WTF?! Bono Calls U2’s Surprise iTunes Invasion ‘Punk Rock’
U2 are keenly aware that shoving their new album into half a million iTunes libraries without a choice has pissed off a lot of people. Given that the band repeatedly stated the importance of making a real artistic impact while making the record, it was undoubtedly a jarring experience for the band to see such an aggressive backlash against Apple’s uninvited free-album download for Songs of Innocence.
So what does an image-obsessed band do when their surefire prime-shine moment falls apart? They call it punk rock, of course, and say they planned it all along.
In an interview this morning with CBS Radio’s KROQ, the U2 frontman defended the band’s release method.
“The punk rock thing to do is annoy people and get in their faces,” he said. “If people have a problem with the way we released the album, I’m sure they’ve read about it online.”
What? We didn’t need to read about it online to see this glossy sonic bloviation in our iTunes library, we all experienced it. And very few outside the band’s fanbase were enthusiastic about the musical invasion.
Bono then goes on to name-drop Joey Ramone in ways that would make the late lanky singer cringe, bending reality so far as to compare the two, drawing lines of “punk” inspiration between the Irish rockers and the four-chord legends.
As for how the band kept the album a secret? Bono once again pulls the Joey Ramone card. “That is the miracle of Joey Ramone,” he said. “It’s odd because normally when you finish an album it takes two, three months before you put it out. We’d just done it a few days before. I was sitting there with Kevin Weatherly [senior vp of programming, CBS RADIO] playing him the song — KROQ is a very important station for our band… He was like, ‘why are you playing me these songs?’ and I couldn’t tell him.”
Despite the backlash of the public having been force-fed an album they didn’t want, Bono claims to be pleased with the results. “I just heard 38 million people have listened to Songs of Innocence in the seven days, which is more than anyone who’s ever listened to Joshua Tree,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that they loved it but they listened to it. If they like it and then love it we will discover this in time. But all you want if you’re a songwriter or in a band is you just want your songs to be known and people to hear them. I’m grateful to Apple for giving us a chance. They paid Universal for the privilege to do this — because they know we’re not into free music. But I thought it was an incredible thing for Apple to do.”
Can you feel the grimy mucosal sheen of gladhand pandering? Does its stench permeate your nostrils, like some post-coital funk from a bad hookup choice? A man who’s sold over 150 million albums worldwide shouldn’t ever have to talk this way. But he’s keenly aware that his band, as he put it, are on the verge of irrelevance. Nobody’s going to buy enough U2 albums in 2014 to avoid Soundscan embarrassment. Not a chance.
Nothing U2 has done in the past 20 years has even remotely resembled punk rock, musically or not. No matter how its spun, no matter how many dead heroes Bono lights his torch of false integrity by, aligning with one of the single most dominating corporate giants on the planet to force yourself on the public has absolutely nothing to do with punk. It is the ultimate sell-out move. What’s worse, licensing “Mysterious Ways” to a tampon commercial, or using one of the biggest tech announcements in modern history as a rationalizing platform for forcing music into people’s libraries against their will?
In 2011, Bono shared his insecurities about the future of the band. “I think they [the other band members] are very aware that U2 have to do something very special to have a reason to exist right now,” he explained. Is this that very special reason? This?
U2’s Songs of Innocence is out now for iTunes subscribers (whether you like it or not), with an Oct. 14 physical release scheduled.