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Beating Back the BS: Why U2 need to stand up for themselves


MikeTighe
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Hi guys,

 

Wrote the below in case anyone's interested - just my view on where we are at the mo

 

Hope it's read worthy...

 

Cheers

 

Mike

 

Beating Back the BS: Why U2 should stand up for themselves

 

In anyone's book, five years is a long time.

 

 Since No Line on the Horizon came out, I have graduated from University, watched the re-election of a newly-inaugurated President, Barack Obama,  held four jobs, moved to five different towns, travelled to various cities around the world, read countless books, gained several friends, and yes, even listen to artists who aren't U2.

 

 Which makes me think - did the wait have to be so long?

 

First, we had the band teasing Songs of Ascent; a now presumably dead follow-up to No Line on the Horizon. This eventually never materialised, even though songs like Every Breaking Wave were promoted on the 360 tour. We then had multiple assurances over the next half decade that the new album will be released soon, with the band eventually having to admit that it's going to be out much later than it initially seemed.

 

Even now, the album that is released maintains vestiges of the work that was reportedly due to be Songs of Ascent - the title, for a start, and of course, Every Breaking Wave, which I have to admit is a much-improved version from the one played live on the last tour. When announcing the LP, Bono admitted, "U2 have made three or four albums in the past few years, we just didn't release them." Citing the reason as only wanting to put out "our very best work", I have to question - was No Line on the Horizon really that bad?

 

Yes, it is amongst one of the lowest-selling U2 albums. But in the context now of a world which is moving more and more towards online streaming services, is this really a fault of the album, or did the band simply choose the wrong distribution method, something it has moved to correct with the new release?

 

Consider - the reviews of No Line, including several five star reviews, were actually, despite what people might think in hindsight, massively supportive of the album. Here's the Entertainment Weekly and Observer Reviews to jog your memory. Given that a less well-reviewed album in Songs of Innocence (within traditional media, at least) has been downloaded 33 million times, there's a strong case to be made that it was simply the distribution that U2 had got wrong. Personally, I think it was a mixture of genuine criticism (it's my personal view No Line doesn't speed along with quite the funk that previous U2 outings do) an ineffective distribution method, and, in a by-now all-too familiar situation, prolonged bile being thrown their way by the anti-U2 brigade.

 

I submit further for your analysis the frankly ridiculous comments about U2 following the release of Songs of Innocence. The comparative lack of animosity accompanying similar releases from Jay Z, Beyoncé, and Radiohead suggests that, for the umpteenth time in the foursome's career, they have been targeted simply because they are U2. The general concern seems to be that giving a free album to consumers is a violation of privacy, in much the same way that a birthday present is an invasion of personal space without consent. The facts are that every subscriber has signed the terms and conditions of a software (and for most, hardware) from a company which allows them to do promotions precisely like this download. Further, it does not take much to delete the thing. But instead of the U2 haters seeing this as the minor inconvenience it is, it's being turned into a news story, when it fact is has no basis in fact. 

 

Virtually every news story that wrote about user's dissatisfaction with U2's new album focused on a few tweets that journalist had seen, decrying the release. Most of these stories were written with such obvious, clickbait-riddled glee that it was clearly an attempt at propagating an opinion - social media is not a source for a story about widespread feeling, otherwise you could call a vox pop an opinion poll.

 

The ones that weren't shoddy journalism were even worse - regurgitating the story for fear of seeming out of the loop. A few breaths of fresh air came in, such as this Guardian piece and this Australian Daily Telegraph piece trying to offer some perspective, but by and large, in the context of 38 million downloads (33 million of which happened in six days, that's 7 million more people accessing U2's music than bought copies of The Joshua Tree in 25 years), the criticisms levelled at the band were factually wrong, vitriolic and blown way out of proportion.

 

The fact is, people have always hated U2. Whether it's militants on either side of the Irish political divide, critics who have everything but talent, misanthropes who disliked Rattle & Hum and deliberately interpreted it in the most pretentious way possible, stalwarts who disliked U2’s experimentation in the nineties, or indeed, the ageists who seem to think, despite this not being a condition applied to classical composers, film directors or artists, that Rock musicians should simply stop working once they reach a certain number of years.

 

By now, people either know if they like U2 or they don’t – and following this band has never been about dealing with closed minds, but with open hearts – whether it’s the way we treat each other at concerts, encouraging as many people as possible to sign a petition, or introducing people to their music which has inspired us, which is what the whole Apple launch was about – as Bono said, “the clue is in the name”.

 

But the idiocy and plain falseness of the claims against U2 should be pointed out. Reading about Sharon Osborne’s hypocritical (and frankly boring) criticism of the band on Twitter incensed me. Firstly, because a large number of the tweets claimed U2 were trying to undermine new musicians starting out because the music was free – when a 20 second visit to U2.com, reading Bono’s letter explaining the band were paid would address this.

