Today in Apple history: Apple gives users a way to delete U2’s spam album

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U2
It all seemed so innocent at the time.
Photo: Apple

September 15: Today in Apple history: Apple gives users the ability to wipe U2 spam album from their iPhones September 15, 2014: Responding to its disastrous U2 album giveaway, Apple provides a tool for wiping all signs of Songs of Innocence from their iPhones.

It comes after one of the strangest PR debacles in Apple’s history. After putting a free copy of U2’s latest album on every iPhone owner’s handset as a special promotion, millions find themselves with an album they didn’t order in their iTunes library. Many weren’t happy about it.

U2’s album is still huge among iOS music users

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U2
Apple's U2 marketing campaign cost over $100 million. Photo: Apple
Photo: Apple

Despite angering iOS users by forcing their album, Songs of Innocence, onto every iPhone and iPad in the world, U2’s iTunes exclusivity bet is paying off big time.

Nearly one in four of all music users on iOS devices listened to U2 in January, which was nearly double the second most popular artist, Taylor Swift. The force-fed album debuted last fall but its impact is still visible five months later, according to Kantar’s latest survey of iOS users, which found that 23% of all music users on iOS listened to at least one U2 track in January.

Here’s the top 10 artists in January:

U2 and Apple crank marketing debacle up to 11

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Apple delivers U2's Songs of Innocence to millions of iTunes users, but not everybody's buying the hype. Photo: Roberto Baldwin/The Next Web
Apple delivers U2's Songs of Innocence to millions of iTunes users, but not everybody's buying the hype. Photo: Roberto Baldwin/The Next Web

Thousands of angry iPhone users have found an album they weren’t looking for: U2’s Songs of Innocence.

Instead of making the band’s mediocre new album an opt-in freebie, Apple jammed it down the throats of a half-billion iTunes Store customers, enraging some of the company’s most loyal fans. Whether they wanted the album or not, it’s now showing up as “purchased” in individuals’ iTunes libraries on their computers and phones.

When Tim Cook trotted out the Irish rockers for a limp finale to Tuesday’s big Apple Watch announcement, he called giving away the band’s new record “the largest album release of all time” — but now it looks like one of the dumbest.

U2 plays it safe with solidly crafted Songs of Innocence

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Apple might start signing artists to contracts, in order to compete with the likes of Spotify. Photo: iTunes/Apple
Screen grab from iTunes/Apple

As Bono came in chanting and The Edge power-chorded his guitar for the radio-friendly chorus of “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” today, we hoped for a revitalized big-arena rock band performance from the biggest Irish rock band of all time.

What we got was the boys miming a well-rehearsed, highly-produced single that sounds like anything but The Ramones. Bono sings, “I was young/Not dumb/Just wishing to be blinded/By you/Brand new/We were pilgrims on our way” and, frankly, we wish they were young again. We wanted to be blinded by rockstars, but we really only got an ad for Apple.

At first listen, Songs of Innocence is a musically safe choice, a collection of songs that will sound just fine in the background as you wait in line for your first latte of the day at Starbucks. This isn’t the same band that had us thrilling to “In the Name of Love,” or “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” let alone snake-dancing to the mysterious syncopations of “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” or the gospel-tinged “One.”

The new album is being pitched by the band as intensely personal, but it comes off as more craftsmanship than artistry. It’s not all bad, and chances are U2 super-fans would have bought it even if it weren’t free, but the music lovers in us were a little disappointed.