Written by Ben Sisario
Former President Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen are liberal icons, vacationing pals and rhapsodists in regards to the desires and travails of on a regular basis Americans.
Now they’re additionally podcast hosts.
On Monday, Spotify launched the primary two episodes of “Renegades: Born in the USA,” that includes the forty fourth president and the singer of the anthemic hit name-checked within the present’s title. In “Renegades,” which can launch six subsequent episodes weekly, the 2 males converse intimately and expansively on subjects corresponding to race, fatherhood and the painful divisions that persist in American society.
Drawn from a sequence of one-on-one conversations at Springsteen’s dwelling studio in New Jersey from July to December, the present is a looking, high-minded dialogue of life within the United States from two masters of the shape.
“In our own ways, Bruce and I have been on parallel journeys,” Obama says within the first episode. “We still share a fundamental belief in the American ideal. Not as an airbrushed, cheap fiction or an act of nostalgia that ignores all the ways that we’ve fallen short of that ideal. But as a compass for the hard work that lies before each of us as citizens.”
“Renegades” additionally represents a sort of high-water mark for podcasting. The present is produced by Higher Ground Productions, the corporate based by Obama and his spouse, Michelle, and the 2 males’s collaboration seemingly would have slot in with the Obamas’ slate of TV and movie tasks with Netflix.
But podcasting, as soon as seen as a low-stakes sandbox stuffed with comedians and public-radio regulars, is now a booming, aggressive media enterprise that draws ever-bigger names. This month, former President Bill Clinton started his personal present, “Why Am I Telling You This?”
“It illustrates exactly where we are at this moment in time,” Dawn Ostroff, chief content material officer of Spotify, the unique outlet for “Renegades,” stated of the present. “It says this is the next big thing — or it has already arrived.”
For Spotify, which has made a giant push into podcasts over the previous two years (together with shopping for the studio Gimlet Media and launching “The Michelle Obama Podcast” final summer time), the present is partly a bid to draw older listeners. Nearly half of American podcast listeners are beneath 35, in keeping with a market survey final yr by Edison Research and Triton Digital.
The president and the rock star met on the 2008 marketing campaign path, and over time they’ve cultivated a heat friendship. In January 2017, as Obama was getting ready to depart workplace, Springsteen gave an intimate, career-spanning efficiency on the White House, which he then developed into his solo present on Broadway. In “Renegades,” Obama, 59, and Springsteen, 71, chortle heartily as they recount among the meals, chats and impromptu singalongs they’ve shared.
Dan Fierman, head of Higher Ground Audio, stated Michelle Obama’s expertise making her present final yr spurred the previous president to create his personal podcast, and he chosen Springsteen as his interlocutor. Their first recording session befell July 30, simply hours after Obama delivered the eulogy for John Lewis, the civil rights hero and congressman from Georgia.
Their dialog mingles the non-public and the mythic. Obama discusses rising up in Hawaii with the confusion and discomfort of being of blended race — “I wasn’t easily identifiable; I felt like an outsider,” he says — and they every share classes of masculinity they drew from the failings of their very own fathers.
They are a mutual-admiration society. Springsteen, who now and then picks up a guitar, tells the story of his 1984 music “My Hometown,” with its echoes of racial battle within the Nineteen Sixties. He marvels on the universality and patriotism that comes by when live performance crowds roar out its line, “This is your hometown.”
“I always get a sense that they know the town they’re talking about isn’t Freehold,” Springsteen says, referring to the place he grew up in New Jersey. “It’s not Washington. It’s not Seattle. It’s the whole thing — it’s all of America.” Brief pause. “It’s a good song.”
“It’s a great song,” Obama rapidly provides.
The present displays a big-tent centrism that has lengthy been a part of each males’s method. Springsteen launched a Jeep advert through the latest Super Bowl — his first industrial ever — that known as for Americans to satisfy in “the middle.”
Surveying the nation’s divisions, Obama asks: “How did we get here? How could we find our way back to a more unifying American story?” That push for a center floor was generally a legal responsibility for Obama throughout his presidency, and could also be at odds with the hyperpartisanship of the second.
“Renegades” additionally arrives whereas information continues to be contemporary that Springsteen had been arrested in November on costs of drunken driving, a uncommon scandal for certainly one of rock’s residing saints. (Springsteen has not commented in regards to the arrest, and he’s anticipated to seem in court docket as quickly as Wednesday.) Fierman stated the incident didn’t change the corporate’s plans to launch “Renegades,” and stray references to alcohol within the present had been left intact.
Obama and Springsteen declined to remark for this text.
Although the present is positioned as an try to grasp the divisions in American society and to seek for options, Obama and Springsteen largely keep away from politics and stick to private tales.
Yet political tensions inevitably loom over “Renegades.” For a dialogue of nationwide divisions within the eighth and ultimate episode of the primary season, Obama added an introductory observe in regards to the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol.
Obama additionally says little about his successor, former President Donald Trump. But his view of the person who took his place, and of the state of the nation, is evident from Obama’s very first phrases within the first episode, setting the scene of 2020 as a second of hysteria and battle in America.
“For three years I’d had to watch a presidential successor who was diametrically opposed to everything I believed in,” Obama says. “And witnessed a country that seemed to be getting angrier and more divided with each passing day.”