The Best Rock Song of the Decade Response: “Devils and Dust” by Bruce Springsteen

30 Dec

The results of the poll pointed to “Smooth” by Santana and Rob Thomas as the #1 rock song of the decade. It is a fair choice; the song is a great combination of Carlos Santana’s blues styling and the voice of one of the best rock frontmen of the decade. Yet, like how it has been for the past polls, I must disagree. Personally, I wish I could have just picked all of the songs on the list because each song has its own reason why it should be considered the best song of the decade. But, if I do have to choose one, the one song that has that extra something putting it above the other musical pieces is “Devils and Dust” by Bruce Springsteen.

“Devils and Dust,” the name of Springsteen’s 2005 album as well, was released as a single in March of 2005 and gained critical acclaim immediately. It was nominated for three Grammy’s, including song of the year, and Springsteen took home the Grammy for best solo rock vocal performance. So, yes, everyone does understand that the song is good and gained notoriety because of its success. The question still remains, what makes this particular song better than all of the other rock songs of the decade?

In judging a good song one must ask a couple of questions. Is the song technically sound? How is the vocal performance? Is it catchy enough? Do the lyrics fit and are they beyond normal cliché? Yes, I know, I too just like listening to music and singing along but these are talking points to perpetuate discussions on music and in defending the “Best Rock Song of the Decade” I need to cover all of the qualifications. Let’s look at the music side of it first.

Springsteen’s song begins with an acoustic guitar with both E strings (The high and low) dropped to a D tuning. Briefly, this means that one will get a different sound out of their guitar because of this different tuning. He strums his guitar with a meaningful chord progression that can practically sing the song for him. In the studio version of the song, a string section compliments the acoustic beautifully. The song is a perfect example of a rock crescendo, allowing the lyrics to tell the story and when the words reach a climactic moment the melody does as well. Springsteen then brings out a harmonica and blows the hell out of it to represent the consternation of his protagonist. The loud harp, the strummed acoustic, and strings and drums just work. The song goes above and beyond the musical qualifications.

While the song is immaculate, it is the lyrics that let the song rise above each other hit in this decade. There is a truthful pain that one feels when listening to the song. In a clear anti-war statement, Springsteen tells the story of a person in war who has been put into the situation where he has his finger on a trigger and he looks towards faith for an answer of what to do. There is a constant repetition of God and “Devils and Dust.” The character’s “god-filled soul” is filled with “devils and dust.” What this attempts to demonstrate is that in the heat of war when there is blood and effluvium rising around you, the conflict between good and evil mix and a horrifying confusion rises. The character attempts to reach a conclusion that he has “god on his side” and he is just “trying to survive.” Yet, in surviving a brewing fear that he is doing it while destroying morals rises. The conclusion is reached that “Faith just ain’t enough” because “When I look inside my heart, There’s just devils and dust.”

The lyric is a story about the fear in one’s heart that arises when the conclusion is reached that in war there is no faith and no good. There is only “Devils and Dust” and rightfully these two words end the song. The devil that represents evil and the dust that represents death. It is not surprising that after Springsteen finished his performance at the Grammy’s he found room to say “Bring em’ Home,” referring to our troops.

“Devils and Dust”

2 Responses to “The Best Rock Song of the Decade Response: “Devils and Dust” by Bruce Springsteen”

  1. mandolin picks June 24, 2013 at 1:12 am #

    Such an interesting insight. I actually love both songs. Both melodies are just amazing but since I love Rob Thomas and we cannot put them on a tie, I will have to go for “Smooth.” Music affects us in many ways and I certainly feel more inspired with the song by Santana and Rob Thomas. Anyway, thank you for sharing this post.


  1. The Top 10 Songs of the 2011 – The Countdown Begins Tomorrow! « The Music Court - December 19, 2011

    […] As the title of this post suggests, the top 10 songs of 2011 countdown begins tomorrow. I am pumped. Last year was the first time I counted down the top 10 songs of the year (the previous year I did a decade in rock round-up poll – “Smooth” took the crown of best rock song of the 2000-2009 decade, but I chose “Devils and Dust” by Bruce Springsteen and I defended that choice here). […]

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