The release of Nebraska, a stripped-down and disturbing solo album that, while a major left turn for a mainstream rock artist, becomes lauded by critics and beloved by fans. Bruce had attempted to revisit the songs himself and with his band throughout the year, but the music captured on the record is what he originally recorded on acoustic guitar and harmonica in January, 1982 stark, intimate, and uncompromising.
The best-selling album of 1985 in the U.S.A. and Springsteen’s most successful album ever, producing a record-tying string of seven Top 10 hits. Rolling Stone faithfully defined the album’s spirit, calling Springsteen the “Voice of the Decade” “Like Nebraska, Born in the U.S.A. was about people who come to realize that life turns out harder, more hurtful, more close-fisted than they might have expected. But in contrast to Nebraska’s killers and losers, Born in the U.S.A.’s characters hold back the night as best they can, whether it’s by singing, laughing, dancing, yearning, reminiscing or entering into desperate love affairs. There was something celebratory about how these people face their hardships. It’s as if Springsteen were saying that life is made to endure and that we all make peace with private suffering and shared sorrow as best we can.” The title track is often misinterpreted as a patriotic anthem. The album’s cover, photographed by Annie Leibovitz, became an iconic image of the era.
Springsteen’s studio follow-up to Born in the U.S.A. ships double platinum. It’s a profound song cycle dominated by what Springsteen will call his “men and women songs.” Richard Harrington reviews Tunnel of Love for the Washington Post: “It’s not that Springsteen is the first writer to address the confusions of the heart…but putting out such an introspective and intimate collection on the heels of the hard-charging Born in the U.S.A. and the heroically structured Live set is an intriguing move. It contains some of Springsteen’s most personal work and could very well provide the demythologizing he must crave.”