Sweetest Thing: U2 release new album, give it away for free at today’s Apple Keynote Conference


Well that was truly unexpected. These yearly Apple press conferences to pimp their latest wares always contain a surprise or two, and today’s event had U2 show up and play a new track, the terribly titled but not half bad sounding “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone).” Apple CEO Tim Cook, who apparently doesn’t listen to much music, offered up an overly enthused, “Wasn’t that the most incredible single you ever heard? We would love a whole album of that.” Cook and U2 frontman Bono then went into a sort of Abbott & Costello riff about how it would be great to get “a whole album of that” to people.

“I do believe you have over half a billion subscribers to iTunes,” Bono coyly opined. “So…could you get this to them?”

And then it was time for the big reveal: “If we gave it away for free,” Cook answered, eliciting wild cheers at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts in Cupertino, California where the Apple keynote was being held. Five seconds later, anyone logged into their iTunes account had the five years in the making Songs of Innocence dispensed into their library. Admittedly, while pretty cool to have a reach of an estimated half a billion people who have the software installed, that’s a pretty fucking scary concept put into action.

Apple CEO Tim Cook with U2 today
Apple CEO Tim Cook with U2 today

How is the music? Go check it out – it’s free. And while reviewers around the globe are scrambling to give detailed opinions on something none of us knew was going to drop, Vanyaland does have some first impressions after giving it a few spins through. It’s pretty immediate sounding, which was one of the things fans and critics had against 2009’s No Line on the Horizon

The aforementioned “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)” is catchy enough for a first single, “California (There is No End to Love)” – and what’s up with all these parentheses anyway –  is primed for the stadiums the band is likely to hit in the not so distant future. “Sleep Like a Baby Tonight” is one of the most interesting, with a lightly synth driven opening and dark thematically while managing to have a jaunty moment or two.

Speaking of themes, the topics U2 focuses on are strangely set firmly in the past. Trying to make it as a band, the unexpected death of Bono’s mother when he was 14, the street he grew up on, the young singer narrowly avoiding a car bombing in Dublin one day, seeing California for the first time. Is embracing the past a way to avoid a future for the group that’s anything but a sure thing? Or is it an attempt to confront long suppressed demons? And how much of a part did the expansive production team, which included at points longtime compatriot Flood, Danger Mouse, Paul Epworth and Ryan Tedder play? You can be sure Bono will expound upon it ad nauseam in the coming weeks.