Next to Taylor Swift, no one has been in the news more than U2 this fall. First, the whole Apple scheme. Then Bono falling off his bike. Then the tour annoucement. Then the Films of Innocence project. The fact that Songs of Innocence was picked by Rolling Stone as their Album of the Year. And that SOI has been nominated for a Grammy in the category of Rock Album of the Year.
It’s that last item I want to address. Does it deserve a nomination? Or is this some kind of travesty?
You and I both know that the Grammys are a highly political exercise in promotion and influence foisted on the public by the mainstream end of the American music industry. It’s all about goosing sales during the traditional sucky first quarter of the calendar year.
But let’s pretend for a moment that the Grammys really are about all excellence in music. Let’s strip away all the artifice, biases, prejudices and hatreds to take a good look at Songs of Innocence. Forget what you think about Bono or the ham-handed way SOI was released through iTunes. Don’t think about the fact that U2 is a legacy act who released their most popular and arguably their best records twenty years ago. Let’s look just at Songs of Innocence for what it is: a collection of songs released in 2014 and thus can only be judged against other albums that were released in the same time frame.
For what it’s worth, I like the album. I find the songwriting solid and the production uniformly excellent. If this had been a debut album from a new band, the planet would be raving about this new talent. But because it’s U2–well, the perceptions are skewed. Long story short, I think it’s a worthy nominee. Should it win?
It all depends on your assessment of the other albums in the category: Ryan Adams’ self-titled album, Morning Phase from Beck, Turn Blue from the Black Keys and Hypnotic Eye from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
I know, I know. You probably have issues with all those records. But these are the albums we have to work with, so step outside your personal feelings for a moment. Is U2’s Songs of Innocence a better piece of art than any of those other albums? Is the music better?
Having heard all of these albums many times, I might be inclined to give Beck the edge, but U2 would be a close second.
If you’re interesting in following up this pro and con debate, Billboard has both sides of the story for you.