5 Years Later: The Time U2 Took Over Our iTunes Library

How a much-maligned record has aged beautifully.

August 27, 2019

On September 9, 2014 iTunes users woke up to a surprise. 11 new U2 songs appeared as if by magic. The songs were part of their album Songs of Innocence and caught the public's attention in ways no other U2 album had in the past.

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There was immediate backlash to the album. Countless blog posts were penned with a variation of the headline "How To Get That U2 Album Off Your iTunes." Aside from the negative reaction, the stunt reportedly cost Apple around $100 million. Apple CEO Tim Cook also marketed the record as "the largest album release of all time," a dubious statement given most users didn't have the option to put the album on in their library.

However, there's no point in rehashing all of the arguments that took place at the album's release. iTunes is pretty much dead at this point. Not entirely, but the iTunes that many have been accustomed to using was vastly changed by Apple and certainly doesn't resemble the iTunes people were using when Songs of Innocence came out.

The musical landscape has certainly changed. The way people have consumed music has changed. The world has certainly changed over the past five years.

For an album that received so much criticism upon its release, Songs of Innocence has aged quite nicely. 

Most of the negativity seemed to stem from the fact the album was forced on users. Despite some critics claims the album sounded bland (which seemingly happens whenever a major release happens, music is subjective people!) it feels very much like a U2 classic. Deeply personal lyrics, songs that tell stories and take you away to another place, and excellent musicianship is found from front to back. It was uniquely a portrait of U2 in 2014. A band in their prime delivering a complete record.

Rolling Stone named Songs of Innocence their top album of 2014 saying "Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. put their lives on the line: giving away 11 songs of guitar rapture and frank, emotional tales of how they became a band out of the rough streets and spiritual ferment of Seventies Dublin. This is personal history with details.

They called Songs of Innocence "a record full of the band's stories and triumph, memory and confession detonated with adventure and poise."

As we approach the five year anniversary of the album's release, it should be a cause for celebration. Sure, the execution was poor and misjudged. However, the quality of the music shouldn't be based off how the band released the album. After all, U2 has gone on to outlive iTunes.