Song Feature: “Dancing In The Dark” – Bruce Springsteen

Not only is “Dancing In The Dark” my favorite Springsteen song, it’s one of my favorite songs, period. Here’s why.

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Photo by Olenka Kotyk on Unsplash




First of all, if you haven’t listened to the title or watched the video, you’re in for a treat. Do yourself a favor and watch the MV:

From impeccable dance moves, to deep, personal (and poetic!) lyrics, from a staged Courteney Cox groupie act, to catchy synth riffs, this song has got it all.

Although in this analysis here I focus mostly on the words (which have a lot to say despite being accessible), let it be known that I admire his outfit, dance, and overall energy. Check out that fancy ankle work, foot tapping, and crowd engagement. Who else could pull off those rolled up short sleeves over tight black jeans? There’s nothing fake about this man.

I get up in the evening
And I ain’t got nothing to say
I come home in the morning
I go to bed feeling the same way
I ain’t nothing but tired
Man I’m just tired and bored with myself
Hey there baby, I could use just a little help
Springsteen wrote this from his own experience at the time. Concerts by night, fatigue, and boredom of routine resonate with my small life as a student. Sometimes one can feel like there isn’t more than going through the motions.
I end a long day feeling like nothing about me has changed. I don’t know myself, but I can’t help it, and I feel that little cry for help on a personal level. Thoreau would have described it as a “quiet desperation”.
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
So this is the chorus: it’s marvelous because it’s so simple. Take me for what I am and what I have, though it be little. I’m willing, so let’s dance. There’s magic in the night. Hey, even if we can’t start that fire, that’s okay too.
And the pronoun “we” just opens the experience up to the listener as well. The dark, sans spark, is okay. It’s like that proverb on not waiting for the rain to pass, but learning to dance in it.
(Also, how sexy is it for him to offer himself up as a gun for hire? That alone has potential to cheer one up. Got to love me some good company.)
Message keeps getting clearer
Radio’s on and I’m moving ’round the place
I check my look in the mirror
I want to change my clothes, my hair, my face
Man I ain’t getting nowhere
I’m just living in a dump like this
There’s something happening somewhere
Baby I just know that there is
FOMO was real, even for Bruce in the 80’s.
In the past, I’ve had some pretty bleak outlooks on my self image. Even now, if I could, I would change (and in some cases, I have) certain aspects of my appearance. And when this song comes on, it feels good to shout it out loud. In fact, this whole verse describes my behavior during periods of overall dissatisfaction. When I wish I was in a different situations, or at least on a scene that’s happening, it feels good for that feeling to go acknowledged.
You sit around getting older
There’s a joke here somewhere and it’s on me
I’ll shake this world off my shoulders
Come on baby this laugh’s on me
Shake it off, before Taylor Swift! Although we deal with some heavy matters in the song, he doesn’t overburden himself through self pity. We acknowledge the sad joke and the uselessness of sitting around in this state.
Stay on the streets of this town
And they’ll be carving you up alright
They say you gotta stay hungry
Hey baby I’m just about starving tonight
I’m dying for some action
I’m sick of sitting ’round here trying to write this book
I need a love reaction
Come on now baby gimme just one look
Ohh, that “Hey baby!” really gets me. It’s also the part when he pulls Courteney up on the stage to fulfill every classic girl rocker’s dream.
If there’s a feeling I know well, it’s hunger – physically, intellectually, and spiritually. Bruce sings about the restlessness to seek – in this case, love – but really I think it’s the desire for desire that I can relate to. When one is so numb as to be starved, that spark (one look) is needed to start the reaction.
You can’t start a fire sitting ’round crying over a broken heart
This gun’s for hire
Even if we’re just dancing in the dark
You can’t start a fire worrying about your little world falling apart
This gun’s for hire
Even if we’re just dancing in the dark
I love how the song ends not with a “it’s all right” attitude, but a reminder to pick ourselves up. Even if we’re just dancing in the dark. What’s there in the dark doesn’t matter, but we sure can dance in spite of it.

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