Sep 292014
 

U2’s recent attempt to reboot their brand was probably hailed as a success by their team, though that’s not to say it was.  This time the criticism and contention will be explained away as being a necessary component of what it takes to gain one-stop international exposure in the global marketplace. Music never felt as much of an afterthought.

u2 apple iphone

The campaign was akin to the test of neutron bomb, that mythical weapon that wipes out populations without laying waste to the land.  Two big boxes ticked.  New markets opened up and a head count was taken of the growing disaffection Bono has drawn onto the band. Vice commented that U2 are now very well aware of how much they are hated by certain sections of the under 40s – those who know who U2 are, of course.  This time they had to do something about it.  A strategy appeared that had the U2 corporation seem to ditch the traditional western rock demographic (and its increasingly tendency for cultural criticism) in favor of new uncritical followers.  These would be populations that would find the band’s unthreatening type of what was being called ‘dad rock’.  Such as those found in Asia and the American Bible belt for instance.

Apple balances a similar dichotomy. Rather than deal with detractors and those ignorant of their product as separate issues they summoned a 20th century spectacle, a media-designed neutron bomb simultaneously dismissing and embracing fandom as their corporate buildings weather the explosion.  The new markets of India for example where millions of phone users have not yet been converted to smartphone usage became the thing.  For U2 to piggyback on this penetration made complete sense to a corporation used of doing business the 20th way.  India’s population appears to be ripe for upgrade and if there was a gap for a band to exploit this then it could only be one as large as U2 consider them as.

In this campaign Bono’s huckster schtick, previously detrimental to the band, became inflated beyond the reach of hater parody as he led the bombing raid.  Its why we are called U2 … we want to be you too he said as the commentary about the unwanted virus album spread.  This was preacher talk akin to a money call by TV evangelists.

In the hubris, other corporations looked on as Apple eventually offered to remove the product after a week, confident that the ringing in the ears from the audacity of the strike left them uncontaminated. This was a campaign that courted negativity to such an extent negativity had to be redefined.  In just a week the two brands cleared a path for new ways of insinuating their product into (what they hope is) a new generation of compliant uncritical consumers.  The concept of selling, though laughable and unsophisticated, was made redundant.  Both brands had lost interest in courting any 90s model of ‘cool’.

Apple and U2 had spent a good a decade being prodded by the left about their messianic missions with the criticism focused on a type of vulgarity associated with their corporate strategies. They needed a new firewall, as this now-established critique was building and Twitter commentary eroded profits.  While Apple cheerfully acknowledged the album’s identity as a virus that may still rake in profit, they let it be known that traditional critique is inadequate. If the campaign embraces or swats away the comments of someone with the hip cultural clout of profile rapper Tyler the Creator, who demanded to know why fuckin Bono’s album was in his digital possession, what platform now exists to fully criticise either the campaign or the product in the pop cultural arena?

Recently at the peak of his hipness Tyler offered himself as a creative brand offering his services to corporations desperate for hipness and one big drink company took the bait. One surreal TV ad mired in accusations of racism later, the company beat a hasty retreat and Tyler went back to music and t-shirts. Hold that thought and imagine the two strategies analysed by a ruthless ad exec. Imagine a resulting campaign that would not only test the range of both old and new ways of pushing product but also reaffirm the 20th century boundaries of consuming music as well as keeping the media that champion the likes of Tyler’s left field thinking in their place?  It would have to be a campaign that would cost millions and involve the uber-synergy of mega corporations seeking untapped markets for rock music and trendy mobile devices.

And so it came to pass. Within a week as the tide turned in U2’s favour, the Guardian went from criticising the endeavour to criticising those who hate Bono (it was getting boring it seems). Complementing this turn, The New Yorker published a detailed biography of U2 that focused exclusively on their Christian roots including an assessment of their standing in biblical America.

This article also listed a surprising amount of American Christian books dedicated to the band.  By now Bono was laboriously emphasizing the album’s theme of family and loss to anyone who would listen, but who exactly would want to hear this from a rock singer?  Nobody in their 20s for a start.  In an outrageous ‘bono-ism’ the millionaire white singer mused that rappers often created music about their missing fathers, while U2’s album had themes about mothers. Not even Daniel O’Donnell would have been so audacious, or borderline racist in commentary.  Daniel knows his market in America well of course.

The chime of cash registers is the new ringtone in God’s country. Most of us heathens wont hear it but U2 are ok with that.

  14 Responses to “U2, Apple and a New Sound for God’s Country”

Comments (14)
  1.  

    Why can’t Irish people recognize and be proud of other Irish people who are successful ?
    Why do people expect U2 to be saints? – They don’t claim to be.
    Most highly successful people in music are rich – whats wrong with U2 being rich?

