Work

Let Us Dissect Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen’s Absurd Yet Lovely Podcasting Setup

So many beverages.

Bruce Springsteen and Barack Obama sit facing each other at a table covered in many beverages and papers. They are smiling into recording microphones. There are many musical instruments behind them.
Bruce Springsteen and Barack Obama playing footsie. Rob DeMartin

The dads of America salivated directly onto their quarter-zip pullovers on Monday as Spotify released the first two episodes of Renegades: Born in the USA, a new podcast from Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen. That’s right: Dad jeans guy and sexy-dirty-butt jeans guy walked their respective jeans into a recording studio and laid down what Spotify calls “a series of conversations … about their lives, music, and enduring love of America—despite all its challenges.” That phrasing seems to suggest that Obama will be talking about his music, in addition to Springsteen’s—a thrilling but unlikely implication that’s not exactly refuted by the show’s promotional photo.

Advertisement

I don’t have any real desire to listen to this podcast—Obama was the most-heard-from guy in the world for at least eight years already, and I’m not sure what more Springsteen can tell me about how much he loves America—but I do have an irrepressible need to stare at this photo for at least a full hour, maybe more. There’s so much to love here: the mirror-image power poses. The opulent array of beverages. The gleaming vibraphone in the background, presumably foreshadowing the moment in the podcast when Obama decides to pick up a mallet and improvises a haunting, singularly American melody.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Let’s get the photo’s biggest reveal out of the way: Are these men touching toes? Or are their feet resting on different parts of the same table leg—which, by the transitive furniture property of male bonding, would still constitute a variety of footsie? Either way, the co-hosts are speaking high-level body language with native fluency. Their crossed arms signify emotional detachment, while their toes reach out for intimacy. They might as well scrap the conversation on their fraught relationships to masculinity that’s teased in the series trailer. Their booties have said all there is to say.

Advertisement

On other topics, however, Obama and Springsteen have a little more ‘splaining to do. As a humble podcaster myself, I was stunned to see the men casually conversing in a cavernous, window-lined room. Have the rest of us been courting spinal injuries and eye strain from recording inside cramped pillow forts and dark closets for nothing? Supposedly, a tight space offers marginal improvement in audio quality. Could I have been recording from my personal guitar and organ storage space this entire time?

This embarrassment of riches extends to the drinks on offer at the Renegades recording sesh. Obama is pictured enjoying at least three different beverages: something in a mug, something in a glass, and something in an insulated cup. We can assume none of his drinks are dairy-based, unless the podcast privilege of the ultra-rich extends to phlegm-free throats, so coffee, iced tea, and … vegan hot chocolate? A chilled (warmed??) juice? Each host also has his own private carafe of what appears to be water—but, judging by the shape of the carafes, could just as easily be Patrón. In other words, Obama’s beverage display—a little caffeine, a little sugar, a few antioxidants, and, just speculating, an entire carafe of tequila—exists at the precise nexus of relatable and aspirational. It’s tailor-made for the target audience of a meditative podcast on life, love, and the “unlikely friendship” between two of the wealthiest and most famous boomer men in America.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Finally, Renegades is advertised as a series of casual chats, but these hosts came prepared for their conversation. I count two phones, a tablet, a laptop, a notebook, a notepad, and a hefty packet of papers on their table, a visual representation of the often-invisible work that goes into making an audio production that sounds off-the-cuff. It’s even more refreshing to see Springsteen in white jeans. He has no need for tattered, dirt-stained blue jeans anymore. He’s not contemplating the concept of national unity while running his fingers through American soil. He’s sitting in his home studio, talking about his childhood with an ex-president in leather booties, sipping from his carafe, and cashing those Spotify checks as they roll in. The humble podcaster’s dream!

Advertisement