It’s one of the nastiest couplets Bruce Springsteen ever wrote: “You’ll be fine long as your pretty face holds out/Then it’s gonna get pretty cold out.” And it sums up the lyrical message of “You’ll Be Comin’ Down,” from his Magic album.
“You’re smilin’ now but you’ll find out/They’ll use you up and spit you out,” he sings elsewhere in the song. Ouch.
Who is the anger directed toward? The most obvious explanation is an ex-lover. But some have also wondered if there’s a political metaphor here, with the girl with the pretty face representing President George W. Bush.
I think that’s a little far-fetched, honestly. And the song is lacking in the kind of personal detail that could make it seem like it’s about a failed romantic relationship. I like to think of the song as Springsteen giving a word of warning to young rock and pop stars — flavors of the week who may not realize that they won’t burn up the charts, or fill arenas, forever. And I think this interpretation is buttressed by the song’s uplifting melody and buoyant arrangement.
In other words, “You’ll Be Comin’ Down” is a sweet, shimmering pop confection with an sour, anti-pop message. It seduces you and warns against seduction at the same time, and that’s part of its charm. It’s perfect for an album whose title track warns, “Trust none of what you hear/And less of what you see,” and represents a kind of magic trick in its own right.
Background facts: “You’ll Be Comin’ Down” is from Springsteen’s 2007 album, Magic. According to Brucebase, it has been performed in concert just once, in Columbus, Ohio, in 2008.
On each of the 70 days leading up to Bruce Springsteen’s 70th birthday (on Sept. 23, 2019), NJArts.net will do a post on one of The Boss’ best songs of the last 30 years. We’re starting with No. 70 and working our way up. For more on the project, click here.
We need your help!
CONTRIBUTE TO NJARTS.NET
Since launching in September 2014, NJArts.net, a 501(c)(3) organization, has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of $20, or any other amount, to NJArts.net via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to NJArts.net to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.