Bruce Springsteen doesn’t do advertisements. Any ardent fan of the legendary musician and songwriter will tell you this with an air of dignity and respect in their voice. Bruce has never commercialized his music.
Has he let it be used in films and television shows? Of course, though he has never once endorsed a commercial product through his person or his music. But then 2020 happened. The pandemic came. The nation went through an election that showed just how ridiculously divided we are along views of factual events. And eventually, 2021 came with a sense of possible hope, and Bruce Springsteen finally did not only an ad, but one for Super Bowl LV.
[Editor’s note: It is worth mentioning how the majority of viewers found this ad frustrating; seemingly urging forgiveness rather than punishment for the atrocious acts committed by domestic terrorists in our Nation’s capitol on January 6th.]
One needn’t look past Bruce’s nickname of “The Boss” to understand the man’s politics. He picked up the moniker from his early touring days through his dedication to making sure he and his band members got paid. Within the E-Street Band, that pay would end up being split equally between all the band members, regardless of how prevalent they were on the songs. Meanwhile, that nickname of “The Boss” never sat well with Bruce as his heart has always been with the blue collar working man as opposed to management.
Springsteen is a massive supporter of local food banks, encouraging people at his concerts to donate to the representatives at the shows while also performing benefit concerts to help raise more money. And while it may seem very dated now, Bruce was there to rock for “We Are The World” and rock against Sun City in the midst of apartheid.
In fierce patriotic fashion, Bruce has called out the mistreatment of veterans through “Born In The U.S.A.” and took George W. Bush‘s Iraq War to task in “Last To Die.” He has been fiercely critical of Ronald Reagan, the aforementioned Bush presidency, and Donald Trump. Despite all this, many of his songs have been misinterpreted or co-opted to try and reflect a feverish sense of nationalistic pride.
The truth is, that most of the time when Bruce is writing about America, he’s writing to be critical of it, not out of contempt but out of love and hope. Those are the emotions that have been drawn into the 2021 Jeep advertisement that has broken Bruce’s longstanding vow to refuse product endorsements. In a way though, it’s sad that so much had to happen to cause this event to occur.
Bruce speaks about The Middle, specifically a chapel located in Kansas that is at the geographic center of the 48 contiguous states. Being a spiritual person, something evident across most of his songwriting, Bruce uses the chapel’s philosophy of being open 24-hours a day to everyone as an analogy for the United States needing to come back together in the middle.
Variety goes into detail about the amount of work that went into trying to eventually convince The Boss to take part in an advertisement. Though it doesn’t go into the full detail about how much Bruce was paid, it does suggest that Bruce had a heavy role in the production of the ad and only gave voice to words that he truly believed in.
It seems like Jeep was pretty gracious in this regard considering that very little of their namesake vehicles figure in the ad and not one mention is made of a make, model, or price. It legitimately doesn’t come across as something that’s made to sell a product or an idea of a product, even though that’s obviously part and parcel of the advertising machine.
Whether or not this approach is going to do anything to change the divisions in the US or if it’s going to increase the sale of Jeep brand vehicles and merchandise is anyone’s guess. As a self-admitted Springsteen fanatic, I think of the ad and think of Bruce’s weary yet hopeful voice as the violin playing in the background begins to pick up in volume and tone.
This wasn’t an act taken lightly. Bruce isn’t the type of musician or person to compromise on his feelings. So at the end of the day, if Bruce Springsteen is taking the time to endorse a product on national television for two full minutes, just to try and get a message across; maybe we need to take those two minutes to listen and find a way to put the hope that he’s selling, into action.