Like everyone else in the world who has ever used iTunes, I was given the new U2 album. Anyone who's read this blog knows I (also like many other people in the world) have opinions about Bono. Typically, mine are unfavorable opinions about Bono. So. What I'm about to say may come as a surprise. Brace yourself.
Leave Bono alone.
More accurately, leave U2 alone.
Yes, the automatic depositing of their recent release in every iTunes account everywhere is invasive and kinda creepy. Okay, a lot creepy. And the bombastic pomposity meter on this move is in amps at 11 region.
You know, exactly what the entire world expects from Bono.
No one who's been alive with a functioning brain should be surprised by this maneuver from U2. Given the players involved it shouldn't have even raised an eyebrow. This kind of arrogance is business as usual for Bono. It's what we have come to expect from him. The subtext to everything he does is, "Listen to me! DAMMIT, LISTEN TO ME! PAY ATTENTION TO ME!!!" Bono really (really) wants to be heard, and whatever the reason or method, he will make it happen. He will not be denied. He will try to make us listen to him. So why the shock and outrage over an entire U2 album showing up in every iTunes account in the world? The only thing that surprises me is that it didn't happen sooner.
Yes. I still have myriad issues with Bono. But. They have nothing to do the rest of U2 or most of what they do musically. Like many others, my issues with Bono's scoff-worthy behaviors have very little to do with U2's music. And that's my main issue to Bono. My sentiments echo those of the masses: Good for you for being charitable, Bono, do whatever you want when you're not onstage or in the studio. But when you are on tour just shut up and sing. And let your bandmates have a chance to shine once in a while. Without them you are nothing. At least act like you realize that. Even though Bono is the singer in the band, there are many other people involved with the U2 release, and I look at it this way: They are getting heard by the entire iTunes-equipped world, too.
At some point in the next month I will
give this new release a listen. And I will delete what I don't like. Would I have given all of the album my ears if it hadn't appeared in my iTunes? Probably not. Okay, of course not.
And therein lies another small shred of respect for U2 Inc.: Genius marketing. I'm pretty sure no one in that band needs the money sales from the songs would generate. But even if the band is having money troubles, don't worry about them because there will undoubtedly be a $180+ per ticket concert tour that will compensate for the loss of song sales revenue. Meanwhile, loads of people who, like me, would never have listened to more than a few songs (while at a bar), let alone bothered to listen to an entire album, may peruse all the songs. Voila. Marketing baby, marketing. And I have to tip my hat to that marketing ploy. (There may even be a tax benefit - it's a pretty enormous charity/gift deduction, and/or a loss of revenue deduction. Perhaps Bono's not the guy who comes to mind when you think about deserving tax relief, but business-wise, this is undoubtedly a savvy tax move.)
Then there's my favorite aspect of this: the technology component. People seem surprised that iTunes can "get into" their accounts. If you are not tech-savvy enough to understand how iTunes and the cloud and the internet in general works, you probably shouldn't be using the internet. This is not a scary Orwellian assault. This is an apparently much-needed wake up call to people who don't understand how the internet works. For that reason alone we should thank U2 for demonstrating how not private the internet is. I'm really enjoying the irony that the title of the release is Songs of Innocence. (But I'm hating the homage to Blake - I will take issue with Bono's ego for that.)
Another part of me wants to be charitable to Bono. Maybe, just maybe, Bono had a moment of self-awareness. He's out there going on and on and on (and on) about poverty all the while selling out stadiums where the price of a single ticket is more than the monthly food budget for most Americans. Many of U2's fans cannot afford the tickets to their concerts. Releasing an album and charging $9.99 or $12.99 while you are out there trying to eradicate poverty is more than a little hypocritical. Giving the entire iTunes equipped world an entirely free album is a convenient way to assuage any guilt or uncomfortableness Bono's hypocrisy may be causing him. Yes, another self-serving move, it's sets up a convenient response to the questions regarding his hypocrisy. ("Hey, we gave the entire world a free album, what more do you want from me?") But, it's a move that speaks to at least a shred of self-awareness, and that's a step forward in containing the obvious Napoleon complex that afflicts him, which is a step closer to him shutting up and singing.
But here's the primary reason I'm saying leave Bono alone: I'm a huge music fan. Huge. I have my favorite artists, and if any of my favorite artists give something to fans for free, a download, for instance, I'm excited about it. Of course a free song download is a marketing ploy to generate buzz and entice fans to purchase more songs or the entire release. I know free downloads are not the benevolent gifts that they seem. They are a marketing gimmick. I know this and I still don't care. If the Pixies want to give away something for free, I'm in. I'm already a fan, I already love them, free music from them doesn't change my opinion, I don't love them more or less, but it does make me happy.
So, it was in that mindset that I came to my leave Bono alone stance on the whole invasive iTunes thing. U2 does have fans. Lots of them. For them an entirely free release loaded right onto their iTunes was probably pretty cool. They are probably pretty happy to have new free music from their favorite band.
The rest of us can take 30 seconds to delete it, forget it ever happened, and put our favorite playlist on shuffle.
Labels: Bono, Songs of Innocence, U2