I guess we have to thank Beyonce for the new way a “mega artist” drops an album. It now has to be an utter and total surprise. Kudos to Queen Bey for her revolutionary move of mastery. Although it worked pretty well for Mrs. Shawn Carter, I don’t think it’s going to work as well for the world’s favorite rock and roll political activists, U2. But I guess that is yet to be determined. Yesterday, at the Apple launch of the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, in addition to the big reveal for their brand new Apple Watch and Apple Pay system, was a grand performance by none other than Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, U2. Bono, for every ounce of strength in his breathing body, will do anything to make sure his band stays relevant in modern music. Unlike most vintage rock bands, U2, shows zero sign of slowing down, even though these rockers are well into their 50’s. But a big question still remains. Can this iconic band still make good music? Sure. But I guess that depends on who is judging. Regardless of that, U2 still matters. The minute they announce a world tour it will sell out in minutes. But does today’s generation care about U2? My answer is no.
Within minutes of the big U2 performance, the band released their brand new album on iTunes for free. Yes, that is right. U2, arguably one of the biggest bands in the world have released their latest LP Songs of Innocence for free. You don’t even have to download it. It is already in your automatic downloads because the album was sent out to EVERY Apple consumer, over 500 million consumers. Wait a minute Tim Cook. What if I don’t like U2? You gave it to me anyways? Yep, Apple did. By linking up with Apple, I wonder if the band from Dublin thought they could become the biggest band in the world again by giving their new music away for free. I don’t think so Bono. Today’s society doesn’t work like that. The American consumer loves free stuff. I mean who doesn’t. But today if a kid likes an artist, he’ll illegally download their stuff. That’s how the buzz starts. It comes from the streets. No one is going to rush out and get crazy over a new U2 record. Trust me. With Beyonce, she dropped the album without any press or fanfare and that’s what created the buzz about the album. She also dropped a video with every song on the album, another concept that hasn’t been done before. So the album then became a visual experience. Pretty cool if you ask me. And, you had to buy the album. Now I know U2 are millionaires to the 10th degreee but they don’t seem to make a profit for this album off this latest surprise move. The money will come through their massive world tour, which I am sure they will set out on next year. The album will only be free until the middle of October. Then it will be like any other album that’s out there that you have to pay for. But what’s the point of paying for it if you can get it for free now. I guess there lies the conundrum. U2 isn’t One Direction. They aren’t household names with the younger generation, so will this album even matter? Is it going to fade away before it gains any relevance?
Now I’m sure U2 will be anywhere and everywhere over the next couple of weeks promoting this album. They have to right? How else are people going to know? What people kept talking about from the Apple event wasn’t Bono’s stellar vocals? It was about the 5.5 screen for iPhone 6, or Apple Pay, or how long it’s going to take themselves to buy that Apple Watch. (I want the gold edition one. Jk) Everyone I talked to yesterday about the new Apple stuff failed to mention U2 at all. When it comes down to the actual music, Songs of Innocence is not a bad album. It’s no Joshua Tree or All That You Can’t Leave Behind, but it’s definitely not a bad piece of work. With that said, it’s not great either. It is a much stronger effort than 2009’s No Line On The Horizon, but it didn’t leave me reaching for more. The album is largely produced by Danger Mouse, who has become one of the “it” producers in the music world, especially the indie world, from his work with Gnarls Barkley, Broken Bells, the Black Keys, and Norah Jones just to name a few. So on this album, the band definitely has more punch. And for the pop appeal, U2 brought in Ryan Tedder and Paul Eppeworth of Adele and Beyonce fame to add some sizzle to their songs. I think now a days people think if you get Ryan Tedder to work on your music that you have a guarenteed hit. Sorry to burst your bubble guys, but not every Tedder song works. And U2 is definitely not One Republic, nor should they ever try to be. But I feel like they get confused with their idenity on this project, which is something that I can understand being a band that has been around for 30 plus years that’s still trying to stay commercially relevant. It’s a very hard thing to do.
The lead single off the album, which also happens to be the song U2 played at the Apple event yesterday is “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone).” The song is ok. It’s uptempo and is suppsoedly an homage to the great Joey Ramone. But the song sounds nothing even close to anything the Ramones would have made or love. But you can still find yourself nodding to it. “California (There is no End to Love,” “Iris (Hold Me Close),” and “Raised by Wolves,” are my favorites, but the album is balanced throughout. Diehard U2 fans will appreciate it. New fans may be confused on whether they like it or not. I don’t hear many huge radio smashes but im sure that some of these songs will be remixed by Calvin Harris or someone else and find a way into your brain at some point during this fourth quarter.
One thing Songs of Innocence and this free Apple download will do is bring U2 publicity. I can only hope for the band’s sake that Apple promotes the shit out of this record, so maybe after the free period is over, the album will still have some legs. Due to it’s actual release, which won’t be until the middle of October, the album will not have any consideration for this year’s Grammy Awards. The cut off date for albums to be considered is September 30th. (Watch U2 find a way around this) Also the album will not be able to appear on the Bilboard Top 200 until it’s official release, so it can’t catch any buzz of being the number 1 album in the country now because it has been given away for free. This will either end up being a huge marketing success for the band or blow up in their faces. If you remember, they dropped a song at the Super Bowl that came and went like the Broncos performance. So it’s yet to see if any of this hype even makes a difference. At the end of the day it’s all about the music. Unfortunately for Bono and the boys, I’m not sure if the music is worth all the promotion. But hey, since it’s free, you can be the judge.