Working on a Dream

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Working on a Dream
Working on a Dream.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedJanuary 27, 2009
RecordedSummer 2007–Fall 2008
ProducerBrendan O'Brien
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band chronology
Greatest Hits
Working on a Dream
The Promise
Singles from Working on a Dream
  1. "Working on a Dream"
    Released: November 21, 2008
  2. "My Lucky Day"
    Released: November 28, 2008
  3. "The Wrestler"
    Released: December 16, 2008
  4. "What Love Can Do"
    Released: 2009

Working on a Dream is the sixteenth studio album by Bruce Springsteen, released on January 27, 2009 through Columbia Records.[1] It has sold more than 3 million copies worldwide, with over 585,000 in the United States as of September 2010.[2]


The album was officially announced, along with a track listing, on November 17, 2008.[3] The album first began selling in Germany and Ireland, on January 23.

The album came out of songwriting and recording that Springsteen continued with towards the close of his previous work, 2007's Magic, as the band worked on a video for one of that album's songs.[4][5] "What Love Can Do" was written, in Springsteen's words, as a "love in the time of Bush" meditation, but felt like the start of something new rather than a candidate for Magic.[4] Encouraged by his 2000s producer Brendan O'Brien, Springsteen decided to start work on a new album and wrote "This Life," "My Lucky Day," "Life Itself," "Good Eye," and "Tomorrow Never Knows" during the next week.[4] They were then recorded with the E Street Band members during breaks on their 2007–2008 Magic Tour, with most being finished in just a few takes.[3] This all reflected a faster pace of producing new music than Springsteen had been known for in the past;[4] Springsteen said, "I hope Working on a Dream has caught the energy of the band fresh off the road from some of the most exciting shows we've ever done."[5] As with Magic, most of the tracks were first recorded with a core rhythm section band comprising Springsteen, drummer Max Weinberg, bassist Garry Tallent, and pianist Roy Bittan; other members' contributions were then added subsequently.[6]

The album is the last to feature new work of founding E Street Band member Danny Federici, who died in April 2008. Federici's son Jason also plays on the album.[7]

Title number "Working on a Dream" was first performed during Springsteen's November 2, 2008 appearance in Cleveland for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign (accompanied by Patti Scialfa), and then a chopped-up airing of the recorded version first appeared during the November 16 NBC Sunday Night Football broadcast at halftime. The intact "Working on a Dream" began airing on radio stations and their websites on November 21;[8][9] it was made available for free download via iTunes and the Sony BMG website on November 24. The track entered the UK Singles Chart at position 195 the following week.[10] A music video appeared on some foreign sites showing the recording of the song. "My Lucky Day" was made available in the United States on on December 1, accompanied by a longer music video that showed Springsteen and the band arranging and recording the song.[11] "Life Itself" was released as a free download from on December 28, with a music video that featured studio footage interspersed with vague scene snippets that may illuminate the moody song.[12]

On January 12, 2009, the album leaked onto the internet. On January 19, scheduled a streaming of it free for a week, in advance of the actual release.[13] Sony BMG's Irish website also began streaming it.[14] An extensive and carefully planned promotional push for Springsteen and the album was put together, incorporating appearances at the Golden Globe Awards, the Barack Obama presidential inauguration, a new greatest hits album, the half-time show of Super Bowl XLIII and an anticipated appearance at the 81st Academy Awards.[15] The last of these went awry when, in what Rolling Stone termed "shocking news," "The Wrestler" was snubbed by the Academy and failed to gain a nomination.[16] Nevertheless, all the activity led Springsteen to say, "This has probably been the busiest month of my life."[17]

An abbreviated version of "Working on a Dream" was included in Springsteen's February 1 performance during the Super Bowl. VH1 Classic aired the documentary Bruce Springsteen: The Making Of 'Working On A Dream in early February 2009.[18] The Working on a Dream Tour began on April 1, 2009, in the wake of the album's release.


