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In 1978, Bruce Springsteen, already a critical darling but not yet a household name, unleashed “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” his fourth studio album. Amidst this collection of gritty, introspective anthems, “Badlands” roared onto the scene, released as the second single from the album.

“Badlands” struck a chord with both critics and fans alike. Rolling Stone editors ranked it as Springsteen’s second-greatest song of all time, behind only “Born to Run,” and hailed it as a quintessential rock anthem, embodying the spirit of “praying onstage” that The Who guitarist Pete Townshend described.

Let’s explore the meaning behind the song’s lyrics, the themes of desperation, determination, and the unwavering pursuit of dreams in the face of adversity.


Badlands” Lyrics

Well, lights out tonight
Trouble in the heartland
Got a head on collision
Smashin’ in my guts, man
I’m caught in a cross fire
That I don’t understand

But there’s one thing I know for sure, girl
I don’t give a damn
For the same old played out scenes
Baby, I don’t give a damn
For just the in-betweens
Honey, I want the heart, I want the soul
I want control right now
You better listen to me, baby

Talk about a dream
Try to make it real
You wake up in the night
With a fear so real
You spend your life waiting
For a moment that just don’t come
Well, don’t waste your time waiting

Badlands, you gotta live it everyday
Let the broken hearts stand
As the price you’ve gotta pay
Keep pushin’ ’til it’s understood
And these badlands start treating us good

Workin’ in the fields
That’ll get your back burned
Workin’ ‘neath the wheels
‘Til you get your facts learned
Baby, I got my facts
Learned real good right now
You better get it straight, darlin’

Poor man wanna be rich

Rich man wanna be king
And a king ain’t satisfied
‘Til he rules everything
I wanna go out tonight
I wanna find out what I got

Well, I believe in the love that you gave me
I believe in the faith that can save me
I believe in the hope and I pray
That someday it may raise me
Above these

Badlands, you gotta live it everyday
Let the broken hearts stand
As the price you’ve gotta pay
Keep pushin’ ’til it’s understood
And these badlands start treating us good

Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa

For the ones who had a notion, a notion deep inside
That it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive
I wanna find one face that ain’t looking through me
I wanna find one place
I wanna spit in the face of these

Badlands, you gotta live it everyday
Let the broken hearts stand
As the price you’ve gotta pay
Keep movin’ ’til it’s understood
And these badlands start treating us good

Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, badlands
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, badlands
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, badlands
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, badlands
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, badlands
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, badlands

Bruce Springsteen – “Badlands

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Bruce Springsteen

Badlands lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC


Bruce Springsteen’s “Badlands” Meaning

During “Born to Run” and “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” Bruce Springsteen often wrote from the perspective of a young, restless protagonist yearning for something more than the hand they were dealt. “Badlands” exemplifies this, as the lyrics capture the frustrations and dreams of someone stuck in a dead-end life, desperately seeking a way out and a chance to control their destiny.

Let’s break some lines to understand the meaning of the song better:

Lights out tonight, trouble in the heartland
Got a head-on collision smashin’ in my guts, man
I’m caught in a crossfire that I don’t understand
But there’s one thing I know for sure, girl

I don’t give a damn for the same old played-out scenes
Baby, I don’t give a damn for just the in-betweens
Honey, I want the heart, I want the soul, I want control right now

Meaning: The opening lines of the song “The Boss” paint a vivid portrait of inner turmoil and desperation. The stark imagery of “lights out,” “trouble in the heartland,” and the visceral metaphors of a “head-on collision” and “crossfire” evoke a sense of chaos and confusion. Springsteen feels trapped in a destructive cycle, both internally and externally, struggling to make sense of the world around him.

The lines “I don’t give a damn for the same old played-out scenes, Baby, I don’t give a damn for just the in-betweens” reveal a deep-seated yearning for authenticity and escape. Bruce is tired of the mundane, the predictable, the “in-betweens” of life. He craves something more meaningful that will ignite his passion and give him a sense of purpose.

“Badlands, you gotta live it every day
Let the broken hearts stand as the price you’ve gotta pay
We’ll keep pushin’ ’til it’s understood
And these badlands start treating us good

Workin’ in the fields ’til you get your back burned
Workin’ ‘neath the wheels ’til you get your facts learned
Baby, I got my facts learned real good right now
You better get it straight, darling”

Meaning: Life can be a relentless grind, filled with hardships and disappointments. But Springsteen argues that retreating from the world and its challenges is a fate worse than facing the inevitable struggles head-on. Even with a broken heart, embracing life’s experiences, both joyful and painful, offers the only chance for personal growth and transformation.

The lyrics depict the backbreaking labor and relentless toil of working-class individuals. Their days are spent toiling under the scorching sun, their backs bearing the burden of physical exertion. They are caught in the “grinding wheel” of a capitalist system, their dreams and aspirations often overshadowed by the harsh realities of their existence. Yet, through this hardship, they gain a profound understanding of the world and their place within it.

Poor man wanna be rich, rich man wanna be king
And a king ain’t satisfied ’til he rules everything
I wanna go out tonight, I wanna find out what I got

Well, I believe in the love that you gave me
I believe in the faith that could save me
I believe in the hope and I pray
That someday it may raise me above these

Meaning: The relentless pursuit of wealth and power is a universal human drive, yet satisfaction remains elusive as ambitions evolve. Despite his hardships, Springsteen draws strength from his partner’s love and finds solace in his faith, which fuels his unwavering hope for a better future beyond the desolate Badlands.


5 interesting Facts About “Darkness on the Edge of Town”

Legal Battles

The album’s creation was fraught with legal battles and creative struggles, taking over a year to record and mix. Bruce Springsteen’s perfectionism led him to write and record dozens of songs, many of which didn’t make the final cut.

No More “Wall of Sound”

“Darkness on the Edge of Town” marked a departure from the “Wall of Sound” production of its predecessor, “Born to Run.” Springsteen opted for a rawer, more stripped-down sound that emphasized the band and reflected the gritty realities of working-class life.

Record Sessions With Over 50 Songs Recorded

The recording sessions produced much material, with over 50 songs recorded. Many of these outtakes, such as “The Promise,” “Fire,” and “Because the Night,” were later released and became fan favorites.

The Saxophone Takes a Backseat

E Street Band member Clarence Clemons’s saxophone playing is absent from the album. Springsteen opted to showcase the raw power of guitar solos throughout the album while deliberately scaling back Clarence Clemons’ iconic saxophone contributions, which only appear on three of the ten tracks.

One of Bruce Springsteen’s Greatest Albums

While initially receiving mixed reviews, “Darkness on the Edge of Town” has since been hailed as one of Springsteen’s greatest achievements. It has appeared on numerous “best albums of all time” lists and is considered a landmark album in rock and roll history.


Badlands” Video

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Bruce Springsteen – Badlands (Music Video)
AlexandreG.
Is just a guy who got tired of bothering his friends talking about music, and decided to create a blog to write about what he loves the most.
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