Taking A Closer Look At Brilliant Disguise by Bruce Springsteen

Line Inspection: Taking A Closer Look At Memorable Individual Lines From Music’s Greatest Songs

The Song: “Brilliant Disguise” by Bruce Springsteen

The Lines: “God have mercy on the man/Who doubts what he’s sure of”

When Bruce Springsteen released “Brilliant Disguise” as the lead single from his 1987 album Tunnel Of Love, he was still riding the incredible string of momentum left over from Born In The U.S.A., with its slew of Top 10 singles. “Brilliant Disguise” would also hit the Top 10, but it was a completely different animal. It was stark, intimate and unsettling, as Springsteen dug deep into romantic uncertainty.

The lines above are the final words of the song. Their placement is interesting because they seem to be part of a fourth verse, but it isn’t followed up by another refrain. Springsteen just leaves us there, in the cold bedroom, darkness enveloping literally and figuratively, with that somewhat oxymoronic statement.

After all, if you’re sure of something, how can you doubt it? But the incongruity of the phrase actually emphasizes just how at sea a person can feel when trust has departed a relationship. “Brilliant Disguise” depicts two people hiding from each other in plain sight.

It’s such a great line, that we can forgive Bruce for his ending the statement with a preposition. After all, “God have mercy on the man who doubts that of which he’s sure” just doesn’t have the same ring to it, right? In any case, it might be the most profoundly disquieting line to ever close out a Top 10 smash.

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