Songs of Innocence (Island)
The album may be called Songs of Innocence, a title borrowed without permission from William Blake, but it might as well be Signs of Desperation.
U2’s album sales have tanked postmillennium, down from 4.4 million for 2000’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind to 3.3 million for 2004’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb to a mere 1.1 million for 2009’s No Line on the Horizon.
Taking a cue from Beyoncé’s viral album launch, Jay Z’s Samsung tie-in, and that time KISS “shipped” five million copies of their solo albums on the same day, U2 lined up a deal with Apple to dump 500 million copies of their new album into everyone’s library.
Terrible idea, right? Nope. It worked. That’s the only reason I’m writing about this dollop of Irish mayonnaise. Plus, aside from the cool $US100 million that the band made in advance from Apple, which is way easier than creating a good album and selling it to people who want to buy it, the release reminded their fans of how good U2 used to be, with those fans subsequently throwing money at their back catalogue.
It doesn’t matter that so many people complained about the unwanted album that Apple had to create a tool to delete it from your library. Or that any critic with half a soul can hear that this album sounds like Danger Mouse squeezed it out of a tube like Coldplay-brand toothpaste, an impression exacerbated by references to artists like Joe Strummer and Joey Ramone, the lazy fade at the end of “The Troubles,” the utter lack of Edge edginess outside of “Cedarwood Road”, and Bono’s vapid vocals, which consistently wank in such a hokey and sentimental way that they could make a Hallmark card blush (“Free yourself, to be yourself,” “You are rock ’n’ roll,” or that brutal falsetto in the last verse of “Sleep Like a Baby Tonight”).
All those scathing reviews haven’t taken Nickelback down, and neither will this spam fiasco sink the lame ship U2, as it sails the middling seas of maximum accessibility toward future Super Bowl ads. They achieved their goal long ago. They are a virus, and there is no cure.