Songs of Innocence Found Guilty

Ladies and gentleman, the wait is over and we can all celebrate. Bono and the boys of U2 are back -- in a big way. September 9th, just before the September 30th Grammy deadline, U2 released their new album Songs of Innocence. This album is the first studio album released by the legendary Irish rockers since No Line On the Horizon came out in December of 2009. Now that the new album is out though, we all have to ask: has this really been worth the wait?

Well, the answer to this is not so clear. There are innovative qualities to this collection of songs that the group has never done before. For example, the album is by far the most personal work that U2 has ever produced and that's heard immediately on the opening track. The title track and hit single “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)” is a tribute to the Ramones, an alternative New York rock band that Bono often accredits to inspiring U2 and getting them to where they are today. The track is slightly more alternative than some of the band’s previous work, but still has the heavy driving drums and guitar interludes that we have all come to know and love. Bono is actually very straight forward with his lyrics in this album, which contrasts the writing style of previous albums. He applies this new clear lyrical style in his opening track by singing, “Heard a song that made some sense out of the world," making a direct reference to the inspiration he received from the Ramones.

Photo courtesy of U2's Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of U2/Facebook page.

The most personal of the tracks on the album is titled “Iris (Hold Me Close),” named after Bono’s mother who passed away when he was only 14. For the subject it is covering, the song sounds a bit too heavy or fast and too much like a traditional U2 rock song. However, Bono is again very honest and emotional in his lyrics, like in the chorus lines: “Hold me close, hold me close and don’t let me go." Through this powerful chorus and the background singer’s haunting repetition of “Iris” throughout the song, U2 creates a heart wrenching tribute without having to sacrifice their signature sound. Because the album does lack a true ballad or acoustic sound, this song may be the best choice for the band to strip down and record another promising version of.

The most unique song on the album is one where the band truly harks back to their roots. Titled “Cedarwood Road” after the street Bono grew up on, this track is a fusion of classic U2 anthem rock and a looping acoustic guitar riff that sounds almost country.

When faced with questions about the album’s delayed release, Bono told people that he didn’t want to let out Songs of Innocence until he knew he was putting out a product better than No Line On the Horizon. After five long years, it is unclear if the members of U2 have truly accomplished this. The album is fantastic, but it does not quite have the same uplifting feel of a traditional U2 album. Although unrivaled to masterpieces like The Joshua Tree, Bono admirably pours his heart and emotion into Songs of Innocence which makes it worthy of the listen.

Photo courtesy of U2's Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of U2/Facebook page.

The content of the tracks is not even this album's biggest news story. For any of you who have an iTunes account, you might have noticed that you actually own this album despite never purchasing it. This is Apple's first time tampering with its customers' accounts by forcing the album into everyone’s iTunes library. Because of this, September 9th marked the largest album drop of all time in terms of downloads. Many people in the industry believe that this is giving off a horrible message that music should be free. When the reactions started to come out and people began accusing the phenomenally wealthy band of giving off the wrong impressions to customers and making things much more difficult for up and coming musicians, Bono gave comment on the issue on their website.

“To celebrate the ten year anniversary of our iPod commercial, [Apple] bought it as a gift to give to all their music customers. Free, but paid for. Because if no-one's paying anything for it, we’re not sure 'free' music is really that free," he wrote. "It usually comes at a cost to the art form and the artist… which has big implications, not for us in U2, but for future musicians and their music... all the songs that have yet to be written by the talents of the future… who need to make a living to write them.”

Despite now knowing the motive behind the forced album, I still must say I don’t agree with what U2 and Apple have done and I find Songs of Innocence guilty of breaking and entering into my iTunes library. Placing the album into everyone’s accounts has made it more of an annoyance than an attraction, removing the excitement for the customer of going into iTunes and downloading the new highly-anticipated U2 album. Most of the Apple users I know have not even listened to the album simply out of principle, claiming Apple forced it on them when they should have just made it an option for customers to approve the 11 songs into their library. Because, after all, consent is sexy.

Unhealthy relationship with BC sports. Just a guy writing down the things he would usually yell at the TV.