add to that the unattainable pressures of the beauty industry, a dose of reality TV, where ordinary people can be famous, and superstars who are discovered via viral video on Youtube, she said.
“These videos could be read as a new form of self-mutilation in line with cutting and eating disorders,” Miss Zaslow said.
That potential is real, added Nadine Kaslow, a family psychologist and professor of behavioral sciences at Emory University in Atlanta.
“There’s this constant messaging about looks and beauty,” she said. “Their world is taking it to a new level. It can be humiliating, there may be a lot of shame, and you start to become public objects instead of being your own person.”