Western Stars

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Western Stars
Bruce Springsteen - Western Stars.png
Studio album by
ReleasedJune 14, 2019 (2019-06-14)
StudioStone Hill Studio, New Jersey
GenreRoots rock, orchestral pop,[1] country pop[2]
Length51:00
LabelColumbia
ProducerRon Aniello
Bruce Springsteen chronology
The Live Series: Songs of Hope
(2019)
Western Stars
(2019)
The Live Series: Songs of Love
(2019)
Singles from Western Stars
  1. "Hello Sunshine"
    Released: April 26, 2019
  2. "There Goes My Miracle"
    Released: May 17, 2019
  3. "Tucson Train"
    Released: May 30, 2019
  4. "Western Stars"
    Released: June 14, 2019

Western Stars is the nineteenth studio album by American singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen, released on June 14, 2019, by Columbia Records. It was produced by Ron Aniello, who worked with Springsteen on his two previous albums: Wrecking Ball (2012) and High Hopes (2014).

The album was a chart success in the United States — where it became Springsteen's 20th top-10 album — and abroad. It was also met with widespread acclaim from critics, who found the music elegiac and evocative of the American West.

Background[edit]

Springsteen stated in April 2019 that the album was influenced by "Southern California pop music" of the 1970s, including artists such as Glen Campbell and Burt Bacharach. Upon announcing the album in April 2019, he called it "a return to my solo recordings featuring character-driven songs and sweeping, cinematic orchestral arrangements", with a press release characterizing it as about a "range of American themes, of highways and desert spaces, of isolation and community and the permanence of home and hope".[3]

Marketing[edit]

"Hello Sunshine" was released on April 26, 2019, as the album's lead single, along with a music video.[4] "There Goes My Miracle" was released as the album's second single on May 17.[5][6] The album's third single, "Tucson Train", was released on May 30, along with a music video directed by Thom Zimny.[7] A music video for the album's fourth single, "Western Stars", also directed by Zimny, was released on June 14. A limited edition 7" vinyl double A-side single, featuring "Western Stars" and "The Wayfarer", will be released on Black Friday Record Store Day on November 29, 2019.[8]

Western Stars was released by Columbia on June 14, 2019.[9] The following week, it debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200 with 66,000 album-equivalent units sold, of which 62,000 were pure album sales. It is Springsteen's 20th US top 10 album.[10]

A documentary film, which marked Springsteen's directorial debut and features a full performance of the album, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2019, with a wide theatrical release in October 2019 along with an accompanying soundtrack for the film. Springsteen will not be touring for the album and announced that he will shift focus towards recording a new studio album with the E Street Band in the fall of 2019.[11][12]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
AnyDecentMusic?8.0/10[13]
Metacritic84/100[14]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4/5 stars[15]
The A.V. ClubB–[16]
Entertainment WeeklyA–[17]
The Guardian4/5 stars[18]
The Independent5/5 stars[19]
The Irish Times5/5 stars[20]
NME4/5 stars[21]
Pitchfork7.8/10[22]
Q4/5 stars[23]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[24]

Western Stars was met with widespread critical acclaim. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews and ratings from selected mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 84, based on 31 reviews.[25]

Reviewing for Rolling Stone in May 2019, Will Hermes said that, while several songs "straddle the classic and the cliché", the album's music "evokes country-tinged California pop from the Sixties and Seventies, sounding like nothing [Springsteen]'s done before".[24] In Entertainment Weekly, Maura Johnston applauded Springsteen for "transforming the enormous into the intimate" on the album,[17] while The Independent's Mark Beaumont said the "sumptuous, cinematic album is nothing short of a late-period masterpiece" for the musician.[19] Writing for NME, Thomas Smith regarded Western Stars as "majestic in its scale, but traditional in its subject matter and narratives … a wonderful thing."[21] Pat Carty in Hot Press described the album as a "heartbreaking yet life-affirmingly beautiful record - both elegiac and warm, a trick few others, if any, could pull off."[26] Sam Sodomsky from Pitchfork said, "Springsteen returns with elegiac and wise songwriting conjuring the golden expanse of the American West; it’s his best studio album in years."[22] In the opinion of AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine, "This isn't a piece of nostalgia on Springsteen's part, though. These references deepen a collection of songs that are sweet, sad, and searching, songs that feel finely etched on their own terms but gather a deep, lasting resonance when collected on this enchanting album."[15] The songs were also regarded by Alexis Petridis as "strong enough to withstand the treatment" and rarely reducing themselves to pastiches of "the grownup American pop of Glen Campbell's collaborations with Jimmy Webb or Harry Nilsson's [recordings] of 'Everybody's Talkin'' and 'I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City'." Writing in The Guardian, Petridis hoped Springsteen will "take more stylistic detours in the future", as "it adds up to an album that manages to be both unexpected and of a piece with its author’s back catalogue."[18]

