So when I sat down to work today, a little file sneaked into my iTunes library. Surprise! How very cunning of you, U2. Even though I didn't download your 13th studio album, Songs of Innocence, the freebie found me. And as the new tracks play in the background, I'm pondering whether this deft marketing move of yours is a good or bad one.
Like Radiohead and Jay Z, and Prince, for that matter, U2 is clearly trying to bridge the gap between progressive and traditional, keeping the old fans keen while courting the new, younger set, who were in diapers when The Joshua Tree was released back in 1987. (OK, that's depressing, but I digress.)
It's not like the self-proclaimed “biggest band in the world” needs the cash, after all. The deal broached between Universal and Apple sees a free pre-release to be followed by Songs of Innocence's physical release on October 13th, timed to coincide with the new iPhone 6. Those Paddies are cheeky, I tell you!
And because Songs was dropped automatically into the libraries of iTunes' 500 million subscribers, U2's effort by default became "the largest album release of all time.” For a man who claims that "music is a sacrament” and says he doesn't believe in free music, Bono has a funny way of showing it.
Which begs the question: it may be free, but is Songs any good?
Well, I'll let you know. So far there haven't been any standout moments, and the chorus of "Raised by Wolves" positively caused me to cringe. This writer laments the weird metaphysics of "U2 aping Coldplay aping U2," and I kind of agree.
Will the gifting of Songs pay off for Bono? And after half a billion people have sampled the tunes, will any of them bother to buy a hard copy? It remains to be seen.
You tell me: Is the iTunes pre-release a gimmick or a great idea? Is U2 still cutting edge or past its prime?
We're warning you in advance, you'll be spending money on iTunes after listening to this playlist!