Lower and lower he goes, down into the depths of cliché-riddled songwriting. Should the country genre ever unclick the whisky-soaked seatbelt of a Ford truck, it will find new horizons. Until the old hands stop bashing the promised lands and the open road, we are forever doomed, as listeners, to hear nothing more than the barebones essentials. For Bruce Springsteen to stoop here, even if it is for a spot on a film soundtrack as Addicted to Romance is, is a hell of a low for The Boss. He opens with whiskey and water, which mixes poorly, a sad contrast to watering down a stiff drink. One is needed to prepare for this absent-minded display. He and collaborator Patti Scialfi make for a dull pairing as they come together for the She Came to Me soundtrack.
In just three minutes Springsteen begins to reduce the faith his longstanding fans hold in him. They pushed through Only the Strong Survive and accepted Western Stars for what it was. He is far from Jungleland now and this tired and predictable offering for a Peter Dinklage film is about as phoned-in as it gets for a man who has just found himself in the middle of a three-hour-a-night tour. Those interjections and supporting vocals from Scialfi do much of the heavy lifting Addicted to Romance relies on. Borderline Christmas-y by the end of this one, and herein comes a late-stage career problem for Springsteen. His more recent offerings are living in the past, with covers and collections of song scraps from the days gone by.
As ever, a legend of the recording industry and touring world is hard to snub, but when the quality is as massive a dip as this one, it is tricky to see how he can pull it off any longer. With songs like this nobody is going to come to Springsteen. Had he started his career with this he would be written off as an everyday peddler of vague lives lived as close to the wire of relatability and blandness as possible. Why, then, must it be accepted or championed in the latter stages? Late-game artists are given a free pass to create these items for there is no risk to their legacy any longer. Experimentation is a noble risk, irrespective of the result. When Cliff Richard batters out a Christmas record or Van Morrison whittles out another blank canvas cover, it is hard to feel the love equalled by their finest works.
But such is the case for Springsteen, an ever-likeable singer putting himself out there from time to time in the third-leg stretch of his career. Film soundtracks are a chance to put the feelers out for Academy Awards as David Byrne, Isaac Hayes and Bob Dylan all did previously. There is no chance of Springsteen securing such an acclaimed piece while churning this out. But perhaps that was the point of Addicted to Love. It is a churn and nothing more — absolutely mindless matter which gives the film a boost with a name value attached. Any country artist, living or dead, could have been responsible for this song and it would make not one lick of difference. Springsteen feels absent, his influence lost to the mandated requirements of strict and weak requests.