Some reviewers had reservations about the album. In his "Consumer Guide" column, Robert Christgau deemed it a worthy effort and cited its highlights as "Tucson Train" and "Moonlight Motel". However, he believed Springsteen was trying to put across the message that "America used to be better", which the critic said brings to question in what manner will fans receive the musician's nostalgia for America's past: "How many of his faithful will blame it on the rich and how many on the young?"[27] Ludovic Hunter-Tilney issued different complaints in his review for the Financial Times, being especially critical of the record's roots rock and orchestral pop setting. "The combination of twanging western rock and orchestra has a confected, forced feel", he said, adding that "the effect is intended to dignify the lives of the hard-bitten individuals in his lyrics, but instead it sounds like they are being smothered by overbearing string and horn arrangements."[1]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Bruce Springsteen, except where noted.

Western Stars
No.TitleLength
1."Hitch Hikin'"3:47
2."The Wayfarer"4:18
3."Tucson Train"3:31
4."Western Stars"4:41
5."Sleepy Joe's Café"4:14
6."Drive Fast (The Stuntman)"4:16
7."Chasin' Wild Horses"5:03
8."Sundown"4:17
9."Somewhere North of Nashville"3:52
10."Stones"4:44
11."There Goes My Miracle"4:05
12."Hello Sunshine"3:56
13."Moonlight Motel"4:16
Total length:51:00

The film version has the same tracklist, with the addition of the cover song "Rhinestone Cowboy".

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Italy (FIMI)[62] Platinum 50,000*
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[63] Gold 20,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[64] Gold 100,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Film[edit]

It was announced on July 23, 2019, that Springsteen would world premiere his co-directed film, Western Stars, at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. The film marks the first directing credit for Springsteen and was co-directed by his longtime collaborator Thom Zimny. The film features Springsteen and his backing band and orchestra performing the music from the album to a live audience. The live performances were filmed during two nights in April 2019 in a historic barn on the artist's property, the outdoor sequences were filmed at Joshua Tree National Park.[65]

Cameron Bailey, artistic director of the festival, said of the film, "We have Bruce Springsteen's directorial debut at the festival, I think he's got a big future ahead of him. It's largely performance, but there is a framing to it. It's very filmic, which is what attracted me. The album and the film are both about this fading Western movie B-level star who's looking back on his life and the decisions he's made. That narrative and that character shape all the songs. In between the songs, you've got Bruce really talking about this character he invented, the story he wrote for the character, and how it reflects back on his own life as he ages and other kind of narratives he's had in his previous albums."[66]

Warner Bros. Pictures released the film on October 25, 2019. The companion soundtrack for the movie, titled Western Stars – Songs from the Film, was released on the same day by Columbia Records.[67]

Western Stars – Songs from the Film
Westernstarsfilmcover.jpg
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedOctober 25, 2019 (2019-10-25)
RecordedApril 2019
StudioStone Hill Farm, Colts Neck, New Jersey
Length57:04
LabelColumbia
ProducerRon Aniello, Bruce Springsteen
Singles from Western Stars – Songs from the Film
  1. "Sundown"
    Released: October 4, 2019
Western Stars – Songs from the Film
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."Hitch Hikin'" 3:43
2."The Wayfarer" 4:45
3."Tucson Train" 3:21
4."Western Stars" 4:39
5."Sleepy Joe's Café" 3:41
6."Drive Fast (The Stuntman)" 4:42
7."Chasin' Wild Horses" 5:46
8."Sundown" 3:12
9."Somewhere North of Nashville" 1:59
10."Stones" 5:35
11."There Goes My Miracle" 4:00
12."Hello Sunshine" 4:22
13."Moonlight Motel" 4:01
14."Rhinestone Cowboy"Larry Weiss3:18
Total length:57:04

References[edit]

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