This past week, U2 released their new album, Songs of Innocence, for free to everyone with an active iTunes account—whether you wanted the album or not. Of course this is not to say that free music is a new phenomena. With the Single of the Week on iTunes and sites like Bandcamp, Youtube and Soundcloud, artists have plenty of ways to entice new followers to listen to their music with a free song or two. Even putting out a free album is not completely unheard of. But U2 really went the extra mile. You already own Songs of Innocence. It is already on your computer, tablet and smartphone. After receiving many complaints, iTunes was forced to create a specific button that enabled users to delete the album. Still, it is a bit of a drag to delete something you never wanted in the first place.
Is this the new thing to do in the music industry? Should I expect the next Rolling Stones album to wake me up in the middle of the night as a free gift? I do like the idea of being able to experience new music in such an easily accessible way, but I do not think this will be a widely used option in music distribution. Sources say that Apple spent 100 million dollars on this album and I am pretty sure they would not be willing to spend that kind of money on a band that doesn’t have the same name recognition as Bono and U2.
Also, I have trouble believing that U2 is doing this out of the goodness of their hearts. Though Apple is donating money to RED (an AIDS charity) in exchange for rights to release the record, the band is still making money off of this. In less than a month they will be releasing an extended edition of Innocence, which will include even newer songs and seven acoustic editions. This version of the album will not be available on iTunes, apparently to appease other retailers that are missing out on money from the first release of the record. Though I do not personally know anyone who is not happy with just the amount of U2 they got, I am sure fans will not hesitate in shelling out big bucks to make Innocence a success.
The album contains nothing truly surprising; it’s just more of the same sound U2 has produced for years. I can practically feel Bono wearing sunglasses through my speakers. The first single, “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone),” which you can expect to see in an iPhone 6 commercial any day now, has gotten the most hype, but still falls short in comparison to anything from the glory days of U2. “Raised by Wolves” and “This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now” both produced by Danger Mouse (The Black Keys) are two of the better songs on the record and have a sound that is nothing short of scintillating.
Perhaps U2 thought that this new album would help them gain a new generation of fans. Still, I cannot help but imagine a teenager walking down the street, listening to their iPod and being pleasantly surprised by a song they have never heard before. They look at the title and notice that the song is by U2. At first they wonder how this ended up on their iPod, but then they say to themselves, “I didn’t think U2 was still a thing.”
by Lily Frenette '18
Lily Frenette is a first year at Sarah Lawrence who is studying writing. When not complaining about burned out British rock bands, she can be found doing exciting things, like homework.