Aha! You’d forgotten that U2 had promised to follow up Songs of Innocence with a companion album, hadn’t you? Then again, that record came out in September 2014 and even the most hardcore fans have been distracted by a million other things. But the idea of another album is still very much alive.
Longtime U2 fans will remember when they surprised fans with Zooropa, an album that popped out of nowhere while U2 was still touring behind Achtung Baby. In the days before the Internet, it was easier to keep a secret like this, so when it arrived at the radio station in the first week of July 1993, we were genuinely shocked. It wasn’t the greatest record, but because U2 was in the imperial phase of their career–a time when they couldn’t seem to do anything wrong–it was a success.
U2 seems intent on repeating the Zooropa surprise at least a little bit with Songs of Experience, an album that’s supposed to make an appearance sometime this year. And look who produced: Brian Eno. Interesting.
But here’s the question: will people care? U2 is at the point where they’re no longer welcomed on the playlists of alternative radio stations and aren’t automatic adds to the playlist of mainstream rock stations. The vast majority of U2’s catalogue has been shunted over to classic rock and adult hits radio stations. When fans head to the shows, they want to hear the old hits because…well, there haven’t been a lot of new hits in the last ten years. And let’s not forget that Songs of Innocence wasn’t exactly a traditional chart hit. (Then again, they did give away 500 million copies for free through iTunes.)
But maybe new manager Guy Oseary has a new idea for releasing this music. It certainly won’t be an iTunes f*ck-you-here’s-a-U2-album-if-you-want-it-or-not move we saw with Songs of Innocence–the U2 organization learned a lot from that misstep–so maybe there’s another scheme in the offing.
Another thing to think about: How much longer will U2 exist? Having seen the reaction to the Innocence + Experience tour, it doesn’t look like they’re going through the motions and playing out the string. Could they use another album to reinvent themselves again? Or is this part of a fulfillment to remaining obligations with their record label and Live Nation?