U2 just released the lead single off their upcoming album Songs of Experience (due December 1, 2017), and if the album is anything like the single, it’s going to be simply terrible.
Just as bad as the album before it, Songs of Innocence, released in 2014.
And just as bad as the album before that one, No Line on the Horizon, released in 2009.
Not since 2004, when the album released How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, 13 long years prior, has the band produced anything that reaches out and grabs you by the throat.
Don’t believe me? Name one song they’ve released in the last decade that you know by heart? That appeared as a track in a movie? That gained critical acclaim? That shaped the next 10 years of a genre?
I think I know why.
The Demise of U2
Soon after songs like “Vertigo” forced their way into iPods and car stereos everywhere in 2004, Bono became one of the most famous people on the planet.
And one of the most ridiculed.
He began walking out of the halls of Congress and into the punch lines of late night comedians.
You tell me that didn’t affect him?
He’s human. Of course, it affected him.
Five years later they released No Line on the Horizon—their most sleep-inducing album to date.
Why did that happen? How did one of the greatest rock bands of all time produce a complete flop?
I believe it’s the same reason senior pastors stop being effective. U2 began asking the single most damning question any leader can ask, “Will people like this?”
In 2004, they released songs that grabbed you by the shoulders and demanded that you wake up and pay attention.
In 2009, they released songs that made people yawn.
“The best art divides the audience,” said the legendary record producer Rick Rubin.
Having shepherded such diverse, genre-defining artists as Jay-Z with his “99 Problems” to Adele’s 21, he understands what drives great music.
As Rubin stated in Ryan Holiday’s Perennial Seller,
“People want things that are really passionate. Often the best version is not for everybody. The best art divides the audience. If you put out a record and half the people who hear it absolutely love it and half the people who hear it absolutely hate it you’ve done well. Because it is pushing the boundary.”