Return to Sender: On Hating U2’s Free iTunes Album, ‘Songs of Innocence’

This week U2 and Apple unleashed a free album on an unsuspecting public—thanks, but no thanks

Bono Says the F Word

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Listen, U2, I know you and Apple (AAPL) mean well. For a lot of people, a brand new U2 album available for free, right there in your iTunes music folder, without even having to click through a bunch of buttons or whatever is really, really, super nice and generous. I mean, a whole album for free? Of music? Isn’t free music the kind of thing dead grandmothers get sued over? Didn’t that music cost a ton of money to make? Or are U2 and Apple just over money now—are you guys just maxed out on Maseratis? Are you sure we’re allowed to just, you know, take it?

Thanks, but I’ll pass. What’s this album called, anyway? Songs of Innocence? Surely one of you snickered a little during the Album Titling Meeting—was it the Edge? I bet he laughed a little. The title sounds as if you all got together and watched Get Him to the Greek at Larry’s house and decided to make an actual Aldous Snow album—or wait, did you make it with Don Henley? If you made it with Don Henley, I guess that makes me want to listen to it a little. He might have a nasty reputation for being a cruel dude but at least he’s not shoving some shitty, unwanted album into my hard drive.

That you recorded a new album and can afford to give it away for free is fine—legions of independent musicians with nothing but GarageBand and a Soundcloud page do this all day long, and when Beyonce put out her “surprise” record last year, I thought it was cool because her secrecy was a reaction to the dull, hollow nature and manufactured anticipation of new-album hype. I think it’s great that a few artists (like you, I’ll concede) apparently want to reinvigorate their fans’ enthusiasm for new material, but you didn’t even ask if I wanted it.

I’m not a fan of your band, guys, but now I have one of your albums anyway. It’s like Guy Fieri showing up at a restaurant and quietly setting a chili dog onto everyone’s plate, because who doesn’t love free chili dogs? I know it sounds incredible, but there are many, many people who’d be super pissed to have a pungent, sloppy, gooey, tube-shaped conference of scrap meat suddenly appear next to their kale sandwich. My ears are like those people, guys, and I take offense at not being able to opt out.

[Update: Apple has responded to the deluge of criticism from iTunes users with a dedicated website that helps customers delete U2’s album from their accounts.]


Return to Sender: On Hating U2’s Free iTunes Album, ‘Songs of Innocence’