Bruce Springsteen’s 1984 masterpiece Born In The U.S.A. cemented his status as a true American hero. ‘Dancing In The Dark’ was the perfect lead single from his seventh studio album that solidified his place in the hearts of his fellow countrymen.
From the title track to the patriotic cover, everything about the album made Springsteen appear as the ultimate American and, because of it, he became a national treasure. While there are some political narratives that The Boss ventures down on the record, on ‘Dancing In The Dark’, he takes a look at himself as an artist rather than taking a wider examination of society.
The track is pure jubilation, and there’s something deeply wrong inside you if ‘Dancing In The Dark’ doesn’t light up a smile on your face. This isolated vocal version presents the song in a completely new manner, as Springsteen’s vocals gain your full attention and every word he sings has time to linger in the air, which only adds gravitas.
There are few greater juxtapositions between lyrics and music than the Spingsteen hit. In the isolated version, the song is trimmed down to The Boss’ bare voice and the way that it leaves you feeling changes completely. Rather than wanting to dance, you’re instead reaching for the nearest box of Kleenex.
The track was the last number to be recorded for Born In The U.S.A., and it was a way for Springsteen to silence his manager Jon Landau. Prior to this moment, Landau had complained to The Boss about how the album didn’t have a killer single that could viably be a commercial hit.
The two men then got into an argument after Springsteen refused to comprise his morals in search of commercial success. The Boss then decamped to his home and felt disillusioned with life as an artist but dealt with his anguish in the only way that he knew how — channelling his emotions through songwriting.
Once you know the thoughts that were swimming around the mind of Springsteen when he wrote ‘Dancing In The Dark’, the lyrics suddenly grow in impetus, and it’s impossible not to feel every word he sings during the isolated version.
The Boss takes aim at the industry on the chorus as he powerfully sings those precious lines: “You can’t start a fire, You can’t start a fire without a spark, This gun’s for hire, Even if we’re just dancing in the dark.”
The beauty of ‘Dancing In The Dark’ comes from the topic of the fiery argument that sparked it. Bizarrely, Landau’s criticism about the lack of a radio-friendly single on the record riled Springsteen up so much that he wrote a song lamenting the industry, which ended up being the main single from Born In The U.S.A.
Take a few minutes out, and soak up this isolated vocal version, below.