It’s been over a week now that the new U2 album has been released, first sort of overshadowed by the iPhone 6 and 6 + announcement, then more and more prominent on everyone’s social media feeds about the fact, how brazenly this record was forced into our lives.

A lot has been written about this new album, both positive and negative. I myself have had a soft spot for U2, ever since my first boyfriend gave me a burned copy of Joshua Tree back in 2005, so I’ve always been prone to defending the band. Nonetheless, the general consensus (excluding American music journalists and the solid U2 fan base) agrees that in between Achtung Baby (1991) and Songs of Innocence (2014) the irish rock band somehow started to kind of suck.

Listening to the record for the first time, the beginning of “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)” filling my headphone sheltered ears, made me roll my eyes. The lyrics sounded like my 14-year-old self had written them, trying too hard to be intelligent, solemn, meaningful, a feeling that continued throughout the album. You can tell that a lot of production went into the album, even the distorted guitars sound crisp, clean; when they should be messy, dirty.

At first glance, too, the album seems very target oriented. The songs are dictated a certain quality popular mid 2000s indie rock à la Snow Patrol, 3 Doors Down and Hoobastank had incorporated. It’s like Bono and Co. showed up to the party 10 to 12 years too late. U2 was the cool kid in high school, the quarterback on the football team back in the 90s, that turns out to be the fat and sort of obnoxious cabbie at the high school reunion.

Second time listening though, you might realize: This actually is classic U2. The treble-y guitars, the marching drums, the structure of the songs. U2 didn’t stray from their roots at all. It just sounds like it, because they’ve been around for almost 40 years with bands like Coldplay and aforementioned bands drawing inspiration from them. They might not admit it because it’s just much cooler to say “Nirvana” when asked about influences, but it is apparent. So is it that we’ve come to judge the music because of what it started to mean? A derivative form of political post-punk music turned pop, the symbol of selling out?

That certainly is a part of it, but if you actually look at Coldplay, you don’t hear as much disdain about them as you do about U2. Coldplay has a rep for producing egocentric and cheesy music, but you’d never think of them as a sell out in the way you’d think about U2. The biggest problem the band has, probably also is their greatest asset: They really know how to market themselves.

It started in 2004 with the unveiling of the U2 iPod, again in collaboration with Apple. With the purchase of the red-black mp3 player you conveniently got the entire U2 discography for free. Since then Bono has been saving the world on multiple occasions and has found the time to write the music for the Spider Man musical on Broadway, amongst other things. You really can’t say the band’s out of the news a lot, because they’ve become such a prominent figure in pop culture.

And then, this year, they team up with Apple again, allegedly for 100 million dollars, and sneakily distribute the new album to everyone with an iCloud, which, lets face it, is every Apple product user on the planet. Everyone has received an album of a band easily for free, and the majority is appalled by the thought of it. I’m actually really interested in seeing numbers from iTunes about plays (I bet Big Brother could tell), but this is not my place to ask. (Apple, hit me up!) But did people actually listen to the album? I don’t think so. I believe everyone is too busy being pissed at the fact that Apple managed to sneak in their back door. I dislike that fact as well. But I also have to say, that I immediately downloaded the album on September 9, because I was curious.

Here’s what I have to say: In the end, this will just be another post 2000 U2 album – it will come and go. It’s an average album, and I know how this sounds, since I’m writing about it right now, but it got way too much attention in the media than it deserves: A) because the music community is more excited about other releases this year, B) because they’ve out-witted themselves this time with their own marketing strategy (the relentless posting of how to get rid of the album tells it all) and C) because U2 ain’t Beyoncé. She woke up like this – but U2 had to fit their toupees first.

Article by: Julia Maehner

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