When reading how U2 is promoting its new album and how the industry is reacting to it, I get the feeling that U2 is playing a big, gigantic joke on everyone...and best of all, the record moguls and music critics are falling for it!
I don't want this to be another long "U2 sold out!" thread. Rather, consider the possibility that U2 knows exactly where they are: they're the "biggest rock band in the world," one of the most popular, and one of the *richest.* They've got money to burn, they're on the top of the world. And SO WHAT? That's what everyone is striving to be -- to make it big. Club bands and garage bands dream of performing in the places U2 has performed, to the crowds that they've gathered. Lots of rockers say, "I'm never gonna sell out, man, I'm just gonna be true to rock and roll!" And then when a band makes it to the big time, they get their mansions and limos and millions of dollars...but they still try to act like a garage band and they say, "Yeah, I'm really sorry I made all these millions of dollars. I'm just a rock-and-roller, I just wanna play my music, I don't care about all these millions of dollars I made." Uh-huh.
Bono and Company know this, and they've apparently decided they're not going to lie about it. Rather, with Pop, they're going to play a big joke on the corporate moguls and act as if they're doing just what the stuffed shirts want them to.
Look at the how the industry is viewing the new album. They want this album to "revitalize" the entire business. They want massive sales, they want merchandising, they want MONEY! We're talking about a business that's making money in the billions, folks...an industry that's STILL making big profits every year, and when they have a year that they only make a little profit instead of a big profit, they consider it a crisis. "Woe! Doom! We only made $1.2 billion in sales and a 15% profit instead of the 50% profit we REALLY wanted! We're doomed! The industry is dying!"
And so they look to U2 and say, "Give us an album, that we may merchandise it and make MONEY!" U2 knows that no matter what they do now, they're going to be merchandised and exploited to a ridiculous degree. If they try to fight it, they'll be ruined. (Look at what happened when Pearl Jam tried to force Ticketmaster to sell their concert tickets for only $20 each.) So what do they do?
They pull off a big joke. "Let's act like the band the executives want us to be! Let's make it seem like we're giving them just what they want. We'll even make merchandising the concept of our tour - "PopMart" - and they won't know any better because they just care about the money!"
And so we get Pop. BUT, in the midst of all the hype, it seems that U2 may have just fooled everyone by producing a very good album. They could have rested on their laurels and turned out a bunch of chintzy pop songs...but they went ahead and tried something new. Again.
The Beatles were in this position, too. They were heavily merchandised and exploited, so they joked about it by releasing an album called Beatles for Sale, with the song "Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby." BUT, in spite of this, the Beatles went on to break the rules with Sgt. Pepper.
Perhaps U2 is trying the same thing?