U2’s Vandal Charity
The way U2 dropped Songs of Innocence last week was emblematic of the type of vandal-charity that Bono has excelled at over the past few decades. Don’t ask those directly affected how best to help, just assume they’ll appreciate free stuff, and let ’em have it. The road to hell is paved with Bono-like intentions. Just ask an Iraqi.
Of course, the urge to do good isn’t necessarily a bad one, but when it comes lathered with U2 there’s bound to be more harm done. This is coming from a life-long fan. I’ve written two books on the band and have been paying attention since the early 80s. U2’s Apple splash served as a jarring reminder of the nefarious power tech companies wield in facilitating that other turgid conglomerate with a PR problem: the NSA.
So once again, I find myself trying to make sense of U2’s ongoing mid-life crisis. Can’t they just concoct a recipe for BBQ sauce, or release some forgettable solo “projects”? Instead, their desperation to matter resembles the dying yawp of a bloated paradigm that twists overpaid rock stars to ridiculous distortions.
Like the Irish mythical hero Cúchulainn fighting with the sea, U2 is engaged in a losing battle against the invisible hand of the market razing the profits of corporate rock titans. The chance that Bono may not be able to upgrade his plans for an ashram in southern France now drives the band to shill for whoever is buying.
Not that crass marketing is a bad thing, per se. But there’s an art to commerce and U2 hasn’t a clue. It’s a sad day when the top news item for your band is how to delete the free album they just gave you. What’s a band to do when the least interesting asset is your front man? Despite gifts as a lyricist and singer, Bono’s blatant pandering has overshadowed what is, in fact, a pretty decent album (more on that later).