Monday 22 September 2014

Review of 'Songs of Innocence' by U2

U2 are clearly getting worried that they’re starting to lose relevance and hence fans. As a result the Irish rockers decided to dish this album out for free to everyone – fans and haters combined. Over 500 million iTunes users worldwide woke up to find that this album had been unwillingly downloaded onto their computers. The reactions have been mixed:

Songs of Innocence recently became the most deleted album in iTunes history, with multiple online tutorials springing up, guiding U2 haters ‘how to delete songs of innocence from iTunes’. At the same time, however, this marketing tactic has clearly had some positive effects (let’s face it, this isn’t a Christian act of charity, it’s a marketing ploy – a clever one). Some people who have never been too keen on U2 will have listened to this album out of curiosity, and some of those people will have been converted, as was the case with this guy. Forcing your album onto people’s computers is a certain way to reel in new fans, but like junk mail through your door, it does have an element of desperation and invasiveness to it.  

So, where do I stand with U2? Well, I’ve stood in Wembley Arena with them, a good 300 metres away and technically it was in the seated area, but whatever, I guess what I’m trying to convey here is that I’m a fan, and so I wasn’t bothered that the album was there in my iTunes without my permission. I probably would have downloaded it anyway.

Having listened to it though, I’ve got to say I'm pretty disappointed with what's on offer, and even tempted myself to delete the record from my iTunes. The Irish rockers’ catchy choruses and clever lyrics are still on display, the first track and radio single being a clear indication of that, but nothing new musically is going on here. It’s U2’s fear of losing fans coming through. They’ve created a play-it-safe mishmash of all their previous styles in order to appeal to what they think their old listeners will like. However, what made U2 so interesting in their early years was their experimentation and progression.

In order to stay relevant, U2 need to do something wildly different to what they’ve done before and it doesn’t matter what. The old fans who’ve been growing bored will then start turning their heads and listening again. There are tracks on Songs of Innocence that show hints of real creativity – ‘Raised by Wolves’ has a suspenseful build up and brilliantly explosive chorus and I like the faint vocal harmonies that come in afterwards. Other tracks however sound too derivative.