Not too long ago, I heard Bruce Springsteen’s haunting rendition of the old song-book standard “Angel Eyes,” and it stayed with me. While the song is best remember as sung by Ella Fitzgerald or Frank Sinatra, accompanied by a lush orchestra, Springsteen stripped the song down. His voice barely escaping through clenched teeth, seething into the microphone and backed only by a solo acoustic guitar, Springsteen conveyed the wrecked spirit of a man devastated by the mysterious absence of his love. Springsteen took a song usually associated with sophistication and laid bare the narrator’s incomprehension, his vulnerability, and his sense of being utterly alone.
In other words, Springsteen’s version of “Angel Eyes” did to a familiar standard what film noir did to studio-era Hollywood: take an entity associated with glamour and twist it to reveal the darkness within.