    Also there are only 2 types of music. Music YOU like to listen to and music YOU don’t. Don’t let others tell you what you should or should not listen to.

    Looking at the the Sunday Times list of wealthiest people in music in the UK and Ireland for 2013, U2 (not Bono) come 4th. (amounts show 2013 wealth in £UK) I think that is something to be proud of, don’t you?

    Note – when you divide the U2 wealth by 5 then that makes Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Sting, Tom Jones, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Phil Collins and many more richer than Bono… so lets get over it!

    Paul Mc Cartney 680
    Andrew Lloyd Webber 620
    U2 520
    Elton John 240
    David and Victoria Beckaham 200
    Mick Jagger 200
    Michael Flatley 191
    Keith Richards 185
    George Harrison (estate) 180
    Sting 180
    Ringo Starr 160
    Roger Waters 150
    Tim Rice 149
    Tom Jones 145
    Eric Clapton 140
    Rod Steward 130
    Phil Collins 115
    George Michael 105M
    Robbie Williams 105
    David Bowie 100

  2.  

    “Looking at the the Sunday Times list of wealthiest people in music in the UK and Ireland for 2013, U2 (not Bono) come 4th. (amounts show 2013 wealth in £UK) I think that is something to be proud of, don’t you?”

    Eh, No.

  3.  

    If this was U2’s first album, it would probably bomb– they would be scratching around playing dingy nightclubs and pubs. Their creativity is shot. They– particularly Bono have no new ideas– he wants to run with the hares and hunt with the hounds, celebrity weddings one weekend, then crying into our drinks about poverty in Africa.
    Why don’t they do the decent thing and disband? It’s like looking at an empty shop window in Grafton street– it used to be something….

  4.  

    Rainman, that was a bit of a knee-jerk reaction out of you. The context in which Bono’s wealth was mentioned is very specifically related to his remarks about rappers.

  5.  

    Bono spoke at a recent economic forum in Europe and gave the impression the Irish had hauled themselves up by their bootstraps and ‘recovered.’ We are still paying for Aherns gamble, anyway he was there and allowed to speak as such as a tax exile is just more of it. The spectacle has less and less to with music and more to do with notions of power fostered under a tawdry umbrella of entertainment. U2 are unique in this regard and invite rebuttal. Personally i feel Their ‘Irishness’ is suspect.

  6.  

    OUTSTANDING rainman –
    although the human failing of begrudgery is not exclusive to the Irish, we have a definite talent for it here in Ireland.
    All I read in this article was that some people don’t like U2 music, and it’s BAD to make money….

  7.  

    “By now Bono was laboriously emphasizing the album’s theme of family and loss to anyone who would listen, but who exactly would want to hear this from a rock singer? ”
    No sex, drugs or rock n roll? Tsk tsk.

    I, and millions like me just LOVE hearing this from a rock singer!!

  8.  

    Where exactly did you see anyone saying it was bad to make money?

  9.  

    OOps sorry Bock, I must have just imagined it.

    So this is the type of thing you write when you’re really hoping U2 and Apple will have another huge success in the marketplace??

    “U2’s recent attempt to reboot their brand was probably hailed as a success by their team, though that’s not to say it was. This time the criticism and contention will be explained away as being a necessary component of what it takes to gain one-stop international exposure in the global marketplace. Music never felt as much of an afterthought.”

  10.  

    Yes, you imagined it, just as you imagined that I wrote the article.

  11.  

    Sorry if I reacted wrongly to your article Bock – I agree with you on Bono’s comment about rappers. But then thats just like a lot of other crap he would really do himself a favor to stop saying, such as “thank you for giving us a great life”. But that’s him, warts and all.

    The rest of my comments below are not intended to react directly to your article – they are just for conversation…

    I’m not a blind Bono or U2 fan, but I think their success is something Ireland should be proud of.

    It would be interesting to get the real facts about Bono and U2. How much good have they actually done for Aids etc., how many Irish children have had access to music lessons through the music generation initiative etc.

    By the way Paul, factually speaking I dont think Bono is a tax exile. The part of U2 thats outside Ireland is the publishing company. To my knowledge they pay tax on their income and businesses in Ireland.

  12.  

    Rainman, I’ll have to find a more prominent typeface for the authors’ bylines. I didn’t write this.

  13.  

    He hasn’t a note in his head, he’s an arsehole, but he’s minted and he’s Irish, so I should feel proud. Eh, ok.

  14.  

    Next ye’ll be telling me I should feel proud of his hair plugs, coz he fought baldness and he’s Irish, oh and he’s minted.

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