U2 took it on the chin with their last release, Songs of Innocence.
But that's OK. They've been here before. Pop received a less-than-stellar response, and they weathered that storm just fine.
This time around, however, the band seems a little less in tune with popular perception to the album.
With Pop, they played to slightly-less-than-sold out stadiums, and sold less albums than they were used to. They took it as a message, and said full on, "We're re-applying for the biggest band in the world" with All That You Can't Leave Behind.
And they nailed it.
From the opening notes of Beautiful Day, you knew you were in for an aural treat.
This time around, however, they played to sold out arenas, and point out 30 million people gave Songs of Innocence a shot on iTunes. So they might not feel the heat they did in the 1990s. Especially considering Songs was supposed to be the comeback from No Line On the Horizon.
I love the band. I have for decades. I'm neither a Johnny-come-lately nor a "They were better back in the day" fan. I think they're great. That said, if they are really truly worried about being relevant, and Bono has expressed they are, it's time for them to bump up their game in the video department. They've had great ones in the past--With or Without You, Vertigo--but more often than not they're hit or miss, and lately... well, it's been pretty much miss.
Take Invisible. It's a fantastic listen, and should have been included on Innocence. The video that goes it, however, is so God-awful it almost ruined the song for me. It's U2 playing Rock Gods, basically four minutes of "Here's U2, looking cool." Great. Everyone knows U2 is cool, meaning it's neither imaginative nor interesting. Worse, it isn't humbling, and U2 are a surprisingly humble band given all they've accomplished.
The Miracle of Joey Ramone is another home run to my ears, but not my eyes. The accompanying video not as unwatchable as Invisible, but it's U2 retreading old ground. The video is a simple knock off of the iPod commercial they did back in 2004. It's not groundbreaking.
Meanwhile, bands like Maroon 5, with the video Sugar, are dropping in on weddings-in-process. Taylor Swift is making fun of her lack of coordination and dancing with excited fans in Shake it Off, and Drake... I have no idea how he knew the absurd Hotline Bling would be absurd to the point of hilariously viral, but damn if it wasn't one of the most talked about videos of 2015. Videos like the above mentioned are fun to watch, and generate that ever-elusive thing called "buzz."
The king of viral videos, of course, is the band OKGO. Everything they do is so far beyond clever it's insane. One might even want to put them in the realm of genius, given how consistently amazing their videos are. I'd love a breakdown of the first OKGO viral video, for Here it Goes Again, and the already mentioned Invisible, by U2. The watchability vs. dollars spent ratio must be off the charts.
U2 playing on stage, walking in slow motion, or being arty for the sake of being arty isn't going to cut it anymore. Critics are forever looking for a reason to bash them, so the band shouldn't provide such easy targets as unimaginative videos. U2 have paired up with creative, clever, and fun directors in the past; the videos for With or Without You or The Sweetest Thing are as good today as when released. Watching U2 drive around New York City, providing a free concert while filming All Because of You was magical. It's time for them to remember the joyful side of music and art, and maybe let a little of the serious side slip away for a moment.
Here's to hoping.
more nonsense at nathantimmel.com