OK. Take a deep breath. I NEVER EVER thought I would agree with Sharon Osborne (the British television talent competition judge and wife of Ozzy Osborne…of Black Sabbath fame) on anything. But now I find myself having to agree with her tweet about U2’s latest venture with Apple. I’m just going to say it: U2 has joined the ranks of those excellent musicians who have sold out completely to crass commercialism. I hate it doubly because you may remember that I studied for my PhD in Ireland so I am an honorary Irish citizen so to speak.
Here is what she tweeted:
I come to this opinion with a heavy heart. You see I am one of the original U2 fans. They played the anthems to my undergraduate studies and NDT debate career. Their songs were political and religious. They sang about the troubles in Ireland in “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. They sang about MLK and the US Civil Rights Movement in “Pride (In the Name of Love)”. They sang about the violence in El Salvador in “Bullet the Blue Sky”. They were my band.
So why I am upset? Because it seems that they have completely sold out to Apple. (And full disclosure here, I do use Apple products.) I do also know they have had a long relationship with Apple. But still.
They cut a deal with the computer giant at the unveiling of the new iPhone 6, Apple Watch, and Apple Pay to promote their new album “Songs of Innocence”. Supposedly, Apple paid them and the Universal Music Group more than $100 million for the privilege. Apple’s chief executive and the band were enthusiastic at the news conference when they sang the single “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)”. Ramone, a founder of American punk rock music, would have been horrified I’m sure.
Then, Apple installed the entire album for free on about 500 million iTunes subscribers’ devices without their permission.
People (including my students) were outraged. Late night hosts Conan O’Brien, Seth Meyers, and Johnny Kimmel lampooned them. I suspect several people unfriended them on Facebook. Ultimately, Apple had to create a website to allow subscribers (particularly younger ones who were unfamiliar with the band) to delete the album from their accounts. In the court of public opinion, it seems everyone has found both Apple and U2 guilty as charged of bad business and mediocre music.
And the music on “Songs of Innocence“? I agree with Sharon Osborne’s assessment. Sorry to say, but I’m used to albums such as “War”, “The Unforgettable Fire”, and “The Joshua Tree”. After listening to the entire album with a sympathetic ear, it just did not meet my expectations. I left disappointed with my boys from Dublin and reminded of Julius Caesar’s final words. So I say “et tu, U2?”