According to a sales report on Rolling Stone, the surprise release of U2’s new Songs of Innocence album has boosted the sales numbers of their entire back catalog on iTunes. Aside from the international gains of their singles compilation U218 — which crashed the Top 10 charts in 46 countries — three of the band’s classic albums have crept into the stateside Top 50: The Joshua Tree, War and Achtung Baby.
All and all, 24 U2 records in all have at least crossed the Top 200 threshold in the U.S.; not bad considering the nearly universal negative press that surrounded the group’s sneak attack on half a billion iTunes customers. “Set aside for a moment that communion wafers are themselves free, and think about the broader idea at play,” Eric Harvey wrote in an essay for Wondering Sound. “When framing their stunt release, U2 and Innocence are miles apart from Trent Reznor saying ‘This one’s on me’ when giving The Slip to his fans, or even ‘business, man’ Jay-Z embracing Samsung as a corporate partner. Instead, it’s Bono clumsily merging art and commerce, gift and commodity.”
The irony of all this? Bono’s assertion that Songs of Innocence is one of U2′s most intimate records. “We wanted to make a very personal album,” he told Rolling Stone the day before Apple’s press conference. “Let’s try to figure out why we wanted to be in a band, the relationships around the band, our friendships, our lovers, our family. The whole album is first journeys — first journeys geographically, spiritually, sexually. And that’s hard. But we went there.”
Some iTunes users have shown little interest in hearing any of this however; in fact, many have called Apple’s promotion — which dumped Songs of Innocence on the iCloud accounts of iTunes users — an invasion of their privacy, one they’re having trouble deleting from their hard drives. Apple has responded to this criticism with a clear link (via the Guardian) that helps people opt-out of U2 completely.
“If you would like U2’s Songs of Innocence removed from your iTunes music library and iTunes purchases, you can choose to have it removed,” the company wrote. “Once the album has been removed from your account, it will no longer be available for you to redownload as a previous purchase.”