It's been a crazy week. Since I last wrote, Donald Trump has been sworn in as President, record crowds gathered in cities across the world in support of women, and I spent a week holed up working on new songs with the Mike "Landy" Landolt at his studio in Columbus. It's baffling how fast the world is changing, and with that, songs that were written one or two years ago for Digisaurus have taken on a whole new context as we've been working on them. They're sounding darker, more aggressive and faster paced. There's a sense of urgency and resistance taking over. While some of it feels preemptive, yielding to those emotions doesn't seem like such a terrible idea either.
Before I dive into things, I do want to say how proud I am to know so many people who are standing up for what they believe in and recognize the struggle that so many people in this country face. As I'm writing this, Donald Trump is arriving in Philadelphia to meet GOP leaders for a retreat at the Loews hotel (seriously, only he would hold a retreat at a luxury hotel in the middle of a major city.) With the presence of a Trump presidency weighing down on myself and others, I wanted to explore something I read about this week in regards to the arts. While you may be expecting something about Trump's proposed budget cuts to arts and humanities programs, this is about something more important and pressing: U2 scrapping their new album in the wake of Trump's election.
In an interview with Rolling Stone earlier this month, U2 guitarist, The Edge, detailed how the band finished up a new album, Songs of Experience, in the middle of 2016. Release plans were in motion, but then Trump was elected President. As a result, U2 decided to delay the album’s release indefinitely. The Edge had this to say in the interview: "We just went, 'Hold on a second – we've got to give ourselves a moment to think about this record and about how it relates to what's going on in the world.' That's because it was written mostly, I mean, 80 percent of it was started before 2016, but most of it was written in the early part of 2016, and now, as I think you'd agree, the world is a different place."
My emphasis on the importance of a new U2 album should be taken with a healthy dose of sarcasm. However, I did find the whole sentiment quite relatable. Having just been in the studio working on songs started pre-election, I was lucky (well, lucky as a songwriter...unlucky as a human) to be at a point in the process where it was easy for me to re-frame their context and breathe a different life into them. Hell, I needed to do that just to get excited about recording them. And even though I feel indifferent about U2, I think they've definitely earned the right to take as long as they want to write, re-frame, and hone an album until they think it portrays the statement they want to make. If we're being honest, it's about time they did that given what they've put out over the past decade.
However, not everyone agrees. When listening to the CD Baby DIY Musicians Podcast on my way back from Columbus, hosts Kevin Bruenner and Chris Bolton expressed complete frustration at the decision. I think they might like U2 quite a bit more than myself, and they come to their conclusion more as fans and quasi industry analysts: The album's recorded and done. U2 should put it out. If their philosophy is the times must match the context of a record, and given how much lead time U2 typically has between record completion and release, how will they ever be in a position to release new music? Music = relevance. If you can't release new music, you're no longer relevant. U2 is copping out and basically admitting to a lack of relevance.
The argument's go deeper on the industry side, and you can check out the episode here. So what do you think? If your favorite band was in a similar situation, would you want them to release the album? Is that an album you'd even want to hear right now? If you're an artist, do you think you could stomach promoting and touring a record that you wrote pre-election while knowing the world is such a different place? Let me know in the comments below, Facebook or Twitter, and I'll revisit this next week.
Picture: Helge Øverås