The September 9th release of U2's latest album "Songs of Innocence" certainly created a splash in the music and business world. Apple paid the band's label a rumored sum and dropped it into the iTunes accounts of some 500 million subscribers. Some, like yours truly, were grateful to get the new album as a gift, though I would have gladly paid for it. Others bristled that their privacy had been invaded (or limited iPhone space filled up) and were happy to get the uninstall directions. Critics did what critics do and some were merciless in their disdain for the album. Still others accused U2 of ceasing to be pure artists and selling out to big business (aka Apple).
I was a U2 fan before "Songs" and remain one. I've listened to the album a decent bit over the last month and I like what they're saying and how they've said it. As I listen to the tracks, I hear themes and sounds from "Boy," "Joshua Tree," "Zooropa," "All You Can't Leave Behind," and "No Line on the Horizon"--four decades of music in a new album. But I also hear an entirely new record with fresh reflections on their journey in music mixed with 21st century sounds.
Why am I still a U2 fan? At least three reasons:
They continue to create. What band has stayed together for nearly 40 years and continues to write new material? U2 put out 11 songs on the new album but apparently wrote and recorded 100. While this gives them material for at least another forthcoming album, it really shows that this is a group hungry to create and remain, well, artists.
They risk. U2 has always been a band to take risks:
Songs of substance. U2's lyrics are anything but fluff and they're not about base, material things. They sing about real and heavy issues in the world--injustice, pain, faith, hope, and love. Perhaps it's this hopeful aspect of their music that makes them a target for cynical critics. For me, their substantive lyrics have caused me wrestle with what I think and believe and to reflect on how faith should be lived out in the world today.
Still a fan.