U2 released their new album today, giving it out for free to millions of iTunes users (approximately 500 million worldwide, to be specific). It is the largest album release in history. The album features 11 new songs and is their first studio album in five years. They have recently released two other songs, “Ordinary Love” from the Film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, for which they received an Academy Award nomination and “Invisible,” which was done in partnership with Bank of America to support the (RED) campaign. In addition, there will also be another album, Songs of Experience, which will be an accompanying album, though no release date has been given, other than “soon.” The announcement was made after the band performed their new single, “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)” at the Apple event where the company unveiled their newest products, a larger iPhone (after they keep making them smaller, now they are making them larger? what?) and the Apple Watch.
Invisible – (RED) Edit
The new album is titled “Songs of Innocence,” and will be available for free until October 13. Apple will have the performance available online soon. Photos are already available on the site.
“From the very beginning, U2 have always wanted our music to reach as many people as possible,” lead singer Bono told the audience. “The clue is in our name, I suppose, so today is kind of mind blowing to us. The most personal album we’ve written could be shared with half a billion people – by hitting send. If only songwriting was that easy,” he joked. “It’s exciting and humbling to think that people who don’t know U2 or listen to rock music for that matter might check us out. Working with Apple is always a blast. They only want to do things that haven’t been done before. That’s a thrill to be part of.”
As Bono talked, he mentioned that the band have recorded several albums over the last five years, they just haven’t released them.
After the announcement, the iTunes server crashed. A deluxe version of the album will be available on October 13. The deluxe edition will include an acoustic session of select songs from the album, as well as four additional tracks: Lucifer’s Hands, The Crystal Ballroom, The Troubles (Alternative version), Sleep Like a Baby Tonight (Alternative Perspective Mix by Tchad Blake).
Bono has posted an open letter to fans on the band’s web site. The letter touches on the issue of free music, noting that the new album is “free, but paid for.” Apple paid U2 an undisclosed figure for the rights to release the album. Bono writes about the implications of music being free, particularly in regard to up and coming musicians. Here is the letter in its entirety:
A letter from Bono, on the arrival ‘of our new baby’ – Songs of Innocence.
‘Hello, bonjour, ciao, hola, hallo, zdravo, dobar dan, Dia duit, hæ, hej,hei, cześć, olá, ćao, namaste, sawatdee, jambo, pozdravi, Γεια σου, привіт, שלום, مرحبا, こんにちは, , سلام, 你好, Привет….
Remember us? Pleased to announce myself, Edge, Adam and Larry have finally given birth to our new baby… Songs of Innocence. It’s been a while. We wanted to get it right for you/us. We just finished it last week and thanks to Apple and iTunes it’s with you today. That’s already amazing to me as it normally takes a few months to turn this stuff around.
Part of the DNA of this band has always been the desire to get our music to as many people as possible. In the next 24 hours, over a half a billion people are going to have Songs of Innocence… should they choose to check it out. That is so exciting. People who haven’t heard our music, or weren’t remotely interested, might play us for the first time because we’re in their library. Country fans, hip hop afficionados from east LA, electro poppers from Seoul, Bhangra fans from New Delhi, Highlifers in Accra… might JUST be tempted to check us out, even for a moment. What a mind blowing, head scratching, 21st century situation. Over 500 million people… that’s a billion ears. And for the people out there who have no interest in checking us out, look at it this way… the blood, sweat and tears of some Irish guys are in your junk mail.
You’ll have noticed the album is free to U2.com’ers from the band. It’s also free to everyone on iTunes thanks to Apple. To celebrate the ten year anniversary of our iPod commercial, they 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. 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.
We’re collaborating with Apple on some cool stuff over the next couple of years, innovations that will transform the way music is listened to and viewed. We’ll keep you posted. If you like Songs of Innocence, stay with us for Songs of Experience. It should be ready soon enough… although I know I’ve said that before…
I hope after listening to our new long player a few times, you’ll understand why it took so long. We really went there… it’s a very, very personal album. Apologies if that gets excruciating… actually, I take that back. No apologies if it gets excruciating. What’s the point in being in U2 if you can’t go there?
There is no end to LOVE.’
U2’s former manager, Paul McGuinness, spoke to Hot Press about the new album’s release.
“I thought the exercise they mounted yesterday was absolutely spectacular and a huge success, a new way of distributing music to the world,” McGuinness said. “I think it stunned everyone. I’m just working through the worldwide press and the two things to come out of that are, first of all, astonishment that they were able to do it and do it secretly, but also how good the record is. There seems to be near unanimity on that. I heard the complete album a few days ago and it’s brilliant. It’s U2 yet again doing their best work late into their career.”
He continued on, discussing the financial aspects of the unique release. “The way they have released it is obviously extraordinary,” he said. “I think you have to read the detail. Bono has an interview today in Time magazine and he points out that it’s not free. He’s absolutely opposed to free to the consumer but I can assure you that Apple will have paid a very high price to U2 and Universal Records for the right to do that.”
McGuinness also spoke about the upcoming tour (which I think we can all safely assume is coming). “I think you can expect a major tour starting next summer that will in every way be what people expect of U2 – groundbreaking, unique and world-beating.”
The band’s current manager, Guy Oseary, also spoke about the new album.
“Certain opportunities presented themselves, and [the Super Bowl] was the one we were ready to go with and felt right about for [the (RED)] campaign,” Oseary said. “The band worked on this album for five years, and the idea of doing a few things early on in the year just to connect back with the audience that something was coming, we did Jimmy Fallon, we launched that. We also did the Mandela soundtrack and performed at the Oscars, just a few things to keep them active early in the year. In the last few months, we’ve been connected with Apple and they are so collaborative and forward-thinking, and have a really strong relationship with the band. It all came together very organically.”
To find the album in your iTunes account, go to Purchased, where it will prompt you to download it from the Cloud or listen to it via streaming.
The track list:
The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)
Every Breaking Wave
California (There is No End to Love)
Song For Someone
Iris (Hold Me Close)
Raised By Wolves
Sleep Like a Baby Tonight
This is Where You Can Reach Me Now
Bono called the album their most personal, and for many fans, some of the track names may sound familiar. Iris ia the name of Bono’s mother, who passed away when the singer was 14 years old. Cedarwood Road is the street he grew up on. The Troubles is likely a reference to the problems between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which most Irish people refer to as ‘the troubles.’ It’s a bit of an understatement.
U2 have also made a new Apple ad called Echoes:
Neil McCormick, a music reviewer for the Telegraph, who went to school with the members of U2, gave the album a four star review. (his brother was even almost in the band – he wrote a book about it all called Killing Bono, which was made into a movie of the same name).
Other media outlets that have information about the new album include Rolling Stone, which has a track-by-track guide. Billboard also has information on U2’s album and how it’s release method will affect the album in regards to the charts. The Wall Street Journal has an article that looks at the business deal with Apple that made the album release work.
Musician Lykke Li contributed vocals to the song “The Troubles.” Music writer Romi the Writer recently interviewed Li, and has posted the excerpts about her work on the U2 album on his blog. In the interview she discusses her surprise out hearing the album was released and that the song made the cut, as well as how the collaboration came about and the process of working with the band and singing with Bono.
Invisible – (RED) Edit
Updates will follow as more information is released…Stay tuned.
A review from Rolling Stone.