Music Review: U2 and Apple: The Savvy Partnership

A band’s new album has just become the most downloaded in history. At more than 500 million downloads, it happened in a flash, in an unorthodox manner, and by an unexpected band. Many iTunes users woke up in the last few days to (happily or unhappily) find a free new album by U2 in their music library named “Songs of Innocence.” Why would Apple and U2 do such a thing?

It all started a decade ago when Apple released a U2 themed iPod that came with a plethora of the band’s songs. Now, Apple has bought 100 million dollars’ worth of U2’s new album to give away free to customer’s all over the world. It is easy to see why U2 went along with the idea: their last album was one of their lowest-grossing in ten years. They currently have up to 500 million potential buyers prepared when “Songs of Innocence” is actually sold in October. But what does Apple gain from the trade? Not a universally happy audience. Many iPhone and iPod owners were angry that Apple practically force fed them an album they may not even want into their possession.

Not to say the album is not worth listening to. Bono can still hit the high notes at the climaxes of the songs. His voice is as clear as crystal. The harmonies are sweet to the ear. The album as a whole has a retro feel that is reminiscent of early U2 records. Some of the songs do sound similar in structure, but have varying sounds added along with the drum set, guitar, and bass. These are presumably synthetic sounds created from the keyboard, which are evident in the intros for “Sleep like a Baby Tonight,” (regular keyboard) and “California” (church bells). Towards the middle of the album, the guitar becomes more prominent and a more hard rock feel surrounds the songs. The end of the album comes back around to the style of the first few songs with the classic 80’s rock sound. Some of the songs do appear to be slightly repetitive if you are not a U2 fan or listen to a lot of classic rock, or rock in general. It seems that Apple’s and U2’s coalition scheme paid off, but the intrusion of the “Songs of Innocence” on many unhappy customer’s Apple products was borderline breaking and entering.

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