It’s hard to argue with the propulsive immediacy of “Radio Nowhere“, the guitar-driven opener and primary single on Bruce Springsteen‘s Magic, especially coming as it was in 2007 on the heels of several records that were a bit more heavily wrought. While Magic as a whole is perhaps a little slighter than his other works of the decade, he sounds the alarm with one hell of riff-laden wake-up call. It’s as much a demand for celebration (“I just want to hear some rhythm/I want a thousand guitars/I want pounding drums/I want a million different voices speaking in tongues”) as a self-fulfilling musical revitalization, with Springsteen pleading “Is there anybody alive out there?” again and again to his own E Street Band’s multi-tracked guitars and thundering percussion.
It’s doubtful that Springsteen had Tommy Tutone‘s telephone digit confection “Jenny” in mind while composing his call to arms, but the chord structure is related, and the two choruses can certainly be transposed over one another. It doesn’t help matters that the tempo and gait of the two songs are very close, though at least the key signature creates a marked distinction… to say nothing of the difference in spirit between the two.
Both are fine songs in their way, but what’s really striking is how much sheer content “Radio Nowhere” has in comparison: hitting the chorus twice in the first minute alone, it’s a whirlwind of cultural reference and rousing thoughts, riding high on the wrenching economy of that endlessly-repeated riff.