U2 surprise release: does the music match the hype?

By: Scott peterson – Staff Writer

U2 announced Sept. 9 that they would not only be releasing a surprise album, but that it would also be free of charge. Apple automatically released the album to everyone with an iTunes account on that date. U2 has had a collaboration with Apple that goes back to Steve Jobs and the commercial for the special edition iPod nearly 10 years ago. The new album was paid for by Apple, and is being used to coincide with the introduction of the iPhone 6.

The album, named “Songs of Innocence,” is the first album by the band in five years. To add to the hype, the album also features collaboration with pop star Adele. With 33 million automatically receiving the album, this is the biggest album release in music history, according to Eddy Cue, senior vice president of internet services in a Sept. 15 article in The Hollywood Reporter.

“The question is now, how do we get it to as many people as possible, because that’s what our band is all about,” Bono said in a Sept. 9 article in Rolling Stone.

Dispute occurred over the fact that Apple downloaded it to all Apple customers’ iCloud accounts, whether they wanted it or not. This lack of permission angered many customers, and many viewed it as nothing more than free publicity for the band.

“And for the people out there who have no interest in checking us out, look at it this way… the blood, sweat and tears of some Irish guys are in your junk mail,” said Bono on U2’s official website. Apple has received so many complaints that a tool was made to rid the album from customers’ libraries.

When considered from the band’s perspective, I believe this was a very smart move by U2. Like every other aging rock band, it has struggled to gain a younger audience. Its situation is comparable to that of Bruce Springsteen – because Springsteen has been making new music for years, but it’s been for his fans, not to top the charts. U2 felt that if it released its album the old fashioned way it wouldn’t be as successful. The album might have been successful for the first week, only to drop shortly after that.

After all the publicity and hype surrounded by this album, the real question is this: “Does the music match the hype?”

“Songs of Innocence” is probably the best album U2 has made in decades. “Songs of Innocence” looks back to the original influences of the band. This is evident because a lot of the songs sound like throwbacks, and the ones that are not are a neat modernization.

The album begins with “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone),” which has been getting the most publicity thanks to the Apple commercial it’s currently featured on. I think it’s a good way to start the album. This song is catchy without being repetitive. It obviously sounds like U2, but a more updated version. It has a more garage rock feel due to the guitar riff – the hook for the song, making it one of the standouts.

“California (There is No End to Love)” is a great example of the U2 modernization and another stand out. This song is very similar to many hits by Coldplay, featuring spacey melody and vocals.

I find it odd that “Song for Someone” is placed behind “California (There is No End to Love),” because both have a Coldplay edge. “Song for Someone” truly compliments Bono’s voice with long melodic notes and harmonies.

“Iris (Hold Me Close)” shows the power of backup vocals. The harmonies behind Bono’s voice are nothing less than great. This song also has an echo that gives it an almost church-like feeling.

The next song is simply an example of U2’s expertise: “Raised by Wolves” is U2’s bread and butter. And by that, I am of course talking about the power ballad. “Songs of Innocence” wouldn’t be a U2 album without a strong power ballad.

“This is Where You Can Reach Me Now” is the best song of this album and the epitome of a throwback. The beginning guitar riff reminds me of the early Rolling Stones. U2 fans will rejoice after hearing this song.

Ending the album is “The Troubles.” This isn’t the biggest song on the album, rather it ends with an interpretation of rhythm and blues and soul. Soulful background singers create an interesting and catchy refrain.

This album’s material and public relations stunt shows the actions of an aging rock band trying to stay relevant. Despite the controversy, you can’t argue with a superb final product. U2 has proven they can cross that generational gap, and that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

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