03/21/2012 10:41 am ET Updated May 21, 2012

From Green Day to Bruce Springsteen

Written by Stacy Heder

Three months ago I couldn't have told you the difference between Bruce Springsteen and Rick Springfield. The sad truth that I got them mixed up because of their similar names is evidence of Bruce Springsteen's lack of recognition in my generation. If asked back in August what my favorite music was, I would have answered with some version of punk. To me Green Day is the most relevant and honest band around. At a time where pop music is singing about partying, drugs, money, and sex during war and a recession, Green Day is exploring issues of war, poverty, depression, religion, hypocrisy, and feeling trapped. There are times when I want to hear about the problems and the messiness of life even if it's just a teenager singing "shut up, shut up, shut up" as in the Simple Plan song so aptly titled "Shut Up."

No matter how cliché or overdramatic, they speak directly to the pain and the darker parts of life. These bands sing like they actually know what it's like to be a struggling teenager with confusing emotions. Bruce Springsteen convinced me in one song alone that he knows this too, very well. "I swear I lost everything I ever loved or feared," "I hid in the clouded wrath of the crowd but when they said 'sit down' I stood up." Those lines from "Growin Up" on his first album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. show trouble, sadness, obscurity, and rebellion, even if it is in an immature sort of way. What's more emotionally honest than a fear of being lost in the crowd forever? The best of punk music today addresses issues in this fashion and so does Bruce.

The only song I knew before this class was the mega hit "Born in the U.S.A." and, like much of the public, I thought it was simply a patriotic celebration of America. Knowing only this song gave me the impression that Springsteen is a bit of a throwback or maybe just a leader of the super patriotic and no one else. Much to my surprise, a simple listen to the actual lyrics revealed a much different song. It's almost the opposite of blind patriotism; Bruce questions the governments' motives and legitimacy of the Vietnam War. Although he seems to be screaming out his pride in the chorus, he is actually screaming that it is only by chance that his brother in Khe Sahn "is all gone."

I wish all young people could hear the potential his music holds for our generation. In the 1970's when Bruce was starting out, he lived in a world where a seemingly endless war was occurring and the economy was in trouble and getting worse. Politics appeared to be more dishonest and corrupt than ever. Does this sound familiar? History certainly does repeat itself and the messages Springsteen wrote then could not be more applicable to our time. My fellow students and I are around the age he was when he wrote about these issues. We are coming at them from nearly the same perspective.

Stacy Heder is a freshman at UW-Madison who comes from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is a fan of a "huge variety of music from Bob Dylan to Green Day and MGMT."