The release of the first two songs prompted The New York Times to proclaim Springsteen as "more hopeful, less bleak" than on his previous album Magic.[19] It saw this go-around of the Springsteen persona manifesting "the voice of an honest striver redeemed by love and hard work."[19] E Street Band guitarist Steve Van Zandt sees Working on a Dream as part of a trilogy with The Rising and Magic: "They make sense together in terms of sound, concept and writing style. The three records have been a projection more toward the pop-rock form – this one more than the other two."[6]

The album's opener, "Outlaw Pete", which some observers felt borrowed a central riff from Kiss's 1979 disco hit "I Was Made for Lovin' You",[20][21][22][23][24] is more than eight minutes long, while two others clock in at less than three minutes.[7]

Listeners considered it one of Springsteen's most stylistically diverse efforts overall.[15] The album recalls some of Springsteen's earlier efforts, as "The Last Carnival" has been interpreted as a sequel to "Wild Billy's Circus Story" from 1973's The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle.[25] 1960s production flourishes are omnipresent, including ones derived from Wall of Sound, girl group, British Invasion-era Top 40, Brian Wilson and Pet Sounds, and The Byrds and "Eight Miles High".[22][25]

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
Allmusic3/5 stars[27]
Blender3/5 stars[28]
Entertainment Weekly(A)[30]
The Guardian4/5 stars[31]
NME8/10 stars[32]
musicOMH7/10 stars[33]
Pitchfork Media(5.8/10)[34]
PopMatters6/10 stars[35]
Rolling Stone5/5 stars[36]
Spin3/5 stars[37]

Working on a Dream debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, selling 224,000 copies in its first week of release, knocking off a seven-week continuous run by Taylor Swift's Fearless.[38] It was Springsteen's ninth number one album in the United States.[38] This tied him with The Rolling Stones for the fourth-highest total in that regard; only The Beatles (with 19), Jay-Z (with 11), and Elvis Presley (with 10) had more.[38] Working on a Dream also debuted at number 1 on the Billboard Top Rock Albums chart, Top Digital Albums chart, and Top Internet Albums chart.

In all, it reached No. 1 in 17 countries around the world, and reached the Top 10 almost everywhere else.

Critical reception to Working on a Dream ranged widely. Rolling Stone gave it a five-star rating and compared it to 1975's Born to Run in scale and ambition.[25] But Los Angeles Times writer Ann Powers said "The best thing that can be said about Working on a Dream is that it's boisterously scatterbrained, exhilaratingly bad."[39] Review aggregator Metacritic calculated the album as having an overall weighted average score of 72 out of 100,[40] the lowest score of Springsteen's six albums released during the 2000s.[41]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Bruce Springsteen.

1."Outlaw Pete"8:00
2."My Lucky Day"4:01
3."Working on a Dream"3:30
4."Queen of the Supermarket"4:40
5."What Love Can Do"2:57
6."This Life"4:30
7."Good Eye"3:01
8."Tomorrow Never Knows"2:14
9."Life Itself"4:00
10."Kingdom of Days"4:02
11."Surprise, Surprise"3:24
12."The Last Carnival"3:11
13."The Wrestler" (Bonus track)3:50

Bonus tracks and outtakes[edit]

"The Wrestler" first appeared in August 2008 at the 65th Venice International Film Festival debut of the film The Wrestler. In December 2008 it received a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song and won the award during the 66th Golden Globe Awards on January 11, 2009. The album version, without end-credits string introduction, became available on iTunes on December 16, in advance of the film's U.S. major cities openings in the subsequent days.

"A Night with the Jersey Devil" first appeared in October 2008 on Springsteen's website, accompanied by a Halloween-themed music video.[1] But subsequent press releases omitted mention of it, and Springsteen sources confirmed it had been removed, for reasons unknown.[42] The song was announced by to be included as the 14th track on the Japanese CD edition on the album, but the current track list does not include it.[43] The video, however, is featured in the DVD included with the album's deluxe edition (as listed below).

"Frankie Fell in Love" was another song recorded during the album sessions however would go unreleased until Springsteen re-recorded it for his 2014 album, High Hopes.

Deluxe edition[edit]

Includes the full CD plus a DVD featuring:

  1. "The Sessions DVD"
    • A 38-minute documentary showing behind-the-scenes footage of the recording of the album.[7] Produced, directed, and edited by Thom Zimny, it includes studio footage edited to the tracks of "My Lucky Day," "Queen of the Supermarket," "Kingdom of Days," "Working on a Dream," "Life Itself" and "The Last Carnival."[44] It also contains demos and early band versions of the songs as they were worked up.[44]
  2. "A Night with the Jersey Devil" (Springsteen, Robert Jones, Gene Vincent) – 3:23

Outlaw Pete graphic novel[edit]

In November 2014, Springsteen released a graphic novel titled Outlaw Pete which is based on the opening track from Working on a Dream.


Charts and certifications[edit]


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