Choosing the five best songs from a legend like Bruce Springsteen is a difficult task, especially because there are so many to choose from. Some think his material before his blockbuster Born in the USA album is his best, but his hits after his commercial peak also shine. Let’s take a look.
5. The Rising (2002)
The title track from Bruce’s No. 1 album of the same name only peaked at No. 52 on Billboard‘s Hot 100, but it was one of the most loved songs of the year. “The Rising” depicts a fireman’s journey on the fateful September 11, 2001. Towards the end of the song, he meets “Mary” in the garden. Some debate whether the reference is to Mary Magdalene or the fireman’s wife. Although the song deals with a depressing situation, it is an anthem of hope.
4. Hungry Heart (1980)
Released as the first single from Springsteen’s legendary 1980 album, The River, the song became his first top-five single on the Billboard Hot 100. The song is one of Springsteen’s most exuberant and addicting anthems. It’s actually about cheating and abandonment. “Hungry Heart” was used in the iconic Tom Cruise film, Risky Business. The song has become a staple at all of Springsteen’s concerts.
3. Streets of Philadelphia (1994)
After Bruce’s 1992 albums, Human Touch and Lucky Town, bombed, many wondered if Springsteen would ever have a hit again. The Boss provided the answer with “Streets of Philadelphia,” an AIDS anthem that not only won an Academy Award, but also hit No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Streets of Philadelphia” is a dark and heart-wrenching song about a man’s experience with AIDS and was featured in the movie of the same name that starred Tom Hanks.
“Ain’t no angel gonna greet me/It’s just you and I my friend/And my clothes don’t fit me no more,” Springsteen sings in one of the most delicate vocal performances of his career.
“Streets of Philadelphia” became the last top ten hit of Springsteen’s illustrious career.
2. Born to Run (1975)
“Born to Run” is the title track from one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the 1970s. Although the song only peaked at No. 23 on Billboard‘s charts, it is one of the most loved songs of the 1970s, and an anthem that has taken hold of the 1980s, the 1990s, and beyond. “Born to Run” is about coming of age and aspiring for better things. In the song, the main character moves on from his upbringing in Freehold, New Jersey with his girlfriend Wendy. The theme of the song has been repeated several times. Many thought that Bon Jovi’s 1987 hit, “Livin’ on a Prayer,” was an effort to capture the excitement of “Born to Run.”
As Songfacts notes, “Born to Run” came at an early crossroads of Springsteen’s career. His two previous albums, though critically acclaimed, sold poorly. One of the most beloved performances of this song occurred during the 2009 Super Bowl Halftime Show.
1. Tunnel of Love (1987)
“Tunnel of Love,” from the completely underrated album of the same name, is Springsteen at his best; philosophical, adventurous, musically compelling, and exhausting. It reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 after the album’s first single, “Brilliant Disguise,” hit No. 5. The song is about the adventures and hardships of marriage and uses the image of a carnival ride to convey Springsteen’s thoughts. The Boss was married to actress Julianne Phillips at the time and was headed towards separation.
” If Tunnel Of Love is like a Scorsese movie on disc, the title track is the Billy Batts moment, the point where things turn dark,” the A.V.Club says of Springsteen’s hit, noting that this is the defining song on the album.
While some may not agree, “Tunnel of Love” should be considered the defining song of Springsteen’s career. The song represents the point where all of Bruce Springsteen’s talents and emotions collide, putting the listener on a musical roller coaster they don’t want to leave, even if the ride is scary.
[Photo by Lisa Genesen/AP Images]