 

Secondly, because in recent years Sharon’s most high-profile appearance was on the X Factor, which is perhaps the biggest contributing factor to artists and musicians being frozen out of the market in recent times. Thirdly, and perhaps most hilariously, despite apparently loathing U2, she isn’t above inserting a hashtag into many of the derogatory tweets she sent the band’s way, promoting her new talk show. U2 might be ‘mediocre’, according to Sharon, but the publicity this band about to celebrate four decades together generates is apparently not.

 

To me, the rebuttals to this nonsense are obvious, but to counter the growing appearance of a faux backlash or to allow this debate of lies to be discoloured slightly by the truth, it requires more than an article on a fan website, and fan tweeters answering negativity. U2.com has travelled lightyears in the past few years. Reading North Side Story – and how pertinent that release seems now, and how indicative of how integrated U2’s business is becoming – demonstrates this.

 

However, on social media, the band still seems stuck in the mid-2000s. It’s okay to see criticism on social and call it out. Whilst it would be unseemly to get stuck into every begrudged hipster who twerks his moustache in disgust at Bono, calling out Sharon Osborne, or even a live Q and A with Guy Oseary answering the haters, would at least allow the answer to this ‘criticism’ to travel halfway round the world as well. Heck, any sort of comeback from the U2 camp, preferably through U2.com, would be appreciated.

 

So why don’t U2 get involved? I guess there is a strong argument for rising above the fracas, but I worry the band see an unwarranted story and take it as fact when it isn’t. What happened to the fired-up, ready to respond Bono of the eighties, the kind that would taunt their detractors by saying “Other bands had the shoes, the clothes…but they didn’t have it. We had it.” The worst thing that could happen, following the release of a brilliant album in a truly innovative way, would be that the haters shout the loudest and U2 end up believing the bile. What’s at stake? Fundamentally, the very existence of U2.

 

I was lucky enough to attend U2’s barnstorming performance at Glastonbury and it was amazing. I saw people who were holding ‘U2 are tax dodgers’ banners minutes before go absolutely wild to Streets and Beautiful Day. Yet, because some in the press (many of whom weren’t in attendance) reported it negatively, months later I read this unfairly derisive downer from Bono and the boys on their performance in Q Magazine. I don’t want to wait another five years for the album after Songs of Experience because of unfair existential doubt propagated by biased criticism, and I don’t want this amazing group to split up before they’re ready to simply because a bunch of haters have thrown a tantrum on their twitter feed.

 

Why are the haters slamming U2 so much? That could be a whole other essay, but for me, I think it’s simply that those who criticise the loudest are usually the most afraid to hold the mirror up to themselves. U2’s music, especially in songs like Every Breaking Wave, Iris, and Raised by Wolves follows a long tradition of accepting and examining your own hypocrisy in order to be the best person you possibly can. Those that look at U2, and particularly Bono, and don’t like what they see, by and large are more afraid of their own inaction, vulnerability or inability to put themselves on the line the way U2 do, than they are angry at the band. Ultimately, though, they are in opposition to U2 now, and I think it’s high time the boys called BS on some of their BS. All these self-appointed ‘critics’ are doing is obscuring the truth of some of these beautiful songs simply to prop up their own egos, which is ironically the main complaint most of them have about Bono.

 

There is hope, however. I’m sure the band will be back with more bite soon. Reading the letter posted on U2.com a week ago, I saw a glimpse of a fighting spirit which has been missing for U2 for too long. “Actually, I take that back,” interjected Bono, to a self-imposed apology if the songs get excruciating, “What’s the point of being in U2 if you can’t go there?”

 

What’s the point indeed? Time for the critical self-reflection to end, and for U2 to stand up to their detractors, and up for their fans, once again. 

 

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That was very read-worthy Mike. Thank you for writing it & for posting it here! You make some very good points.

 

Here's a thought I had about professional critics: I find it incredible (terrible), for ex, that a major newspaper for a major area of a major U.S. state would have only 1 music critic's voice heard on something as major as a new U2 album. I prefer the Siskel & Ebert model. There should be a chance for diverse opinions.

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Posted · Hidden by Max Tsukino, September 20, 2014 - troll
Hidden by Max Tsukino, September 20, 2014 - troll

At the moment I only like to say: Fuck You U2

 

All you stand for in the 80s is now forgotten. But to make a few billions with Apple is ok.

 

No, I have no words anymore, but, have I still mentioned? Fuck U2! What about making a few more deals with Apple? For me, you're dead!! Betrayers!

 

Bono is homo!

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Hey guys

 

Thanks for all the comments - sorry Sigma, took a while to reply but I'm not a troll.....which bits were inaccurate?

 

Thanks to the rest of you - think the band and Bono are answering their critics in great interviews as we speak

 

All the best

 

Mike

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Fantastic article. I shared it on my FB page the other day. It's become cool to hate U2 the way it was cool to hate people like Fred (Mister) Rogers before his death or any of a number of benevolent people nowadays. I guess U2 should just be inactive and apathetic like the masses to whom these critics pander.

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